10: Marie Spaeth

Marie Haughton Spaeth (1870-1937)

Marie Haughton Spaeth. Photo courtesy of the de Martelly Family

Land­scape and portrait painter in the impressionist style and wife of John Duncan Spaeth, Marie Spaeth was born in Hanover, NH. In 1889 she began studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Philadelphia School of Art and Design and later traveled to Europe and studied in Spain, France, and Italy. Her father’s first cousin was the head of the National Academy.

Dr. and Mrs. Spaeth’s home in Princeton was known as the Barracks, so called because it had been used to house British troops during the French and Indian War, and American troops during the Revolutionary War. The house was built circa 1685-1686 by Daniel Brinson, and in 1686 was bought by Richard Stockton, called the Settler, to distinguish him from his grandson, Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence.[49] Richard Stockton the Settler had a son named John, and coincidentally the Spaeths’ daughter Janet married John’s descendant, John Stockton de Martelly.[50]

The brief biographical sketch below of Marie Spaeth is taken from AskART, an online source. The information about the artist and the vibrancy of the Pennsylvania Colony seems to echo the description of the colony previously written by Johanne de Martelly in A Tribute to the Artist, Marie Haughton Spaeth, 1870-1937.[51] It also verifies that this small New Hampshire settlement was a center of artistic endeavor.

She married JD Spaeth, professor at Princeton. She was given a summer home in NH by her parents. She spent many months there painting each year with her four children. There was a large community where she lived called The Pennsylvania Colony Settlement that was so large that it spanned three towns in southwest NH, where artists, writers, and actors from the Philadelphia area lived in old farms. It was just a few miles from the Cornish­ Dublin colony. There was a great sharing of ideas and community between the two.[52]

De Martelly’s biography poignantly describes how difficult it was in the late 1800s and early 1900s for women to gain recognition and acceptance of their work. It would be more than twenty years before Marie Spaeth had a full exhibition of her work, which included paintings from her nursing babies series — paintings of herself breast-feeding her children. Joey de Mar­telly states further that: “They were the most controversial. These paintings were intimate explorations of a deeply intense and particular point of view.”[53] In early twentieth-century America the expression of this natural and beautiful bond between mother and infant was considered too personal and revealing to express on canvas. So the artist immersed herself in the simplicity and the beauty of the world around her in Nelson and in her domestic life. She depicted that life in her paintings, but her tenderness and compassion for living things extended beyond her domestic circle. She offered the farm as a safe haven for unwed mothers, a place where they could come to be cared for during their pregnancies.

The art created by Marie Spaeth while she summered in Nelson and nurtured her family, her home, and those who came to stay is beautiful. It is also the art of a remarkable woman.

Marie’s paintings, as well as those of other artists, can be seen in the gallery.

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