Posts Tagged 'sartain'

Women’s History Month at Moore: Emily Sartain

The history of Moore is one that has largely been driven by exceptional women, and we’d like to share a few of their stories in celebration of Women’s History Month. We hope to highlight each woman’s unique and lasting contributions to the world of art, and how each woman’s experiences at Moore influenced her along the way.

Emily Sartain, 1918 catalogEmily Sartain (1841-1927) was the daughter of famous Philadelphia engraver and printer John Sartain, colleague of Mary Cassatt, and close friend of Thomas Eakins. Her primary education in the arts came from an apprenticeship at her father’s studio, and she also attended classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She was the first woman to practice the difficult art of mezzotint, and it was largely through sales of her engraving work that she was able to finance her studies in Europe from 1871-1875. She supported herself for fifteen years as a freelance engraver, portrait artist, and teacher, and was an important figure in local women’s clubs in Philadelphia.


Sartain's certificate from the Philadelphia International Exhibition of 1876 for achievement in painting.

Sartain’s certificate from the Philadelphia International Exhibition of 1876 for achievement in painting.

In 1886 Emily Sartain was appointed principal of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. Prior to her appointment, the influence of women at the school had declined gradually following the departure of Sarah Peter, and most advanced-level instructors were men. Under Sartain, the hiring of instructors was tightly controlled, and the majority of female faculty members were chosen from alumnae of the school. She also revamped the school’s curriculum to include more challenging techniques, adopting the “French method” of drawing from life and introducing figure drawing classes.

View of the salon in the Philadelphia School of Design's building at Broad & Master Streets, signed by Sartain.

View of the salon in the Philadelphia School of Design’s building at Broad & Master Streets, signed by Sartain.

Sartain proved to be a leader in women’s arts education through her numerous appearances, speaking engagements, and press releases, and in doing so she raised the school’s profile locally and abroad. She was one of the first women to be appointed to the Fine Art Jury at the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893. She founded the Plastic Club in 1897, which is today one of the oldest art organizations for women in the United States. In a speech given at the International Congress of Women in London in 1899, Sartain outlined her belief that an education in the arts empowered women by creating opportunities for financial independence in the working world, and this belief greatly influenced the work she did for the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. She retired as principal in 1920, and her successor was her niece, Harriet Sartain. Emily Sartain died in 1927.

The library owns a large collection of materials from the Sartain family in its archives, including correspondence, sketchbooks, engravings, and more. If Emily Sartain’s pioneering career inspires you, contact our archivist Joelen Pastva ( to set up an appointment to learn more about Sartain’s fascinating life.

For more information:
Design for women: a history of the Moore College of Art. Wynnewood, Pa. : Livingston Pub. Co., 1968.

Walls, Nina de Angeli. Art, industry, and women’s education in Philadelphia. Westport, Conn. : Bergin & Garvey, 2001.

Wright, Helena E. With pen & graver: women graphic artists before 1900. Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Institution, 1995.


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