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Mary Beale - British Artist From Art History

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Historical Artist - Mary Beale (1633 - 1699)

Mary Beale was the daughter of a clergyman, working mostly in London. Due to her religious upbringing, she began painting portraits mostly of religious figures. Beale was active in many of the intellectual circles in London. Knowledge of her career is based upon the records kept by her husband chronicling payments and other information regarding her sitters. She became one of the most important portrait painters of 17th century England, and has been described as the first professional female English painter.

Her father and her husband were both amateur painters, her father being a member of the Painter-Stainers' Company, and she was acquainted with local local artists, such as Nathaniel Thach, Matthew Snelling, Robert Walker and Peter Lely. She became a semi-professional portrait painter in the 1650s and 1660s, working from her home, first in Covent Garden and later in Fleet Street. Her later work is heavily influenced by Lely, being mainly small portraits or copies of Lely's work. Her work became unfashionable after his death in 1680. A son, Bartholomew, died young. A second son, another Bartholomew, painted portraits before taking up medicine. A third son, named Charles after his father, was also a painter, specialising mainly in miniatures. She is buried at St. James's, Piccadilly. Her husband died in 1705.

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