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The National Museum of Women in the Arts has called Jennie Brownscombe "a kind of Norman Rockwell of her era. In fact, the skillful drawing, attention to detail, and nostalgic moods of her paintings make the comparison between Jennie Augusta Brownscombe and the popular American illustrator seem quite apt.”
Brownscombe's early life sounds like the story behind one of her own pictures. Born in a farmhouse near Irving Cliff, Honesdale, she was the only child of William Brownscombe, an English-born farmer, and Elvira Kennedy, a direct descendant of a Mayflower passenger, who encouraged her young daughter to write poetry and draw. Brownscombe won her first
awards as a high school student, exhibiting her work at the Wayne County Fair. When her father died in 1868, Brownscombe began supporting herself through teaching locally, creating book and magazine illustrations, and selling the rights to reproduce her watercolor and oil paintings as inexpensive prints, Christmas cards, and calendars. More than 100 of Brownscombe's works were distributed this way, spreading her images into homes throughout the nation.
A prize-winning student at the Cooper Institute School of Design for Women and the National Academy of Design, both in New York City, Brownscombe in 1875 became a founding member of the Art Students League, where she later served on the faculty. Her oil paintings met with immediate success, as both her subjects (sentimental genre pictures and scenes from colonial American history) and her style appealed to prevailing Victorian tastes.
Brownscombe studied art in France in 1882, spent the winters of 1886 through 1895 in Rome, and exhibited her pictures there and in London, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. She continued working until virtually the end of her long life, completing her final large oil painting at the age of 81 after recovering from a stroke. She is buried in Honesdale’s Glen Dyberry Cemetery.
Wayne County Historical Society’s exhibit will include several of her original oils, three of which, The Parson’s Daughter, The Young Woman in Pink & Green, and Sunday Bonnet have been reproduced as giclee unframed prints and may be purchased at the Museum’s Gift Shop. Two charcoal drawings, which have not been exhibited for several years have recently been reframed by the Woman’s Club of Honesdale, and are included.
Several engravings, watercolors, and reproductions of her calendar art are also included.
This temporary exhibit is made possible in part by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission, Commissioners of Wayne County, members, and friends of the Wayne County Historical Society.