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Dorothea Gilder papers regarding Cecilia Beaux, 1897-1920

Biographical Note

Dorothea Gilder was born in 1882 to socially prominent parents Richard Watson Gilder, a poet and publisher of Century Magazine, and Helena De Kay Gilder, an artist who had studied with Albert Pinkham Ryder and John La Farge, and who helped to found the Art Students League and the Society of American Artists. Painter Cecilia Beaux enjoyed a close friendship with the New York family from the mid 1890s until the end of her life. They travelled together in France in 1896, where Beaux had gone to see her paintings hung at the Paris salon. In her memoir, Background with Figures, Beaux describes extended visits at the Gilder's summer farm in Tyringham, Massachusetts, where the Gilders set up a studio for her in a tobacco barn, in which she painted Dorothea and Francesca, a.k.a. The Dancing Lesson (1899). She also attended the Gilders' private salon in New York, frequented by prominent artists, writers, musicians, and actors including Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.
Dorothea Gilder was a favorite portrait subject of Beaux's, sitting for numerous sketches and several major paintings, including Dorothea and Francesca, Dorothea in the Woods (1897), and After the Meeting (1914). Letters between Beaux and Dorothea Gilder contain constant references to their intimite, often physical affection for one another, and suggest a romantic relationship between them. In 1911, Gilder began what was to be a brief stage career under the name of Dorothea Coleman. In 1916, she married Dallas D.L. McGrew, a New York architect who had designed Beaux's summer home in Gloucester, Massachusetts and who had recently returned from the ambulance service in France. She had a child, Helena Gilder McGrew in 1917, and died in 1920 at the age of 38.