Retired architect and collector Allen C. Abend has uncovered a group of 16 little-known Baltimore women artists who painted and sketched here about a century ago. Blessed with time and patience, he has just published his own book, "Baltimore's Forgotten Women," subtitled "Painters and printmakers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."

A subgroup, so named by Baltimore Sun art critics, are the Baltimore Six, and their names are sadly unrecognized: Alice Worthington Ball, Camelia Whitehurst, Mary Kremelberg, Josephine Cochrane, Maude Drein Bryant and Ruth Anderson Temple. Another painter, Marie de Ford Keller, is perhaps best recalled for her dramatic portrait of Cardinal James Gibbons in his silken robes.


I admire Abend's tenacity in establishing the connections between the women.

"They knew each other and were good colleagues," he said. "They formed a local artists' club primarily to share ideas and to exhibit their works."

Abend shows that while Baltimore had very good artists, the city was a late bloomer to arts accommodation and appreciation. Our Baltimore Museum of Art was founded in 1914. Our East Coast competitors, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, were already well-established arts centers with museums and galleries. It was not a sure thing to be an artist in Baltimore.

One, Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements, was a prolific print maker. (She also painted the mural at Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson.) She formed an alliance with Maurice Bendann, the gallery owner who lived in the Emersonian Apartments in Reservoir Hill. Her etchings of Baltimore, printed in fairly large editions, remain cherished views of the city. They continue to sell at local auction houses and galleries. But she is the exception. Also, the price of one of her prints, as sold by Bendann, was far less than the price of a finished oil painting.

Abend has assembled fresh and untold stories about the group of women whose works have remained so obscure. Talented and well educated, many lived and had studios in the Mount Vernon neighborhood. Curiously, they were not necessarily all connected to the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Abend explained that the women often sought training at the best French art academies.

"There were separate classes for women, and ironically, they paid more than the male students," he said. "It was $1,000 a year to study in Paris, about $28,000 today." Some also studied in Munich or in England.

The Bryn Mawr School for Girls, when it was located on the site of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, hired two of the women as art teachers. Many exhibited at the Peabody Institute in the musical performance room that is now known as Griswold Hall.

At least three of them, Gabrielle Clements, Margaret Moffett Law and Florence McCubbin, resided at the curious triangle-shaped building at Park Avenue and Tyson Street called the Brexton. The building, which sat vacant for decades, is now a boutique hotel.

Abend, who lives in Baltimore County near Quarry Lake, has produced both a scholar's book and a work that is beautifully illustrated with their post-Impressionist paintings. One of the paintings he considers, artist Rosalie Lorraine Gill's "The New Model," went on display when the Baltimore Museum of Art's American Wing reopened last year. It is one of the very few paintings of the women he described that is on public view. The artists had better luck with their portrait subjects, judges and elected officials, who merit wall space in public hallways.

"They lived in a time when opportunities had newly opened for middle and upper class women who aspired to a professional career in the fine arts," Abend writes. "They became talented artists. ... Gender discrimination in the art profession and social pressure to conform to role standards for women were significant. ... These women were serious, accomplished artists. Regardless of the reasons they largely slipped into obscurity, they should be studied and celebrated."