Eleanor Abell Owen, an artist, teacher and curator who collected art and antique American furniture, dies

Eleanor Abell Owen, an artist, collector and curator who worked in oils and watercolors and was known for her landscapes, and who also collected 19th- and 20th-century landscapes and antique American furniture, died April 18 of cerebrovascular disease at Atlantic Shores, a Virginia Beach, Virginia, retirement community. The former longtime Riderwood and Lutherville resident was 94.

“Eleanor was vivacious, energetic and hilariously funny,” said David Owen Whitman, a close longtime friend and personal representative. “I spent a lot of time with her in her waning years, especially after her husband died, and we never, ever ceased to laugh.”


The former Eleanor Abell, daughter of Arunah Shepherdson Abell III, a businessman, and his wife, Eleanor Davidson Cugle Abell, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Overbrook Road in Ruxton.

She was a great-great-granddaughter of Arunah Shepherdson Abell, who founded The Baltimore Sun on May 17, 1837.


After graduating in 1945 from the old Greenwood School in Ruxton, she attended the College of William and Mary and the Johns Hopkins University. In 1948, she married Charles Scott Adams and settled in Ruxton, where she raised their three children.

Her first marriage ended in divorce, and in 1971 she married David Rogers Owen, an internationally known maritime lawyer and yachtsman who practiced at Semmes, Bowen & Semmes. He died in 2011.

Mrs. Owen earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1965, and two years later, a master’s degree in 1967, both from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She launched herself on a career as an artist, art teacher, and art collector.

In 1978, she established a business, Eleanor Abell Owen, as a professional art consultant. She represented various artists and their work, and provided advice and service to corporations, professional firms and private clients.

“She supplied art to major law firms and businesses,” Mr. Whitman said. Some of her clients included the Maryland National Bank; Niles, Barton & Wilmer; Semmes, Bowen & Semmes; Baker Watts; and Monumental Life Insurance.

In a 1970s article in The Sun, she told art critic Elizabeth Stevens why she started her business and that a lot of intelligent women were not in the workplace that should be.

“A lot of women are undirected,” she told Ms. Stevens. “The solution is just to keep your antennae alert for openings and you’ll find things falling out of the sky.”

She painted landscapes in both oils and watercolors and participated in many regional juried shows. For several years, she taught art at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Bryn Mawr School and the Lutheran Deaconess School. She was also the curator of the continuing collection at the Fells Point Gallery.


For decades, Mrs. Owen amassed a collection of 19th- and 20th-century American and European landscapes. She also collected antique American furniture, and in 1979 her collection was visited by the Contemporary Art Society of London.

Her interest in art extended beyond painting. For years she was a professional designer at the Baltimore Needlepoint Studio and for a decade served as vice president of the Embroiderers Guild. Some of her designs included the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Ruxton and Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson.

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For many years, her Maryland license plate read “ART 4 U.”

Mrs. Owen was a member of the Mount Vernon Club, the National Society of Colonial Dames in America, the Colonial Dames of America Chapter 1, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum. She was also active at the Maryland Historical Society, where she was a member of its board of trustees, and was on the board of the B&O Railroad Museum, Weinberg Center and Pets on Wheels.

She was an avid tennis player, enjoyed traveling, made several pilgrimages to Lourdes, France, and liked spending time at a second home in the Cayman Islands.

“Eleanor had a lot of good adventures,” Mr. Whitman said. “One time she was in a small plane with a friend that flew underneath the Loch Raven Reservoir Bridge, and that was more than 70 years ago.”


The former longtime Riderwood resident, who moved to the Brightwood Retirement Community in Lutherville, settled in Virginia Beach six years ago.

Mrs. Owen was a longtime member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, where a private funeral service will be held May 8.

She is survived by a son, Charles Scott Adams III of Newport, Rhode Island; two daughters, Margaret Adams “Peggy” Szczerbicki of Wiltondale and Eleanor Adams “Ellie” Lewis of Virginia Beach; six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

For the record

This article has been updated. An earlier version gave an incorrect age.