Three Portsmouth artists illustrate the importance of the arts in Portsmouth during the 1920s. Sarah Eddy of Bristol Ferry, Finis Macomber MacLeod of Quaker Hill and Elizabeth Anthony Wilkey of Elm Farm on Park Avenue were accomplished artists who shared their love of art with the community.

Sarah Eddy trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. She was a nationally known painter, sculptor, and master photographer. She established her own studios on her property on Bristol Ferry Road around 1900 and founded the Social Studio which taught artistic skills to Portsmouth youth. She drew artists to Bristol Ferry and an artist community grew there. Often her students stayed at her guest house, Willowbrook – the Connors Funeral Home today. Dressed in smocks and berets, Sarah and her students would venture out early to capture the beautiful light. Sarah contributed the money to add a room to the Portsmouth Free Public Library that would be used to display art work. Sarah’s work was regularly displayed there during the 1920s and one painting mentioned in a newspaper article is now in the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society. It is a painting of an older woman, Mrs. Burke, and she is preparing a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.

Finis Macomber MacLeod was one of Sarah Eddy’s students. She continued her studies at Moses Brown School and in Boston where she took up sculpture. Finis later studied with Helena Sturtevant, a very accomplished artist, at the Newport Art Association. Finis was a minister’s wife and often moved around New England, but she kept coming back to the area. Newspaper accounts show she shared her skills in portrait sculpture with local artists. She exhibited her paintings and sculptures locally including the Newport Art Association and the Portsmouth Free Public Library.

Elizabeth Anthony Wilkey began teaching art in the 1920s and continued to train Portsmouth artists throughout a lifelong career as Art Teacher and Arts Director for Portsmouth schools. Elizabeth was a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. A 1929 newspaper article is centered around a exhibition of her students work at her studio on Park Avenue.  She designed the insignia for the town of Portsmouth based on old drawings of the original insignia. Her seal design appears on official Town of Portsmouth vehicles and documents.

If you know of other Portsmouth artists who worked in the 1920s, I would love to learn about them and see images of their work. Hopefully we will have displays on the artists this summer at the Portsmouth Historical Society Museum.

Photo of Finis Macomber MacLeod and her painting courtesy Christine Stockman – her granddaughter.