The inside story of the remarkable Painting Ladies and how Elliott Daingerfield inspired them
Founded in 1848, the Philadelphia School of Design began as an art school aimed to educate respectable women who needed to support themselves financially. Initially, women were educated in commercial design, which remained within women’s sphere of domesticity. As the school grew, established artists such as Daingerfield were employed to teach other forms of art, including drawing, painting, and sculpture. Many students would travel from Philadelphia down to Blowing Rock in the summertime to work and study alongside Daingerfield. The long journey involved taking the railroad from Pennsylvania to Lenoir, and from there they would travel by horse-drawn buggy across unpaved roads and rugged terrain before arriving in the secluded, rural mountain town of Blowing Rock, where the locals referred to them as “the paintin’ ladies.” “Painting Ladies: The Remarkable Students of Elliott Daingerfield” showcases works by seven of these artists. From Theresa Bernstein and Isabel Branson Cartwright to Mary Russell Ferrell Colton and Helen McCarthy, these women supported one another, yet also maintained a strong sense of individuality and became accomplished, independent artists during a time when the acceptance of women in the art world was not forthcoming.