Maria Graves Beckett, also known also as Maria Agnes Beckett, Maria J.C. a’ Becket, and Marie Cecilia a’ Becket was born on July 7, 1839, in Portland, Maine. Maria Beckett began painting as a young girl under the instruction of her father, Charles E. Beckett, an apothecary and self-taught landscape painter. She devoted her early years to the study of art under American and French masters such as William Morris Hunt and Charles-Francois Daubigny, with whom she perfected her talent of depicting a non-idealized landscape. Around 1876, she was admitted to the inner most circles of the French avant-garde and enjoyed painting jaunts in France on Daubigny’s studio boat, Le Botin. Shortly after her mentors died, in approximately 1880, she left Boston to live in rural Virginia. She spent three quarters of each year in a rustic cabin to paint the landscape in solitude. An unusual practice, she often painted under the moonlight in an eﬀort to capture a wider range of atmospheric phenomena.
Beckett was a resident of Portland, Boston, and New York during her lifetime. She traveled often and regularly spent the season in the resort towns of Bar Harbor and Saint Augustine. She was an occupant of the artist studios at the Ponce de Leon from 1892 to 1894, in Studio #2 in 1894 according to The Tatler, where she sold her works and entertained perspective patrons. Her charms won the favor of society columns such as The Tatler and the Florida News Herald and her personality was described as Bohemian yet delightful.
Maria Beckett died in 1904 in New York City. Her career spanned nearly forty years and she regularly exhibited at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the American Art Union, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the National Academy of Design. Miss Beckett’s work is a fusion of French Barbizon, Impressionism, and American Tonalism and her exceptional talent helped her achieve a level of distinction during her lifetime.
Author: Kimberly Gross, Flagler College
Sources: Christopher Volpe, “Maria J.C. a’Becket: Rediscovering an American Artist,” (Orono: Maine Historical Society, 2010), 3-34.