Updated March 24 at 12:29am

An American in Paris: Drawings by Mary Colman Wheeler

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Unable to find adequate art instruction as a woman in the United States, Mary Colman Wheeler (1846-1920) sought private instruction in Europe in the 1870's. Arriving in Paris in 1875, Wheeler entered the atelier of Jacquesson de la Chevreuse and remained under his tutelage from 1876 to 1882. Jacquesson was a leading proponent of French Neo-Classicism.

The drawings on display are selected from a portfolio donated by Richard and Betty Ann Wheeler of Concord, Massachusetts, Mary Wheeler’s birthplace. The collection offers a fascinating insight into the teaching methods employed by the 19th century French atelier, most prominently the use of the plaster cast as a means of heightening observational skills and the precise rendering of value.

The exhibition will also include photographs and Wheeler's letters written from Paris to her family in Concord, revealing her thoughts on life as a single woman living abroad, Jacquesson's teaching method, and her desire to create educational opportunities for women by establishing a French-style art school in the United States.

Founded in 1883, "Miss Wheeler's Studio" played a central role in the dissemination of art and culture in Providence, becoming a full college-preparatory school in 1889. Ever faithful to her artistic roots in France, Wheeler arranged annual trips for her students to Paris beginning in 1887, culminating in six summers residing in Giverny as a neighbor to Claude Monet and his extended family from 1907 to 1912.

An early pioneer in the integration of Art into primary and secondary curricula, Wheeler served as a delegate to three consecutive international congresses on Art Education. She was awarded the distinguished title of "Officer of the Academy" by the French government and an honorary degree from Brown University in 1911.

Curated by Robert Martin, Wheeler School Art Department Chair and Archivist, the exhibition will run in conjunction with Making Her Mark, at the Providence Art Club

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