Eva Grace Milsom (American, 1868-1944) was a Western New York painter, china decorator, craftsperson, lecturer and writer primarily known for her floral still lifes and botanical scenes/gardenscapes and landscapes in oil and watercolor. In addition, she also painted china, ceramics and glass in floral motifs, marine and coastal scenes, forestscapes, figurative and portrait works. Milsom was born on December 8, 1868 in Buffalo, NY to English immigrants and noted pioneer Buffalonians, inventors and scientists, George Milsom (1822-1896) and Hannah (née Ainsworth) Milsom (1830-1913), one of the oldest families in Buffalo. Milsom was from an artistic family of 11 children and the family home was located at Delaware and Lexington Avenues in the city. Note: Several sources indicate that she was born on December 8, 1868, though her name on the family grave states 1869, which I believe is incorrect for this artist.
Milsom’s early education was at a Buffalo private school on Linwood Avenue as well as the Buffalo Seminary School and the Buffalo branch of the Detroit School of Elocution and English Literature under Mary James. On July 25, 1907, Grace sailed from Quebec, Canada to Europe to visit galleries in England, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Scotland as well as study ceramics at various potteries in England. Upon her return to the United States, she began formal studies in watercolor with the noted painter and ceramicist decorator, Franz Arthur Bischoff (Austrian-American, 1864-1929) and oil painting under Harriette Candace Clark (American, 1852-1942), known professionally as Rose Clark, as well as John Harrison Mills (American, 1842-1916), all in Buffalo, as well as studied in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Grace also studied with fabric and china painter, Laura B. Overly (American, 1861-1918) of Pittsburgh and NYC, and Mr. Schultz of Philadelphia, as well as tapestry, black & white, and flower painting. She also spent time painting on the coast of Maine and typically signed her paintings either as either, E. Grace Milsom or simply Grace Milsom. Amateur dramatics interested Grace from an early age and she participated in several plays with the Buffalo Players theater group and later became a staunch supporter of the ‘Little Theater’ movement in Buffalo. She appreciated good music and also enjoyed seeing operas and considered art in early cinema remarkable.
Milsom was a member of numerous art societies, clubs, associations and guilds, to include:
· Charter member, past president, previous general chairman and treasurer of The Buffalo Society of Mineral Painters, Buffalo, NY.
· The Buffalo Society of Artists (BSA), where she was Chairman of the Hanging Committee (since 1910).
· She was the first “Brush Member” and past chairman of the art committee for the Buffalo Branch of the League of American Pen Women.
· Chairman of Art, Western New York Federation of Women’s Clubs.
· Member of the Albright Art Gallery (now known as the Buffalo AKG Art Museum).
· Buffalo Arts Club, Buffalo, NY.
· The Ceramic Club of Buffalo, NY.
· Guild of Allied Arts, Buffalo, NY.
· Town Club of Buffalo.
· Little Theater Guild, Buffalo, NY (Since 1930);
· The Society of Independent Artists, NYC.
· Studio Guild, Inc., NYC.
· Ogunquit Art Center, Ogunquit, ME.
· The Charcoal Club of Baltimore, MD (1923).
· Palm Beach Art Center, Palm Beach, FL.
· American Federation of Arts.
Milsom actively exhibited her artwork as well as her china painting in many solo and groups shows in-and-around the Western New York region including the Erie County Fair (1894), Pan-American Exposition (1901), Albright Art Gallery (BSA Annual Shows), Buffalo Guild of Allied Arts, Buffalo Arts Club, Chautauqua, NY, as well as occasional shows in New York City at the Ninth Annual Exhibition of The Society of Independent Artists (1925) and at Studio Guild, Inc. (1939). Additional venues included, the Venable Galleries in Washington, DC and the Century of Progress Exposition (1933, Prize) in Chicago, IL. Milsom also lectured and gave talks around the area on subjects such as; “French Art”, “Old Dutch Masters” and “Potteries of England”.
Speaking about her family garden and her love of painting flowers, she once stated, “I grew up in a garden, that probably is why I love to paint flowers. Ours was an old-fashioned garden—none of your neat flowerbeds and straight rows—our flowers seemed to grow whenever they chose. I love a higgelty-pigglety garden with its natural rhythm and uncalculated beauty.” About her own work and the emergence of modernism, she once quipped, “I paint flower and landscapes as I see them. I am not a modernist. Since the recent verdict on the Dickson picture that was hung upside down, I am convinced that no one has a very clear idea of what modernistic art is about.” She went on to say, “Art should exalt—it should portray the most beautiful things in life.”
Milsom maintained several art studios in Buffalo over the course of her career to include; “The Trubee” Mansion, a mixed-use space of offices, apartments and hotel rooms located at 414 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, NY (For: Building proprietor, Frank Curtiss Trubee, 1870-1962), China and glass decorating studios located in the D.E. Morgan Building (Opened 1900, Room 13) where she also taught classes, The Anderson Building at 680 Main Street, a studio at the Guild of Allied Arts (1916), and at 60 Ashland Avenue (c1919), and a studio at her summer residence, “Milsom Manor” where she moved to permanently in late June of 1935 and continued to actively paint, exhibit and enjoy gardening. Grace Milsom passed away on October 9, 1944 in Silver Creek Hospital, Silver Creek, NY and is buried in the family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY.
Awards/Prizes/Honors: Prize, Century of Progress Exposition (1933, Prize) in Chicago, IL.
Public & Private Collections: Albright Art Gallery (now known as the Buffalo AKG Art Museum), Buffalo, NY; Ansley Wilcox private collection “Winter and Summer”, Buffalo, NY; Town Club of Buffalo, for the painting, “In Hollyhock Time”, in the Music Room, Buffalo, NY; Unity Center, Buffalo, NY; Galbraith Collection, “The Nosegay”, Galbraith Memorial Art Gallery, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Other Memberships/Associations: Lifelong member of St. Paul’s Cathedral Church and one of the founders of the Episcopal Church of Angola, NY.
Additional family history:
Milsom’s parents emigrated from Wakefield and Shipley, England respectively. George Milsom worked as a superintendent of buildings and operations for various grain elevators in Buffalo, and over the course of his career invented and held several patents for various devices that improved the transportation, storing and rapid handling of grain. He discovered reciprocating motion and invented steam grain shovels and blocks, improvements in cables from the transmission of power, the application of tricylinder engines for separately operating the various parts of the grain elevating system, and a self-unloading device with a “telescopic leg” for vessels and transfer barges by which a ship can unload or jettison its cargo at sea or in port under its own power, as well as improvements in hollow bricks for fireproofing buildings, an ozone generator, and an improved odorless cooking vessel. His wife, Hannah also invented an ozone generator and diffuser, and in addition, made improvements on her husband’s patent for an ozone generator. The couple received congratulations from the British patent office for it being the first time that a husband and wife team were granted letter patents on valuable and widely different inventions simultaneously. After her parents’ success with their inventions, the family home was often visited by many distinguished physicians and surgeons, as well as frequented by many artists and writers. The family later moved to 18 Essex Street in the city.
George Milsom was one of the first Buffalonians to have a summer home on Lake Erie, which was a sprawling and beautiful 70-acre estate called, “Milsom Manor” on Lakeside Rd. at Evans-on-the-Lake, Evans, NY that used to be a small hotel on a stagecoach road. Mr. Milsom purchased the property circa 1884 and bred registered Swiss cattle at a time when they were only bred on two other farms in the United States. The family also had three ponies which were the first saddle horses on the lakeshore that the children often enjoyed riding, amongst countless other fun summer recreations like swimming, rowing and sail-boating. “Milsom Manor” was later deeded to Grace by her mother in October, 1898 a couple years after her father’s passing. She eventually found that her summer home was a bit too large for simply her alone, so she often rented out rooms and soon established what she called her “Cottage Colony” on the property which were a series of bungalows and shacks that could also be rented out for people needing a little respite from their busy daily lives and business affairs.
(Compiled & written by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, 14052 meibohmfinearts.com.)