Gretchen Rogers (1881-1967)

Gretchen Rogers (1881-1967)

“Originality without eccentricity, an instinctive good taste, excellent drawing and pleasant color, are the conspicuous and emphatic merits of the paintings by Gretchen W. Rogers…Her progress in these respects has been very marked and steady, so that it is felt this exhibition comes at an auspicious period in her development, illustrating the direction in which her talent is tending, and the already gratifying achievement of her career.”

                                                --“Miss Rogers’s Paintings,” Boston Evening Transcript, April 24, 1917

Born in Boston in 1881, Gretchen Rogers attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts from 1900 to 1907, studying under Edmund Tarbell, who became both a mentor and one of her strongest supporters. In a note of congratulations after viewing an exhibition of her work held at the Guild of Boston Artists years later, Tarbell wrote, “Permit me to say that as your ancient instructor, I am proud of you…some of your pictures there seemed as beautifully painted as any I have seen in years.”[1] His admiration was also expressed to a Rogers family member, who recalled Tarbell describing her as “the best pupil I ever had…a genius. She’s too modest, that is the trouble with her. She doesn’t value herself enough.”[2] Rogers earned several awards during her time at the Museum School and in 1909 she took over her friend Lilian Westcott Hale’s studio space at the Fenway Studios building in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, where she began producing portraits and figural work, as well as landscapes and still lifes.

[1] Edmund Tarbell to Gretchen Rogers, quoted in Robert F. Brown, “New England,” Archives of American Art Journal 34 (1994), p. 37.

[2] Edmund Tarbell quoted by Mrs. C. E. A. Winslow, page from an undated letter from Mrs. Winslow, recipient unknown, curatorial files, Department of Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (See the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s online essay about Rogers’ Woman in a Fur Hat (

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The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where Rogers exhibited as early as 1911, counts a Rogers still life among its holdings as well as her self-portrait, Woman in a Fur Hat, which was awarded the silver medal at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. Rogers took part in annual exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago and was a founding member of the Guild of Boston Artists, where she had solo shows in 1917 and 1928. She also exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and in group exhibitions featuring Boston women artists held at the City Art Museum of St. Louis in December 1913 and the Detroit Institute of Arts in April 1914. Despite these accomplishments and the continued success that she experienced well into the 1920s, Rogers gave up her space at Fenway Studios in 1932 and did not product any known work after that time. The cause of her withdrawal from the art world has been attributed to the effects of the Great Depression on the art market and the strain it caused on the careers of many painters, while the result of her early retirement means examples of Rogers’ work rarely come on the market today.

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