H. Peters. "The Pic Nic on the Fourth of July". After a painting by Lilly M[artin] Spencer.
New York: H. Peters, circa 1870. 21 3/4 x 29 3/4 (image) plus full margins. Engraved by Sam'l Hollyer & J. Roger. Repaired tears in margins at sides and top; one at top extending into image. Blemish in lower right margin.
Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902) executed domestic genre scenes, often including children and dogs. Her work has a distinct sentimental quality. Born in England to French parents, her family moved to America in 1830 to start a utopian colony. She began painting in her teens and had her first exhibition in 1841. This brought her artwork to the attention of a wealthy Cincinnati patron, Nicholas Longworth. He offered to send her to Europe to further her education, but she declined, instead spending much of her time working with John Insco Williams (1813-1873). In 1844, she married Benjamin Rush Spencer. She experienced some financial success in 1847 by selling her artwork through the Western Art-Union. Thereafter, Spencer moved to New York City where her popularity continued to grow. Unusual for the time, her husband, while being her business manager, served the domestic role in the relationship, taking care of the children so Lilly would have more time to paint. Lilly Martin Spencer had thirteen children, seven of whom survived. Throughout her career, she produced 500 works, many of which were reproduced as popular engravings and lithographs.
This print is a tour de force of her pictorial skills because it contains children, dogs, lovely costume elements and a bucolic landscape. While our limited reference capacity does not allow us to state when the painting was done, we can estimate the engraving being published in New York about 1870 because Spencer moved there from Cincinnati in 1847, and Hollyer returned to New York after a six year absence in 1866. The style suggest to us that the print was done in this second period when the artist and engraver were working in New York at the same time.