From Life: Early Works by Florine Stettheimer

an online exhibition in collaboration with Columbia University Libraries

A Timeline of Florine Stettheimer's Early Life and Career

By Sarah Faulkner, Luming Guan and Nínive Vargas de la Peña

Stettheimer’s Childhood


Florine Stettheimer is born in Rochester, New York, to Rosetta, née Walter, and Joseph Stettheimer, the fourth of five siblings.

ca. 1881

Florine moves with her mother and siblings to Stuttgart, Germany, after her father deserts the family. She enrolls at the Priesersches Institut, where she takes drawing lessons with Sophie von Prieser, the Institut’s Director. Study of a Bouquet, annotated “12 years old,” dates from this period, as well as a whimsical watercolor series on cardstock where individuals are associated with insects or animals.

ca. 1887

The Stettheimers move to Berlin, where Florine continues her art training as evidenced by some still life drawings bearing the inscription “Berlin.” Other drawings from this period, including Head of a Girl, show that Florine used Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme’s recently published Cours de dessin (1866-1871) to advance her drawing skills.

Formal Academic Training


The Stettheimers return to New York. The two eldest Stettheimer children move to California, while Rosetta and her three youngest daughters (Florine, her elder sister Carrie, and her younger sister Ettie), remain in the city. Florine draws her poignant Portrait of the Artist’s Mother around then.

Florine enrolls in a four-year program at the newly founded Art Students League (1875), resuming her formal art education under the tutelage of instructors aligned with the French academic tradition, including Carroll Beckwith, H. Siddons Mowbray and Kenyon Cox, by contrast to her earlier German academic training. Her training there involves working from the life model, as shown by Nude Study, Seated with Head Turned and Nude Study, Standing, Side View, with Hands Clasped.

Travels to Europe


The Stettheimers spend much of their time traveling across Europe, primarily in Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy, where Florine paints Landscape in an Italian Park (The Poplars). In addition to attending operas and ballets, the family visits museums and art galleries. Florine demonstrates an intense interest in art history and copies works by Old European Masters. She keeps many sketchbooks, in which she records her environment. Nature (especially trees, as seen in Path with Trees and Curved Tree) and women at leisure (Woman Reading on a Porch, Woman in Blue Hat) are two recurrent themes.

Florine becomes involved in the Parisian art scene, as exemplified by her visit of the Salon d'Automne where Matisse and others show their most avant-garde work. She experiments with many different styles, from Symbolism to Fauvism and Pointillism, as in Landscape No. 2 with Bathers, for which a study exists. The influence of Orientalism is evident in her Self-Portrait with Paradise Birds.


The Stettheimers see Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris on June 8. The ballet has a lasting effect on Florine, who is mesmerized by Vaslav Nijinsky’s performance. She begins working on a libretto and some costume designs for her own ballet, Orphée of the Quat-z-Arts, and will remain inspired by the Ballets Russes thoughtout the rest of her career.

Return to New York


After the outbreak of World War I and time spent in Bern, Switzerland, the Stettheimer family decides to return to New York in September. Florine, then in her early forties, moves in with her mother and two sisters to an apartment on West 76th Street in Manhattan.

Florine and her younger sister Ettie become deeply involved in the blooming artistic scene of the city, now inhabited by European expatriates escaping the wartime turmoil. These expatriates notably include members of the Parisian avant-garde, including Marcel Duchamp, whom Stettheimer befriends.

ca. 1915

Stettheimer develops a new style, epitomized by paintings such as Self-Portrait with Palette and A Model (Nude Self-Portrait), which reference the academic tradition but also show a radical step towards what will become her avant-garde mature style.


From October 16 to 28, Stettheimer has her first solo exhibition at the renowned gallery M. Knoedler & Co. Columbia holds seven of the twelve pictures exhibited in the show, including Flowers with Aphrodite. The exhibition, curated by Marie Sterner, receives mixed reviews and does not sell any paintings, disappointing Stettheimer.

Stettheimer never holds a solo exhibition at a commercial gallery again but continues to show her work in group exhibitions and present it privately to an intimate circle invited to her home or studio. These private events, or “birthday parties” as the artist called them, involved the unveiling of her most recent paintings to local artists and collectors. From this point on, Stettheimer works in what is recognized as her mature style.

This timeline draws on the catologue that accompanied the exhibition "Florine Sttetheimer" that took place at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich in 2014. This was Stettheimer's first solo exhibition outside of the United States.