Selected works by Susannah Paine

Susannah Paine

1792 - 1862

Susanna Paine was one of the earliest portrait painters on Cape Ann and the first professional woman artist that we know of to work in the area. She was an itinerant artist, a rarity for a woman, who earned her livelihood by traveling from community to community doing portraits on a commission basis. She is known to have worked on Cape Ann during the 1830s and 1840s.

Paine was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts; her father was a mariner who was lost at sea when Susanna was a young child. Susanna attended what she would later describe as "the best" girls' academy in Rhode Island where she learned to read and write and was exposed to art. In 1819, she married James Phillips of Providence, and two years later gave birth to a son who died in infancy. In 1823, Paine was granted a divorce from the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Shortly thereafter, she began traveling around New England painting portraits.

Paine relied on local newspapers to give patrons advance notice of her arrival and to advertise her skills and her fees. By 1834, she had discovered Cape Ann and found work painting portraits of several families in the village of Annisquam. In 1854, Susanna Paine published Roses and Thorns, or Recollections of an Artist, an autobiographical work. In it she recalled her first impressions of Cape Ann: "the scenery was delightful; and the people, just to my liking. Everything was free, easy and agreeable...Cape Ann ... was a singular place. No one was very poor; they all seemed on an equality..."