Mary Beale - Portrait Painter: 1633 - 1699
Mary married Charles Beale in 1652, and in 1654 she embarked upon a semi-professional career as a portrait painter. She became one of the most important portrait painters of 17th century England, and has been described as the first professional female English painter.
After fleeing London's Great Plague in 1665, she and her husband returned in 1670. It was during this period that her career in miniature portraits began in earnest. Miniatures, usually executed in watercolor or gouache, have become an invaluable aid in introducing people to one another, especially those who may be separated by vast distances. Members of the aristocracy often may arrange for couriers to carry a miniature of a daughter to a potential suitor.
Mary established a studio in Pall Mall and became friends with the court painter to Charles II, Sir Peter Lely. Her later work is heavily influenced by Lely and became unfashionable after his death in 1680.
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