Image of a Daisy with the words

Eleanor Norcross, Woman in a Paris Garden
Interpretation by FAM Docent Jane Epstein

Painting: A stylish woman in a pink dress and a fashionable hat prunes flowers in a garden

Eleanor Norcross, Woman in a Paris Garden, 1885, oil on canvas. Norcross Collection.

Eleanor Norcross – artist, collector, and museum founder – was born in 1854 and raised in Fitchburg, first in a house on Main Street and then in a brick row house on the Upper Common, just steps from where you are standing. She attended Fitchburg schools, Wheaton Female Seminary (now Wheaton College), the Massachusetts Normal Art School (now the Massachusetts College of Art) in Boston, and the Art Students’ League in NYC. At the age of 29 Norcross moved to Paris, from then on her primary residence, although she returned frequently for visits to Fitchburg. When she died in 1923 she left her estate to two friends who used it to establish the Fitchburg Art Center, knowing this to be Norcross’s wish. It became the Fitchburg Art Museum in 1951.

Woman in a Paris Garden may date from her earliest years in Paris. It is unusual for Norcross in its large scale, full-length figure, and outdoor setting. Here we see a fashionably-dressed woman in a pink gown, admiring flowers; the subject and the sketchy brushwork of the surrounding foliage, as well as of the woman’s dress, link it to Impressionism.

As well as a painter and museum founder, Norcross was an avid collector of decorative arts, many of which you see in this room – plates, bowls, pitchers, and the like. She saw to it that beautiful art and objects of Paris and Europe would be brought here, for the pleasure and education of the people of her hometown.

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