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Artist Biography

 Rhoda Holmes Nicholls, a vicar's daughter from England, was a painter of figures, florals and landscapes. She was born in Coventry, England in 1854. After living for three years on her brother's ostrich farm in South Africa, she returned to England, where in 1884 she married the American artist Burr H. Nicholls. This same year they moved permanently to the United States.

She studied at London's Bloomsbury School of Art and the Kensington Museum. She sacrificed a Queen's scholarship to travel instead to Rome, where she became a member of the Circello Artistico, a group of artists of various nationalities who shared mutual criticisms. She was only the second woman ever to be elected to the Rome Watercolor Society. Her paintings soon won wide recognition and were exhibited in Rome and Turin, at the Royal Academy in London, and elsewhere.

In the United States, Rhoda Nicholls quickly established a reputation, winning medals at the New York Prize Fund Exhibition in 1886, the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the Atlanta Exposition in 1895, and other major shows. Several of her watercolors were widely reproduced, notably "Those Evening Bells."

Among her professional memberships were the National Association of Women Artists, the New York Water Color Club (she was elected as its first vice president in 1890), the American Water Color Society and the National Arts Club. She exhibited in fourteen exhibitions of the National Academy of Design from 1884 to 1917, eleven annual exhibitions of the Pennsylvania Academy between 1884 and 1903, and twenty-five exhibitions of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1888 to 1918.

In addition to her own work, she taught art classes for many years at the William Chase School in Shinnecock, Long Island, New York, and later at the Art Students' League in New York City. She also conducted summer classes in Gloucester and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Kennebunkport, Maine. Nicholls worked on the staffs of the "Art Interchange" and the "Art Amateur" and was co-editor of "Palette and Brush". In 1924 a major show of her watercolors was mounted at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC. Her works can also be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; John H. Vanderpoel Art Association; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Boston Art Club; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA.


Jules and Nancy Heller, North American Women Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 1219, Routledge, January 1997)
Paul Sternberg, Art by American Women: Selections From the Collection of Louise and Alan Sellars (1991)