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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Sarah Choate Sears

Born: Sarah Choate 
Other: Sarah C. Sears 
Other: Sarah Sears 
Dates:  1858 - 1935
Born:  US, MA, Cambridge
Died:  US, ME, West Gouldsboro
Active:  US
Portrait and flower studies - a member of both the Photo-Secession and the Linked Ring Brotherhood. Fred Holland Day included five of her photographs in his New American Photography exhibition, which traveled to London and Paris (1901). She was also one of the few women who had her photographs published in ‘Camera Work‘ (1907).

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Approved biography for Sarah Choate Sears
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Sears was born Sarah Carlisle Choate in Cambridge, Massachusetts, into a prominent Boston family, on May 5, 1858. She became Mrs. Joshua Montgomery Sears, when she married a real estate magnate in 1877.
About this time, she studied at Bostonís Cowles Art School and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. She joined watercolor clubs in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, and also made pastels. Her flower pictures won prizes at major international shows, including the Worldís Columbian Exposition in 1893 (Chicago), the Universal Exposition in 1900 (Paris), the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 (Buffalo), and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 (St. Louis). Her wealth gave her access to the contemporary art world and in 1889 she sat for a portrait by John Singer Sargent. She subsequently collected work by him and others painters such as Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Edward Manet, Henri Matisse, and, especially, Maurice Prendergast. She became a founder and life member of Bostonís Society of Arts and Crafts, exhibiting photographs and embroidery there in 1897 and serving on its jury in 1899. After her husband died in 1905, she traveled in Europe for two years, where she spent time with Mary Cassatt and Gertrude Stein in Paris.
Sears became interested in creative photography during the 1890s, when she joined the Boston Camera Club and became friends with F. Holland Day. Day included work by Sears in his important exhibition, the New School of American Photography, which was shown at the Royal Photographic Society in London in 1900 and at the Photo-Club de Paris the next year. Englandís premiere group of art photographers, the Linked Ring Brotherhood, voted Sears to membership in 1904.
Equally prestigious was her membership in the Photo-Secession, Alfred Stieglitzís elitist group of pictorialists. She joined as a fellow in 1903, and subsequently helped fund the groupís efforts. Stieglitz included her work in its first membersí show, at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in 1905. Other Secession shows that her photographs appeared in were presented in 1904 at the Carnegie Institute (Pittsburgh) and the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington), in 1906 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia), and in 1909 at the National Arts Club (New York). The April 1907 issue of Stieglitzís rarified quarterly, Camera Work, featured two photogravures by her, both portraits.
Sears also exhibited her work elsewhere for a decade and a half. Perhaps her earliest showing was the Fifth Annual Joint Exhibition in 1892, organized by the leading photographic societies in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. In 1899, her work was included in the American Institute salon in New York and the second Philadelphia Photographic Salon, and she presented a solo show of portrait photographs at the Boston Camera Club. Over the next eight years, her work was accepted for photographic shows in Berlin, Bradford, Chicago, Glasgow, the Hague, Hamburg, London, Montreal, San Francisco, Vienna, and Wiesbaden. In 1900, Frances Benjamin Johnston chose Sears to be among the American women whose photographs she presented at the Universal Exposition in Paris.
Sears tended to photograph flowers and individuals for her pictorial work. Among those that faced her lens were Sargent, the art connoisseur Bernard Berenson, and the writer and reformer Julia Ward Howe. She seems to have left photography behind for her interest in the other arts by around 1910. Sarah C. Sears died on September 26, 1935, in West Gouldsboro, Maine, where she had often summered. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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John Singer Sargent
Sarah Choate Sears 
Family history 
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.227 [Includes a well written short biography on Sarah Choate Sears with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
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