The P.A.B. Widener European Fellowship was first announced at the Spring 1899 commencement ceremony for the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (PSDW). Peter Arrell Brown Widener was a successful businessman who invested in public transportation. He was a founding partner of the Philadelphia Traction Company and later was a principle organizer of U.S. Steel and the American Tobacco Company. He served as the Philadelphia City Treasurer and sponsored a number of philanthropic enterprises in the Philadelphia area. His fellowship at PSDW was one of the first created specifically to fund one year of study abroad for industrial design.
Shortly after the announcement of the Widener European Fellowship, William L. Elkins, a friend and business partner of Widener, provided funds for the creation of the William L. Elkins European Fellowship for Achievement in Art. Elkins invested in the oil industry, owning several refineries in Philadelphia. Later he formed a partnership with Standard Oil and was the Director the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company. Unlike the Widener Fellowship, the Elkins scholarship was for students of the “normal” fine arts course, which was intended to train high school graduates to become art teachers.
The first recipients
In 1900 the Philadelphia School of Design for Women presented a graduating class of eight students. Among them, two women distinguished themselves through their artistic achievement to become the first recipients of fellowships to travel abroad.
Mary S. Braid (1880-1955), of Philadelphia received the Widener European Fellowship. She first traveled to Paris, visiting the Exposition Universelle for sketches and inspiration. She then traveled to London where she studied with Lewis F. Day, a well-known decorative artist. Upon her return to Philadelphia, Braid worked as an assistant instructor at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women in the watercolor department. She had a successful career as a textile designer at Joseph Bromley’s lace factory and eventually led the Technical and Decorative Design Class A course at the PSDW under her married name, Mary Braid Hartman, and continued to teach at PSDW as the head of the Design Department until 1947. She was an active member of the Alumnae Association for many years. After she retired she and her husband moved to Cape May, New Jersey.
Lillian M. Genth (1876-1953), also of Philadelphia, received the Elkins European Fellowship, which she used to travel to Paris. There she studied with famous artists James Whistler and Jean-Joseph Constant. After Paris, Genth traveled to Rome, Florence, and Venice to continue her art studies. When Genth returned from Europe she exhibited widely at numerous venues, including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she won the Mary Smith prize in 1904. Although she is best remembered for her female nude paintings, Genth gave up the subject entirely to focus on portraits later in her career. Her works are held by many galleries and museums across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
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