Ruth Starr Rose Biography

Ruth Starr Rose




Ruth Starr Rose (nee Ruth Starr), painter, printmaker, lecturer, teacher, designer, and activist, was born into an affluent family in Wisconsin on 12 July 1887. In 1906, her family moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Maryland's Eastern Shore where they purchased a 17th century tobacco plantation called Hope House. Her family restored the plantation's house and grounds and established relationships with the African American community.

Starr attended the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C.; Vassar College; and the Art Students League in New York City where she studied and worked with Victoria Hutson Huntley, Mabel Dwight, Harry Sternberg and George C. Miller.

Ruth Starr married William Searls Rose in 1914 and they established their home near New York City.  The couple adopted two children, Virginia Ann Rose and Richard Rose. They summered on the Maryland's Eastern Shore at Pickbourne farm located next to her parents' Hope House.

The subjects of her paintings and prints were the marginalized rural African Americans who lived on the Eastern Shore. Rose depicted their lives, their suffering, their work, and their music with dignity. In 1956, James Porter credited Rose with creating the most comprehensive and sympathetic visual representations of African American spirituals. She is perhaps the first white artist to be hired to paint a mural in a church whose congregation was black. Her mural And the Pharaoh's Army Got Drowned was painted in 1943 for the DeShields Methodist Church in Copperville, Maryland.

Rose was a member of the New York Society of Women Artists, the Philadelphia Print Club, the Washington Watercolor Club, the National League of American Pen Women, and the National Serigraph Society. Her works were included in numerous exhibitions and they garnered various awards and prizes. A solo exhibition was mounted in 1933 at the Municipal Arts Society in Baltimore but a recent retrospective exhibition was held in 2015 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore and it is currently traveling.

Ruth Starr Rose is represented in the collections of the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland; Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum; Library of Congress; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Norfolk Museum of Art and Sciences; University of Virginia; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Vassar College; Wells College; and Williams College.

Ruth Starr Rose died in Alexandria, Virginia on 24 October 1965.