1869-1947: Eva Belle Clemence

An Independent and Hard-Working Female Artist Carved a Space for Herself in Turn-of-the-Century Providence

Eva Belle Clemence lived and worked in Providence as an independent artist, a difficult space for a woman to find success in early 20th-Century America.

Clemence was born in Worcester, Mass., in 1869, but her father Martin was from Rhode Island, tracing his lineage back to 17th-Century Providence. He had made a career as an actor, but ill health forced him to give up acting and take up graining, a popular faux finishing treatment in many 19th-Century homes. He had encouraged his daughter to act as well, and she was remembered for her childhood roles in stage plays like Uncle Tom's Cabin, Rip Van Winkle, and William Tell. Like her father, Eva Belle gave up acting and eventually took up painting.

In a profile from 1913, Eva remembered a family friend showing her how to paint flowers on porcelain, something she excelled at and which became a focal point of her career. She painted Colonial clock faces, belt buckles, hair pins, even rocks. Recognizing the difference between work as a commercial artist versus the fine arts, she said she didn't have time for headaches. She was a member of the Providence Art Club, the Providence Watercolor Club, the Handicraft Club and the Basement Studio Group.

In 1913, at the age of 44, Eva married John P. Evans. When Central High School was being built, her family home at 17 Spring Street was purchased by the city and demolished. Eva Belle and John moved to boarding houses and later an apartment on Providence Street. She died in 1947.

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70 Fricker St, Providence, RI 02903 (Eastern Side of Central HS)