Female Artist Spotlight: Mary Altha Nims

Mary Altha Nims, or Mrs Nims was an American artist born in 1817 in Vermont. Little is known about her life but she was a skilled Theorem (sometimes known as velvet painting) artist.

Butterfly Cushion by Mary Altha Nims

The trend for theorem stencil painting began in the United Kingdom in the early 18th century, the technique first being introduced to the United States when it was taught to women and girls in boarding schools and Art Academies in New England.

Theorem works are traditionally stencilled onto velvet or paper, with subjects including food, scenes and symbols which were popular in the artist's local area. The technique produces primitive stylised artwork with bold blocks of colour.

Star Flower Art Print by Mary Altha Nims

After Mary's death in 1907, her nephew, R.S Bayham donated a collection of her work to the Cleveland Museum of Art, authenticating their date and provenance. Since it's opening in 1916, the museum sought to represent art of the world's major cultures with large collections devoted to European and American art.