Curator‘s Comments

In 2002, prominent artist and University of Massachusetts Professor of Art Richard Yarde was commissioned to create a portrait of Otelia Cromwell, the first African-American graduate of Smith College. After graduating from Smith in 1900, Cromwell received advanced degrees from Columbia and Yale Universities. Her early career was spent in the Washington, D.C., public school system, supervising teachers of English and history. She was later appointed professor of English at Miner Teacher’s College. Given the choice of a number of photographs of Cromwell as the basis for his painting, Yarde chose an image from 1950, taken while Cromwell was at Smith to accept an honorary degree. Using his signature technique of building the image from abstract patches of translucent watercolor, Yarde created a humanistic portrait of a dignified middle-aged woman. 

Otelia Cromwell

Richard Yarde. American, Born 1939

Otelia Cromwell, 2002

Watercolor on heavyweight white wove paper

Commissioned by Smith College in honor of Otelia Cromwell, class of 1900

ID Number: SC 2006:39