Lydia Field Emmet was one of ten children. She received her earliest artistic encouragement from her mother, who had studied with Daniel Huntington. In 1884, at the age of seventeen, Lydia accompanied her eldest sister Rosina to Paris, where they enrolled at the Académie Julian. After her return to New York, she spent six years studying at the Art Students League. Her teachers included Kenyon Cox and William Merritt Chase. Impressed with Emmet's work, Chase appointed her as an instructor at his Summer School of Art located in Shinnecock, a small resort on Long Island, New York. During the 1890s, Emmet exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design and, like Mary Cassatt, painted one of the murals that decorated the Woman's Building at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
Emmet's artistic career spanned a long period, from about 1880 until 1940. In addition to painting portraits, she worked as an illustrator for Harper's Magazine and designed stained glass windows for the Tiffany Glass Company. Around 1896, the artist began to paint portrait miniatures that were well received. During the following decades, her commissions flourished, and her popularity increased to the point that the fees she commanded were comparable to those of leading male contemporaries like John Singer Sargent. Although she painted a wide range of subjects, Emmet was best known for her portraits of children.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art.]