Anna Lee Stacey (1865 - 1943)
Please credit Illinois Historical Art Project and Author: Joel S. Dryer and Nancy House
Anna Lee Stacey “paints because she was born that way.” A widely acknowledged artist of her time, Anna dedicated her life to her art. She was a prolific artist and one of the most exhibited local artists at the Art Institute of Chicago. She won numerous awards, and exhibited her work throughout the United States. A gregarious person, “Mrs. Stacey spent almost all of her time she was not doing club work, before her easel.” Throughout her life, Anna continued to perfect her technique, but retained conventional codes of perspective, expression and representation.
Not a great deal is known about Anna’s early life or her family. She was born in Glasgow, Missouri, on September 10, 1865. Her father, John Dey, was from New Jersey, and her mother, Elizabeth Fisher, was from Indiana. Anna Lee had two older sisters, Mary and Sarah, one younger sister, Rowena, as well as one older brother, Charles. Glasgow is located on the Missouri River and was a steamboat stop. The town was recovering from a bloody Civil War battle in 1865, when half a block, including City Hall, was burned. Huge mansions, lavish hotels and bathing spas were constructed during the recovery period.
Anna had no formal art training as a child, but said she liked to draw, and she even painted her dolls. “When my parents saw how I loved to make pictures, they arranged for private lessons in art which was not a simple matter in the little town of Glasgow, Mo.” An interested teacher gave her a few lessons that were a kind of rudimentary training in copying. Later in life Anna recalled, “At that time, my idea of the beautiful in art was a wooden snow shovel with a painted scene bedecked with diamond dust…” As early as 1876 she attended the non-sectarian, co-educational Pritchett School Institute in her home town. The institution offered education from the elementary level through a full college degree. From a newspaper photo of Anna in 1902, we know she wore glasses.
Anna continued her education at the Kansas City Art Institute and School of Design, where she met John Franklin Stacey (1859-1941), one of her teachers and her future husband. John was originally from Biddeford, Maine, and attended the Massachusetts Normal School, which trained people to be teachers. He was known as a large man and sometimes prone to strong opinions. He spent three years of study at the Académie Julian in Paris with Gustave-Clarence-Radolphe Boulanger and Jules-Joseph Lefèbvre, along with fellow Bostonians such as artists Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951) and Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938). The Académie Julian was regarded as a stronghold of the academic tradition. When John returned to the United States, he took a teaching post at the school in Kansas City.