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Domestic Happiness, 1849

  • Lilly Martin Spencer, American, 1822-1902

Oil on canvas

  • Unframed: 55 1/4 × 45 3/4 inches (140.3 × 116.2 cm)
  • 72 × 57 1/4 × 4 inches (182.9 × 145.4 × 10.2 cm)

Bequest of Dr. and Mrs. James Cleland, Jr.


On View

  • American W273


American Art before 1950

The only well known female genre painter of her generation, Lily Martin Spencer specialized in themes of domesticity. Domestic Happiness is one of her most important works. The scene is based on a preliminary drawing of her two oldest sons asleep in each other’s arms. Their parents, aglow with pride, watch them. Spencer’s children eventually totaled thirteen, seven of whom lived to maturity. Lily was the breadwinner; her husband, Benjamin, tended the house and the children.

Old label on stretcher, upper corner: Detroit | Art Loan Association | F. Brady | No. 22 On stretcher, upper left: Property of | W. H. Brady Stencil, on verso: PREPARED BY | THEO. KELLEY | ... | NEW YORK

Inscribed, on verso: Lilly M. Spencer | Painter 1849

Philadelphia Art Union Western Art Union (Cincinnati, Ohio, USA) Captain Waterman Samuel Preston Brady (1809-1868) Elizabeth Mary (Nexsen) Brady (1813-1888). Wife of the above. Dr. and Mrs. James Cleland, Jr. 1934-present, bequest to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

“Catalogue of Paintings, now on exhibition in our free Gallery. Prices, including Frames.” Philadelphia Art Union Reporter 1, no. 1-3 (January-April 1851). Hadry, Henriette A. “Mrs. Lilly M. Spencer.” Sartain’s Union Magazine 9 (August 1851): pp. 152-154. Catalogue of Articles on exhibition at the Gallery of Fine Arts, in the Firemen’s Hall, February 1853. Exh. cat. Duncklee & Wales, Book and Job print, Detroit, 1853. “The Fine Art Gallery.” The Broken Fetter, Published during the Ladies’ Michigan State Fair, for the Relief and Destitute Freedmen and Refugees,” February 28, 1865, p. 5. Catalogue, Second Exhibition and Constitution and By-laws of the Detroit Art Association. Exh. cat., Detroit Art Association. Gulley’s Steam Press, Detroit, 1875-76. Detroit Art Loan Exhibition. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1883, p. 65, no. 670. National Academy of Design Exhibition Record 1826-1860. Exh. cat., New-York Historical Society. New York, 1943, p. 134. Lilly Martin Spencer 1822-1902: The Joys of Sentiment. Exh. cat., National Collection of Fine Arts. Washington, D.C., 1973, p. 31, no. 133. Lubin, David M. Picturing a Nation: Art and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century America. New Haven, CT, 1994, pp. 162-169.

Lilly Martin Spencer, Domestic Happiness, 1849, oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts, Bequest of Dr. and Mrs. James Cleland, Jr., 34.274.