Vetter, Cornelia

Vetter, Cornelia Cowles (1881-1959)Photo of Cornelia Vetta

Like Edith Dale Monson, Cornelia Vetter was one of the most important female artists in the history of the Hartford art colony. She was born in the city in 1881. Her years of greatest prominence were in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Vetter graduated from Hartford High School in 1894 and attended the Pratt Institute in New York City beginning in 1898. In 1908 she remained in the city taking lessons from the founder of the Ashcan School of American Painters, Robert Henri and William Merritt Chase, at the New York School of Art. Vetter went to Holland with Henri to paint there under his tutelage for one year. With forty other women, she seceded from the New York School of Art, and as a member of the Organizing Committee, she helped found the Henri School of Art. In 1910 she won a scholarship to Spain and Paris. She went around the world in 1911 and returned to Hartford the next year. For years thereafter, she would give lectures on India. In 1913 she married a Hartford restauranteur, Martin Vetter, and the couple moved into a home they built on Linnmore Street. Her focus was on her family and professional associations. In 1919 she helped found the Artists’ Club in Hartford and the next year, helped the club buy a house. She became a member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) and thereafter served on Jury of Selection Committees and/or exhibited her works in CAFA’s shows. In 1920 she moved into a new house on Huntington Avenue and set up an art studio in it. In 1928-29, she helped found the Hartford Society of Women Painters. In 1929 she went to Seville, Spain as a representative of Hartford at the Fourth International Conference of Cities. She continued to paint and exhibit her works at the Hartford Town and Country Club and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club, as well as other locations.


In 1933 Vetter’s husband died. She worked for the WPA Federal Arts Project from 1933 to 1936 completing 18 easel works. They were allocated to the Undercliff Sanatorium, the Children’s Community Center in New Haven, the Fair Haven Jr. High School, Danbury State Normal School, Hamden High School, Middlesex County Temporary Home, Henry Barnard Junior High School in Hartford, Milford Board of Education, New Haven Community Center, Senate Office Building, Hartford Juvenile Court, and the Long Lane Farm. Throughout the 1940s Vetter continued to paint and travel. She lived with her daughter first in Cheshire and then in Essex, Connecticut. She died in 1959.

Society of Women Painters

Sources: WPA Artist’s Work Card; AskART; Who Was Who in American Art (1985), p. 646; Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters (1986), p. 973; Cornelia Cowles Vetter, 1881-1959; Exhibition: July 30-September 1, 1989, The Connecticut Gallery Inc.; Helen Townsend Stimpson to the Hartford Society of Women Painters, May 6, 1948, through the courtesy of Shepherd Holcomb of West Hartford; “Connecticut Guide,” New York and Region, New York Times, August 6, 1989; “Four Artist Exhibition At The Wiley Gallery,” Hartford Courant, November 18, 1923; Photo Standalone 46, Hartford Courant, August 7, 1927; Art Exhibit Shows Scenes of Old Spain,” Hartford Courant, February 24, 1928; “Three Named To Represent City At Meeting In Spain,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1929; “Early Spain Depicted In Art Exhibit,” Hartford Courant, December 27, 1929; “M. F. Vetter, Hartford, Dies in Rochester, N.H.,” Hartford Courant, May 11,1933; “Art Works Of Women On Display,” Hartford Courant, February 9, 1936; “WPA Art Pictures Exhibited at Weaver,” Hartford Courant, November 9, 1938; Barbara Atwood, “Ingenious Show,”Hartford Courant, July 30, 1939; Obituary, Hartford Courant, June 12, 1959.

Works of Art Listed in CT Archives’ database from Vetter:

Hollyhocks: oil
Hills of Meriden: oil
Early Autumn: oil
Snow Scene:  
Essex Boats: oil
Connecticut Hills: oil
Wooded Hills: oil
Polo Pony #1: watercolor
Polo Pony #2: watercolor
Zennias: watercolor
Bloomfield Hill: oil
Autumn Scene: oil
Connecticut Road: oil
Early Autumn: oil
Purple Hills: oil
Enlightenment: oil
Gladiolas: oil
A Side Street: watercolor
Instrument of Justice: oil
The House in the Trees: watercolor
Spring Plowing:  
Irises: watercolor
Vetter, Cornelia