Marion Delamater Freeman (later Marion D Freeman Wakeman) was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on 5 December 1891 and died in Northampton, Massachusetts, on 22 September 1954 (not 1953 as stated in most online sources).
Freeman graduated from Smith College, Northampton, in 1914 and then joined the Art Students League, where she studied with George Luks and Frank Vincent DuMond. She was also taught by Charles Webster Hawthorne and Dwight William Tryon. Though she did produce a limited number of etchings and sculptures, she is primarily known for her finely executed watercolors.
She married Dr. Seth Wakeman, professor of education and child safety at Smith College, in 1926. The couple had one son, Seth Freeman Wakeman.
This painting Church at Chapala, dated 1948, was presented to the Smith College Art Museum in her memory. When it came up for auction in 2022, the artist’s surname was mistakenly given as “Wakefield.” No further details are known of her time in Mexico, though she may have been a participant in a summer art school arranged by Irma Jonas, held in Ajijic.
Marion Wakeman exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design, the Architectural League, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the National Association of Women Artists. Her water colors were shown at the Montclair Art Museum and at the Smith College Art Museum.
In 1936, Wakeman was one of only 12 artists who had works purchased at the 45th Annual Exhibition of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors in New York City.
The following year, her painting titled Spring Plowing; Mexico, was bought by Seward Prosser of New York and given to Mrs. Dwight W. Morrow when she attended a meeting of the trustees of Smith College. (Dwight W Morrow was a businessman, diplomat and politician, who was US Ambassador to Mexico, 1927-29 during the Cristeros period; among other achievements, he bankrolled the Diego Rivera murals in the Palace of Cortés, Cuernavaca.)
Wakeman’s watercolors exhibited at the Smith College Art Museum in July 1938 included “a number of interesting plant studies and designs.” At the time, the museum was also exhibiting a Picasso.
In 1942, Wakeman won the Edith Penman Memorial Prize at the 50th Annual Exhibition of the National Association of Women Artists for a painting titled The Vain Old Cat.
She also illustrated the charming and fun children’s book The Curious Lobster, written by Richard W. Hatch, first published in 1944. Described quite aptly as “An American Wind in the Willows,” it tells the stories and escapades of Mr Lobster and his diverse group of friends.
Wakeman’s work is represented in the permanent collection of the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association’s Old Sculpin Gallery, alongside works by Hans Hoffman, Vaclav Vytlacil, Ruth Appledorn Mead, Julius Delbos, Frank C. Wright, Renée George O’Sullivan (who lived in Ajijic in the 1940s) and Louisa Gould.
Several chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village offer more details about the history of the artistic community at Lake Chapala.
- Daily Hampshire Gazette: 3 Mar 1986, 6.
- Obituaries: Democrat and Chronicle, 28 Sep 1954, 20; The Montclair Times 30 Sep 1954, 6.
- New York Times: 16 October 1937, 21.
- The News (Paterson, New Jersey): 7 Jan 1942, 2.
- Transcript-Telegram (Holyoke, Massachusetts): 9 Jul 1938, 7.
- Tremont Auctions. 2022 Auction Catalog, Tremont Auctions, Sudbury, Massachusetts.
Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).