Adelia Armstrong was born in 1859 to a father who had a passionate interest in the arts. Encouraged by her father, Adelia showed significant talent at an early age. At a local fair in 1873, the 14-year-old artist won the first-place prize for a pencil drawing. Adelia’s education became a priority for her father who sent her to study at Miss Pegram’s School in Baltimore and later the Augusta Female Seminary (today, Mary Baldwin University) in Staunton, Virginia. Adelia went on to study art at both the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
By the time Adelia was 25 years old, she was considered to be an emerging star and earned prominent exposure in larger cities. She exhibited at the 1884 World Cotton Centennial in New Orleans and over the next few years her work received praise from several major newspapers. A Washington arts journal noted that she “has been overwhelmed with compliments by the best judges of painting in the city…we confidently predict for Miss Armstrong a national reputation.”
In partnership with the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, there are now over 30 works of art by Adelia on display at Westwood. The collection showcases her three primary painting subjects: masterwork copies, portraits and flowers.