Emily Burling Waite Portrait

West Stairwell Portrait 14

Waite (1887-1980) drew a chalk profile of one of her brothers on the kitchen wall when she was four and lived to see her oil portraits, etchings and still lifes included in the collections of the Worcester Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian. 

While studying at the Worcester Art Museum School after graduation from Classical High in 1905, Waite won first prize in a drawing competition, a two-year scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York City. It was there that she changed her focus from illustrating to painting. 

She studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School for two years and in Europe for another two, before returning to the United States in 1912. Waite opened a studio on Boylston Street in Boston but found portrait commissions difficult to obtain. Feeling that this was partially due to the general reluctance of people to sit for a female artist, she signed many of her early portraits “E.B. Waite.” 

Returning to Worcester in 1931 after some moving around, she opened a studio at the family home on Franklin Street. From 1934 to 1938 she taught drawing, and painting and design at the Bancroft School. In the 1950s she started to use the technique of softground etching, which was to become her most popular print medium. Her subjects included many Worcester residents, buildings, and local scenes.