An ability to render sympathetic and technically masterful portraits of some of the most prominent members of society brought painter Cecilia Beaux a wide following and a strong reputation in American art. Her most popular subjects, however, were upper class women with their children.
She had been trained by private tutors who included Catherine Drinker, and Adolf Van der Whalen, as well as William Sartain. Additionally she would take some courses at the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts around the mid 1880s, but would later deny enrollment at the school.
In 1885 she traveled to Paris where she enrolled in the Academie Julian, and where she also gave private art lessons to supplement her income. She also studied at the Colarossi Academie with William Bouguereau, and took private lessons with Benjamin Constant. Throughout her life, Beaux would make an additional six trips to France, where she studied the works of the Impressionists, who would eventually influence her work. They would inspire her to significantly lighten the tones of her palette, and use a less finished style.
In 1895 she became the first women teacher to be hired as a full time instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She was also granted membership in the National Academy, where she befriended contemporaries such as Childe Hassam and William Merritt Chase.
Early in her career she made the decision to remain unmarried in order to pursue her career, and she remained single throughout her life. She would win numerous awards and medals, including a Medal of Honor at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, and a gold medal at the Exposition aux Artistes Francais in 1900.
Her works are in more than two dozen museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Musee Nationaux in Paris.