Woman of the Century/Mary M. Solari
SOLARI, Miss Mary M., artist, born in Calvari, near Genoa, Italy, in 1849. She was brought by her parents, in 1849. to the United States They made their home in Memphis. Tenn., with which city the family has ever since been identified. She was educated in the public schools and received MARY M. SOLARI. her first lesson in drawing from Mrs. Morgan The death of her mother during the epidemic of 1878, when all the members of her family were conspicuous for their courage and devotion as nurses and workers in the public interest, had a very depressing effect upon her. and on the advice of her surviving brother, Lorenzi Solari, she went to Italy, for the double purpose of recovering her health and studying art, toward which she had shown a decided inclination from her earliest childhood. On arriving in Florence, she was disappointed in finding the doors of the academy closed against her and all other women. In consequence she became a pupil of the renowned historical painter. Casioli, with whom she remained for two years, making rapid progress. She was determined to accomplish the greater work of causing the doors of the academy to be opened to her sex and to break down the opposition to women in the government schools of Italy. She plead her cause before Prof. Andrew De Vico, then (1880) director of the Academy of Florence. She was frequently told by those leading professors that she "had missed her vocation," that she "might better learn to cook a meal" or to "knit stockings," and similar belittling suggestions She soon became noted as the eloquent advocate of the rights of her sex, reminding those whom she addressed that, when Italy was noted for her women students in the University of Bologna, and a few such noble and intelligent women as Vittoria Colonna, her men grew out and away from narrow grooves of thought and puqnjse and became the leaders of the world, and finally, in 1885, after a battle of six years, she was admitted to the academy. In that year she exhibited her first work there, in competition with the more favored students. It bore comparison well, was admired, proved that she was worthy, and it brought to her aid the press of Florence, hitherto silent or opposed to woman's advancement, which expressed the hope that succeeding years would see hung side by side studies of women with those of the male alumni Through the door opened by her other women entered, and many now exhibit their work in competition with the members of the academy of the other sex. Beginning with only a dozen women, admitted in 1885, fully one-third the students in the academy now are of that sex. She, in 1887, won the first silver medal ever awarded a woman by the Florentine Academy. In 1888 she won the prize for composition from the antique and modeling. In 1889 she won the bronze medal for perspective and water-color, and also honorable mention for figure. In 1890 she received the highest awards in the Beatrice Exposition, open to women of all Italy, over one-thousand competitors, in ornamental drawing and water-colors. The Master of Arts degree was conferred upon her the same year, besides which she received letters of merit and the diploma which entitles her to leach in the government art-schools of Italy. She learned to speak Italian after going to Florence. She returned to Memphis after nine years of study in Florence.