Katherine Augusta Carl (1854 - 1938)
Katherine Augusta Carl was born in New Orleans to a family of world travelers that exposed her to a variety of different cultures and lifestyles. Leaving New Orleans at the outbreak of the Civil War, they returned to the South afterward and Augusta (more generally known as Kate) studied at the Female Academy in Memphis, Tennessee. Already drawn to art, she went to Paris to study at the Academie Julian, where her teachers included Jean-Paul Laurens, Gustave Courtois, and William Bouguereau. She continued living in France for a time and won honorable mention at the Paris Salon in 1890 and exhibited there again in 1902.
In August of 1903 she began a nine-month visit to China, during which she became "the only foreigner to live within the precincts of the Chinese imperial court in its last days". She lived next to the throne room in the palace and spent part of almost every day with the Empress Dowager Cixi, completing four portraits of her for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. In 1906, she published a book about her experience in the palace in which she expressed her admiration for the Empress; an article she wrote for the New York Times included her statement, "My sojourn at the Palaces of Her Imperial Majesty the Empress Dowager of Chiny, my association with herself and the Ladies of her Court, I shall always remember as one of the most charming experiences of my life." The Empress seems to have been equally enchanted with Carl, awarding her the order of the Double Dragon and fifteen hundred guineas in thanks for the excellent quality of the portraits. One of those was given to Theodore Roosevelt, who later presented it to the Smithsonian.
Though Carl seems to have prospered back in Europe, acquiring memberships in the Societe National des Beaux Arts in Paris and the International Society of Women Painters in London, she found herself drawn back to China. She returned a few years after painting the Empresss portraits and remained there for the rest of her life, dying in Peking (later Beijing) in 1938.