Elmer Livingston MacRae American, 1875-1953


Unfortunately few details are known about the early life of Elmer Livingston MacRae. He was born in New York City on July 16, 1875. He attended the Art Students League in New York where he studied under John Henry Twachtman, Carroll Beckwith, Robert Blum, and H. Siddons Mowbray.  At this time the League was a membership organization for young artists in New York City. Many of these students visited the Holley House in Cos Cob, Connecticut to continue their studies in outdoor landscape painting under John Twachtman and J. Alden Weir, who taught summer classes there. MacRae himself is known to have spent two summers at the school in the 1890's. In 1896 MacRae settled in the village of Cos Cob. At the boardinghouse of Edward and Josephine Holley which had become the unofficial headquarters for the Cos Cob Art Colony MacRae met Emma Constant Holley, the daughter of the owners of the Holley House. In 1900 Elmer Livingston MacRae married Emma and settled permanently in the house that he had come to love. For the next two decades Elmer and Emma together ran the boardinghouse. The historical charm and beauty of the structure attracted many young artists who utilized it as a meeting place. Soon the house became a backdrop for artists such as Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, Theodore Robinson, and Elmer Livingston MacRae.  The "Cos Cob Clapboard School of Art," as designated by Hassam, used both the interior and exterior of the house as inspiration for their paintings. While living at the Holley House MacRae became involved in a number of art organizations. He was one of the founders and the first Secretary-Treasurer of the American Pastel Society. He was a charter member of the Greenwich Society of Artists and served on their council. Most importantly he was a founding member of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors which organized the famed Armory Show of 1913, an International Exhibition of Modern Art at New York City's 69th Street Armory. The Exhibition showcased the art of such European artists as Paul Cezanne and Marcel Duchamp which was a radical departure from the previously known Realist and Impressionist work.  MacRae served on a number of committees that organized this ground-breaking exhibition that would change the face of American art. Without MacRae's tireless work the show could conceivably not been the ultimate success that it was. MacRae exhibited ten of his own works at the Armory Show.  MacRae remained at the Holley House until his death in 1953. Emma continued to live in the house until her own death in 1957 when the Holley House was sold to the Greenwich Historical Society.  


American Painters and Sculptors Gallery Association, New York

American Pastel Society (founder)

Association of American Painters and Sculptors (founder)

Greenwich Society of Artists (President)

New York Watercolor Club

Sponsor of the 1913 Armory Show


Holley House, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1908-1910

Madison Artists Guild, New York, 1910

Armory Show, 1913

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1919

Greenwich Society of Artists, 1929 (prize)

Milch Gallery, New York City, 1959 (retrospective)

Tennessee Fine Arts Center, Nashville

Bush-Holley Arts Group, Cos Cob, CT, 1970

Museums and Public Collections

Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut

Bush-Holly Historic Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut

Cheekwood Museum of Art & Botanical Garden, Tennessee

Colby College Museum of Art, Maine

Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Mystic Seaport Museum, Massachusetts

Parrish Art Museum, Long Island

University of Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

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