The artist’s decision to show Annie standing at the piano holding a sheet of music reflects the importance of music to this young woman. We also know from other historical records the centrality of music in Annie’s family, since her father, James Lewis, was the first piano dealer in Springfield. Originally from England, he had been the leader of a band. He came to the United States in 1860. After working in several other businesses, he was finally able to establish a piano store in 1878.
At first, the family attended Christ Church as Episcopalians then appeared to become involved with Spiritualism. A short mention of Annie Lewis is from March 1886, which reports that she was giving a piano recital at Gill’s Hall in Springfield. The program was commemorating Spiritualism.
We know that Annie’s father James died in 1898. He made about fifteen trips back to England during his lifetime. We wonder if Annie perhaps died overseas during one of these early trips. There is no mention of her passing here in Springfield. Annie is buried in Springfield Cemetery, and her death date is listed as November 29, 1886, from pulmonary consumption. During this time many suffered from Consumption, what we now call Tuberculosis. She was only eighteen. This painting appears to be a memorial tribute in her memory. It, combined with a second newspaper mention citing that the Spiritualists were trying to summon her and another woman in 1888, tells us that Annie must have been dearly missed.
BOTTUME, George F. (1828 – 1900)
The artist George Bottume was born in Lisbon, CT in 1828. Around the age of thirteen, he left to study in NYC, returning around 1845. For a time he worked in Norwich, and then traveled throughout Connecticut. He eventually settled in Springfield MA where he was primarily a portrait painter, although he was known to have completed some landscapes. He died on July 17, 1900 at the age of 72. (See Death Records registered in the City of Springfield, 1900.)