In the 1987 re-issue forward to Ms. Dillon's 1915 book Old Gardens of Kingston, Julia Dillon is described as a "forerunner of the liberated women of today". Her life-long dedication to painting and teaching, her travels to Europe to study and paint, as well as her constant active community involvement and vibrant, generous personality certainly make her an inspiring and influential figure of her time. She was born in Kingston, NY, in 1834, the oldest child of Charles McEntee and Christina Tremper. After marrying John Dillon in 1866 she continued to live in the Rondout area and was compelled to become involved in her husband's business, McEntee and Dillon Rondout Foundry, after his death in 1873.
Her early studies in Paris in 1872 and time spent working in the studio of her cousin Jervis McEntee, the accomplished and renowned Hudson River School painter, led to exhibitions at the National Academy of Design in 1876. In the 1870's and 80's she lived in New York City where her East 10th Street studio was visited by students and artists from all over. During later studies in Paris, she was a pupil of the English genre painter Harry Thompson and the French floral painter Georges Jeannin. Throughout the last quarter of the 19th Century she exhibited widely, including shows at the Columbia Exhibition in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Brooklyn Art Association.
In 1893 she returned to Kingston. Along with continuing to exhibit and teach, Mrs. Dillon led an active life and was very involved in Kingston community affairs and projects. She helped to establish the Kingston City Hospital, the Kingston Library, Ulster Garden Club, was a member of the D.A.R., and the State Aid Charity Association. She was the author of Old Gardens of Kingston and was part of the literary group 'The Monday Club'. Julia Dillon died in Kingston in 1919, she remains best known for her unique and beautiful floral paintings.
Julia McEntee Dillon's work has been included in the Newark Museum's "Women Artists" exhibit and the Ulster County Historical Society held a commemorative exhibition in 1987. A painting of hers was exhibited in the show American Beauty: The Rose in American Art at Berry-Hill Galleries New York in 1997. Works by Julia Dillon are listed in the Inventory of American Paintings st the Smithsonian Institution. A painting of hers entitled Artist's Home and Studio was featured in Grandmother's Garden: the Old-Fashioned American Garden 1865-1915, by Mary Brawley Hill
( Harry N. Abrams, 1995 ).
An extensive retrospective of Dillon's work was held in 2005 at the Fred Johnston Museum in Kingston, New York. Organized by the Friends of Historic Kingston in conjunction with the Ulster Garden Club, it guest curated by Charles Glasner and Sanford Levy of Jenkinstown Antiques. The show made her work available to a broad spectrum of the public and helped to further demonstrate her important position in turn of the 20th Century floral painting. A catalogue by Mr. Levy was published in conjunction with the exhibition and is available at our shop.