Wonderful Women of Norwood: Mary Bagnall Tucker Fogg
By Norwood Historical Society members Karen DeNapoli, Laurie Kearney, & Linda Rau
Mary Bagnall Tucker was born in New London, CT, on January 8, 1824, to Reverend Thomas W. Tucker and Mary Orne Tucker. She was the youngest of three children. Her father was a Methodist itinerant circuit rider for the church. The ministers were paid very little, and with constant traveling, they faced difficult financial and family challenges. Mrs. Tucker added to the family coffers by sketching and painting watercolors of the local children to entice them to attend her Sunday religious school.
The Tuckers valued education and sent their children to the academy in each town they were assigned to. Mrs. Tucker and her elder daughter, Hannah, established a young ladies’ school in the house. There were 40 pupils, and the added income provided the family with many comforts.
The two older children left home in 1836, and Mary continued to live with her parents. At 16 years of age, Mary began painting her distinctive large watercolors and pastels. Her earliest signed portrait is dated 1840. Before photography was introduced in America in 1839, a portrait by a folk painter was the only way to preserve an image of yourself or their loved ones. (Photography only became widespread some decades later.) It has only recently been verified that the portraits signed Mary B. Tucker were painted by Mary.
Mary was one of the few artists in the 1840’s to use watercolors to produce large-format likeness. She embraced the colorful medium, allowing a new level of freedom and fluidity to produce portraits on sheets of paper that were 26 x 2”. She developed two distinctive portrait styles: profiles and more painterly full-faced depictions. The profiles were her earliest styles. Starting in 1844 and later, her portraits are full face.
On November 24, 1847, Mary married Dr. David Sylvester Fogg, a graduate of Dartmouth Medical School with a practice in South Dedham (present day Norwood). Dr. & Mrs. Fogg lived in South Dedham for the rest of their lives. They raised eight children, six of whom survived to adulthood. As a doctor’s wife and mother of eight children, Mary had little time to pursue her portrait painting. The landscapes she painted after her marriage were a hobby, not a full-time profession or money-making vocation. In fact, most were donated after her death. Her portraits are displayed in the American Folk Art Museum (NY), and in Jeffrey Tillow Antiques (Litchfield, CT); several are owned privately. There are no known portraits dated after 1847, but there are several landscapes in oil on canvas. Some of her landscape paintings of early Norwood are on display at the Norwood Historical Society at 93 Day St.
Mary Tucker Fogg died in Norwood in 1898, at 74 years of age. She is interred at Highland Cemetery with her husband David.