Mrs. Anna Lea Merrit was the wife of the painter, bookseller and critic Henry Merritt.
She was a painter, etcher and muralist who was born in Philadelphia but travelled to Europe in 1866, later meeting her husband in London where she remained for the rest of her life, although she made frequent trips to America.
She exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1871 and 1893, as well as the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery. Her subjects were mainly portrait and genre scenes and her best-known work is Love Locked Out, now in the Tate Gallery, which was painted as a memorial to her husband and was the first painting by a woman to be purchased by Chantry Bequest.
She was commissioned to paint portraits in England and the USA and her sitters include James Russell Lowell, Dorothea Beale and Horace Howard Furnace. She also produced etchings to illustrate Merritt's writings and became recognised as a leading woman etcher. As a muralist she worked on religious subjects in St. Martin's, Chilworth, Hants and depictions of women at work for the Woman's Building at the Columbian Exposition, Chicago.
She was asked by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to persuade Whistler to send a picture to the Special Exhibition of American Artists at Home and in Europe held in Philadelphia and New York in 1881-1882.
Merritt, Henry, 'A Letter to Artists: Especially Women Artists', Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, lxv, 1900, pp. 463–69; van Rensselaer, M., 'American Etchers' Gorokhoff, G., ed., Love Locked Out: The Memoirs of Anna Lea Merritt, Boston, 1982; Wood, C., The Dictionary of Victorian Painters, 2nd ed, Woodbridge, 1978; Pennell, E. R. and J., The Life of James McNeill Whistler, London and Philadelphia, 1908; www.speel.demon.co.uk (accessed 2003); Walkley, Giles, Artists' houses in London 1764-1914, Aldershot, 1994; The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 2004).