Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn (1865-1945)

Today, on International Women’s Day, the New Brunswick Museum would like to acknowledge Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn (1865-1945).

Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn was born on 9 October 1865 in Saint John, New Brunswick, and died there on 31 July 1945.  She was the daughter of James Ramsay Woodburn, a Scottish-born photographer, inventor and candy manufacturer, and Catherine Reid of Irish and United Empire Loyalist descent.

1991-4-3 - Watching
Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn (Canadian, 1865-1945)

after D. Riglio
painting: Watching, 1885-1890
oil on canvas
support: 102 x 76.5 cm
frame: 126 x 100 cm
Purchased with the assistance of the Viscount Bennett Trust Fund, 1991 (1991.4.3)
New Brunswick Museum Collection

1999-2(3) - Figure
Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn, Canadian, 1865-1945
painting: Study from Life, c. 1888
oil on canvas
overall: 70.2 x 55.5 cm
Purchase, 1999 (1999.2)
New Brunswick Museum Collection

“Annie” Woodburn’s artistic abilities were recognized very early – one of her first submissions to an exhibition, the 1880 Provincial Exhibition held in Saint John, caught the attention of the Daily Telegraph correspondent who considered her Callah (sic) Lilies to be “creditably painted”. (Saint John Daily Telegraph, 6 October 1880)

Still Life with Fruits
Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn, Canadian, 1865-1945
painting: Still Life with Fruit, 1899
watercolour over graphite on wove paper, laid down on board
support: 22.8 x 28.8 cm
mount: 32.9 x 39.2 cm
Purchased from the artist, 1942 (A45.754)
New Brunswick Museum Collection

In 1885, she enrolled at the Owens Art Institution in Saint John where she studied under principal, John Hammond  (1843-1939) and an advertisement for the Institute’s second term in 1886-1887 lists her as an assistant teacher.  She continued at the Institution until it closed in 1893 and participated in all of the annual and special exhibitions organized by the school.  After 1896, she became involved with the Women’s Art Association of Canada, Saint John Branch, and participated in their exhibitions.

Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn Sketching at Easel
Photographer Unknown
photograph: Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn Sketching at Easel, 1890-1900
albumen print
overall: 8.3 x 14 cm
New Brunswick Museum Collection (X9964)

Woodburn also spent some time studying at the Glasgow School of Art and Haldane Academy in Glasgow, Scotland, and with William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) at the New York School of Art.  She gave private lessons at her home between 1899 and 1910 and maintained a lifetime involvement with the Saint John Art Club.  In February 1909, her work was featured in an exhibition along with Marion Jack (1866-1954), at one of the Saint John Art Club’s monthly meetings.

Nevers_ Shop at Lower Jemseg, New Brunswick
Attributed to Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn (Canadian, 1865-1945)
photograph: Nevers’ Shop at Lower Jemseg, New Brunswick, c. 1900
albumen print
overall: 12.5 x 10 cm
New Brunswick Museum Collection (X11471)

In addition to drawing and painting, Woodburn had better than average photographic skills as revealed in some of her existing images.

Peter J. Larocque
Art Curator, New Brunswick Museum



  1. Aristi Dsilva says

    Hello Eve Beals. Thank you for your comments. The comment section is now enabled in the New Facilities page.

  2. Eve Beals says

    I am commenting here to let you know that the comment function is not enabled on the post about the new building! If you really want public input on the new building, please enable the comment function on your blog post; since I’m unable to post there, just want to say that I hope the children’s museum component can perhaps be improved and expanded upon in the new facility, and additionally am glad to see a section on aboriginal history but please use the term “aboriginal” or “First Nations” NOT “indigenous,” the latter term unfortunately has been co-opted in inappropriate ways and now carries racist connotations (for instance, it is the linguistic basis for a very racist term used for African-Americans).

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