Mary Beale (1633–99) was one of the earliest professional women artists in Britain. Her successful career as a Baroque-era portrait artist was documented by her husband, Charles, whose almanacs provide a unique record of Beale’s patrons, painting technique, and family affairs. Her portraits of politicians, clergy, aristocracy, and intellectuals reflect the vibrant literary, scientific, and political scene of the seventeenth century.
Beale is recognized as a feminist icon for her success in the male-driven world of portrait painting, and in addition to being a professional artist, she was also as a poet and author. Her book Discourse on Friendship, published in 1667, argued for the equality of husband and wife in marriage—a radical concept at that time. My Dearest Heart, the first biography of Mary Beale, features more than 120 color illustrations of her ground-breaking artistry.