Nellie L. Taft

May 22, 1937December 17, 2012

Nellie Leaman Taft. Accomplished Artist and Patron of Fine Arts. Following an eight month struggle with cancer, Nellie Leaman Taft, 75, died December 17, 2012 at her home in Back Bay, Boston.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ms. Taft will be remembered as an independent, progressive-minded woman of Great Spirit and mirth, an accomplished fine artist, a committed patron of the arts, and avid gardener and loving friend and family member. She was also an avid golfer and worldwide traveler.

After attending Lotspeich and Hillsdale Schools in Cincinnati she finished her high school education at St. Timothy’s School in Baltimore. Following two years at Briarcliff College, it was Ms. Taft’s experience at progressive-minded Reed College in Oregon that emboldened her to pursue her love of painting. She completed her B.A. in Art History and M.A. in Education at Columbia University, all the while developing her painting skills in a lower Manhattan loft.

A return to Cincinnati in 1980 marked the beginning of her most intense and productive creative period, culminating with two solo shows at Closson’s Gallery and one of her works was acquired by the Cincinnati Art Museum for its RSM Collection.

Emboldened by her artistic and critical success, in 1986 Ms. Taft moved to Boston to master her chosen medium. She returned to education as a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, completing the prestigious 5th Year Program by winning both the 1991 Clarissa Bartlett and Albert H. Whitin Traveling Scholarship Awards. That same year she won the Copley Society’s First Prize for her abstract art—the fifth award she received from the organization.

Ms. Taft’s works earned solo exhibitions at the Grossman and Nielson Galleries in Boston, Between The Muse Gallery and Gallery 68 in Maine, as well as numerous other group shows in the Northeast and Cincinnati.

In 1993 then Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Flora Miller Biddle, asked Ms. Taft to join the museum’s collector-oriented National Committee, where she served until her death. Biddle, granddaughter of the museum’s founder, said of Ms. Taft: “I saw what she was painting and it was extraordinary. She was both a lover and creator of art. Spirited, talented and fun to be with—we all treasured her involvement.”

Ms. Taft was one of the first women members of the art-influential St Botolph Club in Boston (1993) where she was described as “a delightful conversationalist with a wry wit and a dedicated artist with impeccable taste.” As a member of the Art Committee, she transformed the Club Conservatory into a members’ gallery, where she curated many shows to great success.

Ms. Taft’s contributions grew to include philanthropic support of the fine arts and the environment. Through her NLT Foundation, she was a generous patron of charitable organizations in Boston, Maine and Cincinnati. A descendant of two Ohio presidents, W. H. Taft and W. H. Harrison, Ms Taft is survived by her brother, Dudley S Taft Sr, of Cincinnati OH, four nephews, Kenneth Taft Mahler of Maderia OH, Perin Harrison Mahler of Irvine, CA: Dudley S Taft Jr of Chapel Hill, NC and Thomas Woodall Taft of Cincinnati OH, nieces, Tilia Klebenov Jacobs, of Framingham, MA, Hope Klebenov, of Somerville, MA and nephew William Klebenov of New York City.

Contributions to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts or the St Botolph Club Foundation, 199 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02116


Nellie L. Taft

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Kate Carleton

February 3, 2013

Nellie shared her joy of life with everyone she met. Her creative spirit lives on through her playful, expressive art and the wonderful memories we have.

January 24, 2013

Ralph and I will miss our summertime friend, Nellie. We loved her company on the golf course, and she threw some terrific parties. Talented, fun loving and a loyal friend, she was a unique individual.
Bonnie DeOrsay

December 23, 2012

I am dismayed and saddened to learn of Nellie's death. I much admired her achievement as an artist, and also enjoyed her company on the tennis court and elsewhere in our health club. I will miss her greatly.
Mollie Crawford-Volk

December 22, 2012

Nellie passing will leave a big void in our hearts.. She was and is one of kind.
Rachel and Lee Ault

December 21, 2012

With sincere sympathy I offer my condolences to Nellie's family. She was a vibrant, talented, generous and caring woman who enriched the community enormously. As a member of the Cambridge Art Association Board of Directors, Nellie strengthened the organization and brought innovation and warmth. She will be greatly missed. And oh..could she dance! Kathryn Schultz

myrna beecher

December 20, 2012

I am so sorry of the sad news of Nellie passing away. I met her at the School of Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She was a great artist and a very vibrant person. I have very fond memories of her and she shall be missed.

Deborah Dluhy

December 20, 2012

I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to Nellie's family. I remember her fondly from her days at the Museum School and during her time after completing her studies. She was a lady who derived great pleasure from her art, and who cared to see that others had opportunities to pursue their artistic dreams. She will be missed.

With condolences,
Debby Dluhy
Dean Emerita, School of the MFA