Mission & History | MAA Membership | Traveling Exhibit | MAA Book | Contact | Candidates Circle

Miniature Artists of America 2008-2012 Traveling Exhibition on display
Miniature Artists of America 2008-2012 Traveling Exhibition on display.

The Miniature Artists of America - Mission & History

Mission Statement | History | Exhibits | Recognition | Support

MAA Mission

* Honoring top professionals in American Miniature Art.
* Encouraging a national awareness and understanding of fine miniature art amongst artists, collectors, exhibitors and the general public.
* Promoting scholarship and study in the field of miniature art.
* Maintaining a collection of contemporary American miniature art.

MAA History

Miniature Artists of America, the first national society to honor outstanding practitioners of American miniature art, was founded in Clearwater, Florida, in 1985. In addition to recognizing leading contemporary miniaturists, its purpose is to broaden public understanding and appreciation of this ancient art form.

An invitational organization, MAA accepts no more than ten artists each year into its ranks as Signature Members. The Jury of Admission selects candidates from artists who have been admitted to at least eight competitive shows staged by major nonprofit miniature societies in the United States within the previous five years and who have received awards from these shows. The Jury may also invite other outstanding professionals who work "in little" but who may not be associated with a particular miniature art society. However, they must be nominated by three Signature Members and submit at least five works for review by the Jury. The Society recognizes the best practitioners of miniature art being exhibited in America. As such, the Membership is not limited to American artists.

In many of the world's civilizations there was a fascination with creating in small scale. Ancient Greeks adorned their walls with small murals while coins and rings often bore engraved portraits. In Persia, the shahs maintained the best artists of the day to paint the court and illustrate copies of the Koran and other great books, both religious and secular. Monks in the Middle Ages embellished manuscripts with delicate illuminations and bordered them with a red lead pigment called 'minium' from which the word 'miniature' later evolved.

The Elizabethan era was noted for its exquisite miniature portraits on vellum and later, ivory and evokes memories of names such as Holbein, Hilliard, Oliver and others. Easily carried in pocket or locket, they served much as photographs do today and represented a very personal form of art. An exchange of portraits of sons or daughters was found practical by wealthy families who were arranging marriages of their offspring. The portrait further served as a useful identification purpose when affixed to a contract or perhaps a treaty.

The westward movement of civilization brought miniaturism and its European heritage to America's shores. Influenced by the freedom and challenges of the New World, it soon began reflecting its changed environment as it sought its new identity. American history is dotted with names of such prominent miniaturists as the Peales, Charles Fraser, Henry Benbridge and Edward Green Malbone.

The advent of photography in the 19th century had a devastating effect on miniature portraiture, driving it close to extinction. Miniature art today is experiencing a strong revival of interest - by artists and collectors. Contemporary miniaturists work in a variety of media and explore limitless subject matter and styles.

MAA Exhibits

Miniature art is often described as "fine original art done in small scale." A commonly accepted American guideline among many of today's miniaturists is that subjects do not exceed one-sixth their natural size. Exceptions are permitted for abstractions or tiny subjects not lending themselves to the "one-sixth" application provided they embrace the delicate essence and spirit of miniaturism.

MAA's Inaugural Exhibit was held at the Arts Club of Washington, DC in June, 1988. A second public exhibit was held in March, 1989, at the Color Works Club, Hilton Head, South Carolina.

A juried Traveling Exhibit of Signature Members' works was inaugurated in 1989 which continued into 2014. It visited cities from coast to coast, bringing to art museums, galleries and cultural organizations the story of contemporary American miniaturism. In February 1998, the exhibit made its first trip abroad, accepting an invitation by the City of Clearwater to join its "Pavilion in the Sun" at the Winter Olympics in Japan. Over 125,000 visitors passed through the Pavilion. The exhibit opened the new millennium in January at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida. The summer of 2000 saw the exhibit at the 2nd Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature of the World Federation of Miniaturists in Hobart, Tasmania, followed by a three-week appearance in the Florida World Pavilion at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The exhibit was displayed during the 3rd Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature of the World Federation of Miniaturists in the International Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC in June of 2004. MAA artists, Wes and Rachelle Siegrist, demonstrated their miniature painting techniques to the public during the exhibition.

A New Tradition

"Very nearly a century ago, four men and six women, all established artists, gathered in New York to form the American Society of Miniature Painters, the first organization of its kind in this country. The founders did not welcome the responsibilities of the undertaking, and let it be known that their intention was not simply to establish another social club, or exhibition venue. Their motivation was, rather, the more compelling need for an entity through which they might hope to educate the public regarding the history of miniature painting, the extent and significance of its revival as an art form following near eclipse with the advent of photography, and the standards of quality by which works should be judged.

In the next decades four similar groups were founded in cities across the country, and all flourished. Several hundred artists enjoyed the enthusiasm and critical esteem that was generated, as well as the resulting purchase of their work from exhibitions and through private commissions. Unfortunately, changing times and tastes once again took a toll, and only the last of these groups to be formed, the Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers Society of Washington, D. C., has survived to the present day. It has had the satisfaction, however, of being witness, in the past twenty years, to another strong revival of interest, and of serving as a model for yet another generation of miniaturists, and their supporting organizations.

With this inaugural exhibition of the Miniature Artists of America we are celebrating both a perpetuation of that heritage and the creation of a new level of recognition for those involved. MAA also looks to fulfill an educational role, and, by example, to uphold artistic standards. Its membership is particularly well suited for those responsibilities because they are chosen, within very strict guidelines, by the first organization to comprise artists nominated for special honor by their miniaturist peers.

A new tradition joins the long, proud history of art 'in little!'"

~ Lewis Hoyer Rabbage, Archivist, Miniature Artists of America, New York City, 1988

For additional information on the history, and modern scope, of miniature art, please refer to the MAA Book: Modern Masters of Miniature Art in America.

MAA, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to bringing recognition to artists in the vanguard of restoring this long-neglected aspect of our cultural heritage to its proper stature. It encourages artists to affiliate with major miniature societies and participate in their juried exhibits.

MAA Signature Member Recognition

MAA Signature Members have been recognized for their artistic achievements both 'in little' and 'in large'. Many of these accolades were outlined in the 2010 publication, Modern Masters of Miniature Art in America. A few highlights since that publication include the following:

portrait miniature painting of Carole Crist portrait miniature painting of Ann Scott Markissia Touliatos with Ann Scott
Portrait miniatures of Florida Governors' wives, Carole Crist and Ann Scott, by Markissia Touliatos
Markissia Touliatos with Ann Scott during a recognition ceremony at the Governors' Mansion

Portraits of Florida’s First Ladies: A lack of recognition and appreciation of the State’s First Ladies in the Capital was brought to public attention in the early 1980s and the Florida Governor’s Mansion Foundation set about to rectify this omission. Their desire was to commission miniature portraits, but they were not aware of any source until the Miniature Art Society of Florida invited a delegation to attend an International Miniature Art Show. At the show they were able to contact portraitists of their choice.

The Governor’s Mansion Foundation, of Florida, initiated a program in the early 1980s to memorialize the wives of Florida’s Governors, who had been overlooked in history. The Foundation wanted miniature portraits done in the traditional manner to provide the elegance befitting such recognition. Jane Blake, MAA from Florida, had a worldwide reputation for her miniature portraits and was profoundly influenced by the historical miniature techniques. She patterned her own portraits on the historical principles and produced exquisitely detailed classical works and thus, was chosen to begin this important project. She completed eight portraits before her death. The tradition is still being carried on today by MAA portrait artists. The works are housed in a special display case in the Florida Room at the Florida’s Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee, FL.

See: http://www.floridagovernorsmansion.com/
  • Jane Blake painted Mary Holland, Mary Call Collins, Julia Bryant, Mildred Burns, Donna Lou Askew, Adele Graham, Mary Jane Martinez and Rhea Chiles
  • Jeanne Dunne painted Erika Kirk, Margie Mixson, Anne MacKay and Columba Bush
  • Markissia Touliatos painted Carole Crist and Ann Scott

portrait miniature painting of President George W. Bush by Wes Siegrist, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joseph Biden by Rachelle Siegrist portrait miniature paintings of the American Presidents on display at the Woolaroc Museum
Presidential Portrait Miniatures by Rachelle and Wes Siegrist at the Woolaroc Museum
The Woolaroc's Presidential portrait miniature display case

Presidential Portrait Miniatures: Museum collections of miniature paintings are primarily composed of portraiture dating from the 1500s through the early 1900s. Collections of United States Presidents' portraits in miniature are relatively rare with many of the public collections started c. 1919 by the miniaturist, A. J. Rowell. Four sets of Rowell Presidential portrait miniatures are known to exist. However, modern miniaturists have continued only the collections at the Woolaroc Museum and the Butler Institute of American Art to this day. The following MAA Signature Members have contributed to these collections:
Jeanne Dunne painted Bill Clinton for the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
Rachelle Siegrist painted Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joseph Biden for the Woolaroc Museum, Bartlesville, OK
Wes Siegrist painted George W. Bush for the Woolaroc Museum, Bartlesville, OK

Dictionary of Miniature Painters 1870-1970 by Arturi-Phillips

Portrait miniature paintings by MAA Signature Members, Bill Mundy and Rachelle Siegrist, are featured inside of the Arturi-Phillips book, Dictionary of Miniature Painters 1870-1970. This dictionary, which lists over 2300 miniaturists, (mostly historical British), includes just a handful of living miniaturists and only four who are currently working post-1970.

For further information on the book: http://portraitminiature.blogspot.com

Dictionary of Miniature Painters 1870-1970 by Arturi-Phillips

Support the MAA

Sustaining Associates, the support arm of MAA, are artists and friends of the arts who wish to assist MAA in achieving its goals and objectives. They receive minutes of meetings, the MAA newsletter and information on upcoming MAA events. They are encouraged to attend the annual MAA meeting held in the Clearwater, FL region each winter.

For information on becoming an MAA Signature Member, or to seek accreditation for a society or exhibition, please see our Candidates Circle page.

Charter Member of the World Federation of Miniaturists

Miniatureartistsofamerica.org is the official website of The Miniature Artists of America. All artwork, images and contents of this website are © Miniature Artists of America and the respective Artists. The MAA Logo was designed by Pat Longley.