Isabella Banks Markell inherits her talents from two famous artists, Sir Thomas Lawrence, the great English portrait painter, and Joseph Mozier, known as the first American Sculptor. A professional artist at thirteen, she later won many honors. During World War II she was the only woman artist permitted to paint the East River, New York City, with its war traffic of convoys, cargo ships, carriers and many activities guarded from public view. Her series of 150 etching and paintings was photographed by the New York Public Library for its files, as was given two invitation exhibitions, one by mayor La Guardia at City Hall, the other at the Museum of the City of New York.
Payton Boswell of the Art Digest reviewed the exhibitions as follows: “Mrs. Markell has captured the busy river in many moods – under twinkling harbor lights, or with soft sun breaking through lifting fog; sometimes blanketed in mysterious mists, or send sharp and clear with bright sun making strong shadows. Heavy barges, impertinent tugs, and stealthy convoys are favorite subjects and she has seen them against background of great activity with smoke patterns and disturbed river depths to add to the movements, etc.”