Monday, December 31, 2018

Alice Brown Hamlin Chittenden: California Botanicals

To close out 2018, a year of change and upheaval for many of us, I've chosen a painter who created lovely portraits and landscapes, but who was best known for her spectacular collection of paintings depicting California wildflowers. 

Alice Brown Chittenden
October 14, 1859-October 13, 1944
Alice Chittenden was born in 1859 in Brockport, New York and moved with her family as an infant to San Francisco where her father became a prosperous miner. Alice was encouraged to study art and was one of the early women in San Francisco to study at the School of Design (the first school of art in the City) where she was a student of Virgil Williams three years after it was established in 1877. She began a long affiliation with the school as she became an art instructor and taught at the School of Design for 43 years. She was married briefly to Charles Overton in 1886, had one daughter, and never remarried. With the exception of trips to New York, Italy and France to study and to exhibit her work, Chittenden lived in San Francisco for the rest of her life until her death in 1944. She maintained a studio on the 4th floor of the Phelan Building and had a long and prolific career exhibiting her work for over 60 years. 
Phelan Building
San Francisco, California
ca 1888
Reminiscent of the Flatiron Building in NYC
The status of women's art in Nineteenth Century San Francisco was unique. As the seat of culture in the emerging West, the City attracted and supported a vigorous art community. The California School of Design, predecessor to today's San Francisco Art Institute, welcomed both men and women as students and instructors. California and Alaska Gold Rush dollars, Nevada Silver strikes and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, all contributed to affluence of the upper class and their desire to cultivate and collect art.
Women artists were studying and exhibiting art in San Francisco. The first class at the School of Design in 1874 had 46 women students out of a total of 60 (Wilson, 1983). When Alice Chittenden was appointed to the faculty in 1897 she was assigned to teach still-life drawing and painting. She became one of a few California artists who are known primarily for their work in still life paintings. Chittenden exhibited and received favorable reviews in what is thought to be the first major all-women’s art exhibition in the United States in 1885 sponsored by the San Francisco Art Association. She became the first woman juror for the Association’s art shows. Alice Chittenden and another female artist Maren Froelich were the first to break the all-male barrier at the Bohemian Club’s annual art exhibition in 1898. Chittenden was one of the charter members to organize the Women’s Sketch Club in 1906. Tragically, the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed the headquarters of the Sketch Club along with most artists’ studios in San Francisco.
Alice Brown Chittenden
A Foothill Landscape
Oil on canvas board
ca n.d.
7 x 9 inches
Alice Chittenden was recognized as a prolific painter who is best-known for her paintings of over 350 varieties of California wildflowers. 
Alice Brown Chittenden
ca 1903
Oil on board
8 x 15 inches
Chittenden also painted numerous landscapes, mostly of Marin County, (see Mt. Tamalpais below) and portraits done primarily in pastel.
Alice Brown Chittenden
Mount Tamalpais
ca 1920s
Oil on canvas board
8 x 10 inches
In 1895 an East Coast newspaper declared her the “leading flower painter of America” (Lekisch:95). In addition, she studied botany, discovering and collecting  rare species of wildflowers on her  excursions by stage and horseback in the Sierras and other wilderness areas which saw her sketching and painting wildflowers. Alice Chittenden exhibited in group shows including those of San Francisco Art Association, Mechanics Institute Fairs, First Annual Exhibition of Lady Artists of San Francisco, California Midwinter International Exposition, Bohemian Club, Sketch Club, golden Gate Memorial Museum and California Building all in San Francisco; California State Fair, Sacramento, California Building,World's Columbia Exposition, Chicago; California Building, Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, Portland, OR and solo expositions at the Schussler Gallery in San Francisco (1908), Stanford Art Gallery, Palo Alto (1918, 1922).
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Alice Brown Chittenden
Garden Scene
ca n.d.
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 inches
AskArt-Art Database,
Hughes, Edan Milton. 2002. Artists in California 1786-1940. Third Edition. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum. 
Lekisch, Barbara, Embracing Scens about Lakes Tahoe and Donner, Great West Books, 2003.
Silver, Mae, Shaping San Francisco Digital Archive @Found San Francisco,  1884 Midwinter Fair: Women Artists, An Appreciation, 1994. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1998, p 46.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Doris Totten Chase: Experimental Artist in Motion

Doris Chase
April 1923-December 2008
Doris Totten Chase was an American artist whose career spanned 55 years of innovation and experimentation, using a wide array of media that included painting, sculpture, printmaking, video, film, and computer-generated prints. Chase produced and directed over 70 films.

Doris Chase was a member of the Northwest School, an art movement established in the Seattle area that was the first time there was national recognition of artists in the Pacific Northwest beyond traditional Native American art forms. 
Chase studied architecture at the University of Washington, but dropped out of college to marry Elmo Chase, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. After the birth of her first child, Chase became seriously ill, a victim of postpartum depression (not recognized as such at the time) and it became clear that her issue stemmed from"doing everything except what I wanted to do, which was to paint." She began to work again, studied oil painting and took a class with Northwest artist Mark Tobey. In 1948, one of her paintings was accepted into the Northwest Annual Exhibition.
Several years later, pregnant with their second child, her husband contracted polio and became almost completely paralyzed while they were in the process of building a house. (Chase was the architect). To support the family, Doris Chase taught painting and design at Edison Technical School and was accepted into Women Painters of Washington in 1951, where Chase remained a member until the mid-1960s. 
Doris Chase
ca 1964
Ink and watercolor on paper
18 x 12.5 inches

Doris Chase's early work was primarily paintings of Northwest landscapes and figures, often musicians in blocks of color built up in some cases with sand to achieve a heavy, coarse, texture. She claimed her inspiration was the structured designs of Northwest Coast Native American basketry and carving. Her first solo exhibition at the Otto Seligman Gallery in 1956 was a success with reviews in the Seattle Times declaring her "a serious and talented young painter." Other shows and exhibits followed in New York and Tokyo. In addition, she was accepted into the Huntington Hartford Foundation's artist's colony for a month's opportunity to create in Pacific Palisades, California in the years 1965, '66, and '69. 

Doris Chase
To See, To Feel, To Love
ca 1966
Oak and paint
19 x 5.5 x 3 inches
Her work evolved from wash drawings into a series of cement painting meant to be installed outdoors and inscribed with faces and included words such as "joy" and "love." Chase also experimented with shaped canvases and painting on wood, some inset with hinged sections which, when opened, revealed an additional painted area.
Chase's sculptures grew. Pieces became large and kinetic. Many of her forms invited views to interact and rearrange modules that had the black-stained look that resembled the Northwest Coast Native American Art she had seen at the Alaska-Yukon_Pacific Exposition of 1919 that were on the University of Washington campus during her student days.
In 1968, dancer Mary Staton used a set of Chase's large wooden circles within a choreographed dance. Dancers wheeled across the stage of the Seattle Opera house, spread-eagled like spokes inside enormous wooden wheels. 
Doris Chase
Dancers in Hoops
Choreographed piece by Mary Staton
In collaboration with Boeing, Chase produced Circles, a computer film based on spinning hoops and King Screen made a film of the dance/sculpture collaboration. Chase requested and received footage edited out of the King Screen film and created her own film, Circles II with help from professionals Bob Brown and Frank Olvey. 
Doris Chase
Jonathan and Circles
ca 1977
Video Still

Color separations showed the dancers and sculpture as color forms, time lapse made trails of light that followed the wake of the dancers' arms and legs. The film was recognized at the 1973 American Film Festival in New York where it was compared to Matisse's Dance painting. While Circles II was in production, Doris Chase built prototypes of large, colorful kinetic sculptures for children designed for kids to help them with equilibrium and body awareness.

Doris Chase
Changing Form
ca 1971
Kerry Park, Seattle, Washington
Photo by David Wilma
Sculpture has stereotypically been considered a "man's" work. Throughout history, there have been few women working in the discipline because of the weight of the materials or the upper body strength needed to lift, chip, polish, and generally work on heavy, large-scale pieces. In the 1960s, Chase proved that women could successfully create in the medium and one of her early steel sculptures, the 15 foot tall Changing Form was commissioned for Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill, which became one of Seattle's most endearing and regarded public sculptures.

In the early 1970s, at the front of the avant-garde movement, Chase began working in video using computer imaging, inspired by Nam June Paik, the Korean artist who is said to be the founder of video art. During 1973-74, she participated in the Experimental Television Center's Residency program and began to integrate her sculptures with interactive dancers, using special effects to create dream-like pieces. Check them out here:

As a video artist, and under the the auspices of the U.S. Information Agency, Chase lectured and showed her work in India, Europe, Australia, South America, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Using her favorite pale blue light as her medium, the dancers were integrated into a fluid, sensual choreography that explored movement in the context of abstract architecture. Long divorced, Chase's professional relationship became intimate with composer George Keinsinger, music composer of twelve of her videos.

In the 1980s, Chase achieved a breakthrough into mainstream television with a series of 30 minute videos entitled the By Herself series in which she introduced the subject matter of older women in society to a wide audience. One video, entitled Glass Curtain (1983), explored actress Jennie Ventriss' anguish over her mother's deterioration due to Alzheimer's disease. Table for One (1985) starring actress Gerladine Page in a voice over monologue of a woman uneasy about dining alone, and Dear Papa (1986), starring Anne Jackson and her daughter Roberta Wallach followed by A Dancer (1987) were powerful voices for women during that time. Dear Papa won First Prize at the 1986 Women's International Film Festival in Paris.
Parke Godwin's novel, A Truce with Time (1988, Bantam Books) is a fictionalized version of Chase's life during her time in New York. While he was writing the book, Chase made her own film about their relationship called Still Frame, produced at the American Film Institute. Art Historian Patricia Failing wrote a book about Chase entitled Doris Chase, Artist in Motion: From Painting and Sculpture to Video Art (1991, University of Washington Press). In 1989, Chase returned to Seattle, dividing her time between East and West working in video in New York and sculpture in Seattle. Ever experimenting, she began works in glass, sometimes in combination with steel.

Doris Chase
Late Autumn
ca 1997
14.75 x 20 x 2 inches
Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington
In 1993, Doris Chase produced a documentary about her home, the Chelsea Hotel which was originally conceived as New York's first major cooperative apartment building, owned by a consortium of wealthy families in 1883. The building became an apartment in 1905. Her video honored the building's 110th anniversary and those who called it home. 

Doris Chase
Moon Gates
ca 1999
17 x 9 feet
In 1999, Chase's four piece bronze sculpture, Moon Gates, was installed at Seattle Center in Washington. Her complete works of video and film was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. 

 In 1999, her four-piece bronze sculpture Moon Gates, 17 feet high, was installed at Seattle Center. New York's MoMA acquired her complete video and film works. The Seattle Art Museum has only one Chase work in its collection: a 1950s oil painting. Chase's work won honors and awards at 21 film and video festivals. Her work has a permanent place in the archives of New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It is collected by major museums and art centers in several countries.

Doris Totten Chase died in December of 2008 from a series of strokes and the effect of Alzheimer's disease. "She died in her own apartment with a good smile and a good attitude right up to the last," said her son Randy Chase. "She was always able to make the best of what she had...I always told her, 'hey, you did a great job,' and she did."

Archives West: Orbis Cascade Alliance,, retrieved December 4, 2018
Artistltrust,, retrieved November 28, 2018
Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art,
Northwest Women Artists 1880-2010, retrieved November 28, 2018

Whatcom Museum, Colton Redfeldt,, retrieved, December 4, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Eliza Barchus: Northwest American Landscape Painter

Eliza R. Barchus
It's been a while since my last post-I retired from teaching and moved to Portland, Oregon for a year of adventure and exploration so, meet Eliza Barchus, a native Oregonian and landscape painter. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 1857, Barchus relocated to Oregon with her second husband, John, in 1880. While she was raising a family, she began to study art with William Parrott, joined the Mutual Art Association, and began to exhibit at early industrial fairs. Barchus sold her first painting in 1885 and drew national attention in 1890 when one of her large paintings of Mount Hood, a 40 x 60 inch canvas, was displayed at the National Academy of Design in New York City. She created a number of paintings of the mountain such as the one below.
Eliza R. Barchus
Mt. Hood
Oil on Art Board   
4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches
Widowed in 1899, Barchus became the sole support of her family. In addition to managing a thriving art studio, she sold and traded many artworks in order to make ends meet. In 1905 she won a gold medal at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition for her paintings and is also credited with the introduction of color postcards in the United States made from six of her landscapes at the exposition.

This lithograph was offered for sale at 50 cents during the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. The lithographs of Mt. Hood at Sunset and Mt. Rainier at Noonday (large size) were a little more – 75 cents. Unsold inventory after the Fair generated income for the family for years afterwards.

This sign was created on sheet metal, painted black with white lettering. It measures approximately 20″ by 14.” A December 22, 1901 mention in the Oregonian newspaper announced that: Mrs. E. R. Barchus, artist, painter of mountain scenery, offers her beautiful picture of Mount Hood for the holidays. Small sizes. Low prices. Room 1 Multnomah block.
The reference to “Room 1” on both the sign and in the article link the sign to her time in that studio.

Eliza Barchus was quite the innovative artist and businesswoman. She produced thousands of artworks, often employing an assembly-line system, painting several canvases at once. She painted almost exclusively in oil with just a few watercolor sketches that were most likely done as preliminary pieces for the larger works. Barchus advertised in catalogs and had a thriving business through the mail. For those familiar with local history, Eliza Barchus sold paintings at the B.B. Rich Cigar and Concession at the Portland Hotel where Portland's "Living Room" now exists: Pioneer Square.

Eliza R. Barchus
Wilson River (?) Oregon
Oil on Art Board   
4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches
Eliza Barchus was an artist of considerable talent and a business woman quite ahead of her time. Her painting career ended in 1935 due to arthritis and failing eyesight, but she lived until she was 102 years old. She is one of Oregon's most popular pioneer artists and, several years after her death, Barchus was named "The Oregon Artist" by the Oregon Legislative Assembly. Eleanor Roosevelt honored Eliza Barchus' 100th birthday in her syndicated column, "My Day."

Eliza R. Barchus
Multnoma Falls
Oil on canvas
12.25 x 22 inches

The Oregon Encyclopedia, Ginny Allen,, retrieved November 18, 2018
Elizabeth R. Barchus, Oregon Artist, Research Site,

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Abby Tyler Oakes: One of the First!

Artwork by Abigail Tyler Oakes, ACROSS THE VALLEY, Made of oil on canvas
Abby Tyler Oaks
Across the Valley
c 1854
Oil on canvas
17 3/4 x 24 inches

According to a simply marvelous book entitled "An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West" by Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, artists have been inspired by the American West for more than 150 years, producing works of art as varied as the region itself and distinctive for their power and imagination. Early artists from the Hudson River School such as Albert Bierstadt and Edwin Church, and Abby Tyler Oakes, painted landscapes from uncultivated areas of the Hudson River valley in New York. They headed west, to capture and depict America's panoramic landscape views which explored the individual's and country's relationship to the land. In other words, what identifying qualities rendered America's history and geography, unique?

Abby Tyler Oaks
Western Mountain Landscape with Waterfall
Oil on canvas
23 x 44 inches

Early female artists played a major role in the development and growth of art communities through their participation in art schools, art associations, art colonies and public art exhibitions. California, San Francisco in particular, became the first mecca for women artists in the West. A boom town as a result of the discovery of gold in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, San Francisco exploded into a financial and cultural center almost overnight. Those original female artists to arrive in the 1850s, sailing via Cape Horn or the Isthmus of Panama, were typical of the many who were to follow. The migrants who settled in to stay, or visited other centers in the West in subsequent years were the wives, daughters, or sisters of business, religious, and professional men; many connected with people of at least moderate means. Some were self-taught as artists, not surprising for a woman at that time; a number, had substantial art study and training while many were teachers.

Abby Tyler Oaks
 Mountain Vista
Oil on canvas
18 x 24 inches

Born in New York state, Abby Oakes shares with Mary Park Seavy Benton credit for being California's first professional woman artist.  According to her birth certificate, Abby was born and raised in Charleston, Massachusetts. In 1845, at age 19, she married Bostonian William Harrison Oakes, a music engraver and printer of newspapers. The couple had two sons, one who did not survive infancy. In 1856, she left Boston and joined her husband in San Francisco, where he was working for the San Francisco Bulletin. Abby was active for several years in the Bay Area as an artist, including exhibiting at the Mechanics Institute in 1857. During her stay in California, she received high praise from local newspapers for her studies of Yosemite and other Sierra Nevada scenes.

Abby Tyler Oaks
Croton, New York
Oil on canvas
no size given

Abby Tyler Oaks
Hudson River Boating Scene
c 1859
Oil on canvas
23 x 44 inches

Abby Oakes settled with her husband in New York City where she continued her art career and did dramatic writing and William, who lived until 1890, formed his own engraving business.  From 1865 to 1886, she exhibited at the National Academy of Design, and in 1868, studied in France with Emile Charles Lambinet.  Oakes lived in the city until about 1891 when it is thought that she returned to Charleston where she died in about 1898, however, that date is undocumented.

Her painting subjects in New York state include Hudson River locations, and among the titles of her work were The Clove and Catskill Mountains.  In France and England, she also did landscapes such as On the Marne, France and Near Hampton, England.  California titles include View of Mission Dolores, Great Yosemite Falls, California, and Ocean Beach, San Francisco.

Although her western experience was brief, Abby Tyler Oakes was one of the first women and certainly among the most capable to paint the state of California during the 1850s. A prize winner and exhibitor, her work is in the collection of the California Historical Society. 

An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, Univeristy of Tesas Press, Austin, 1998, p. 234. 
Yesterday and Tomorrow: California Women Artists, Sylvia Moore, ed. Midmarch Arts Press, New York, 1989, p. 64.
Artwork from various websites including Mutual Art, askArt, and invaluable, retrieved April 24, 2018. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Anna A. Hills: California Impressionist

Anna Althea Hills
Anna Althea Hills was a renowned plein-air artist, community activist, and a key founder of the Laguna Art Museum. Hills was a six-term president of the Laguna Beach Art Association and is best-known for her work as a California Impressionist, specializing in landscape, marine, genre, and figure painting. 

Anna A. Hills was born in Ravenna, Ohio on January 28, 1882, daughter of a minister. Due to her father's occupation as a Presbyterian minister, the family lived in a number of locations during her childhood. Hills lost her mother in 1886 when she was just four years old, and her father remarried several years later. In 1898, Hills attended Olivet College in Michigan where she took painting and drawing classes. She went on to study at the School of the AIC (Art Institute of Chicago), and Cooper Union in New York where, in 1905, she won awards for her watercolor and oil painting and in 1906, for her still life work. She received her diploma in 1908 and culminated her art training abroad between the years 1908-1913 at the Academie Julian, Paris. 

Hills returned to the United States in 1914 and settled in Los Angeles. As she began to visit and sketch in Laguna Beach, surrounded by its scenic beauty, she decided to move there to pursue her art career. Hills taught painting, helped to organize the Laguna Beach Art Association and helped to found a new gallery which opened in 1929. 

Anna A. Hills
Sunshine & Shadow, 
Oil on board,
7 x 10 inches
Orange County Park, California
Private Collection
Hills' early landscapes were created using the darker atmospheric Barbizon tradition, but once in Southern California's light and varied landscape, in addition to her exposure to contemporaries Edgar Payne and George Brandriff, she embraced a lighter palette while abandoning her brushes for the palette knife. Coastal scenes from Laguna to Carmel including trees were among her favorite themes. She also loved the desert, staying in such locations as Banning and Hemet. Physically energetic, and despite a severe spinal injury, Hills took ruggedly adventurous trips into remote mountain areas to sketch. 

Anna A. Hills
Springtime, Banning, California

Oil on paperboard,
10 x 14 inches

Private Collection, shown by the Irvine Museum

Anna A. Hills
The Lone Palm 
Andreas Canyon
Oil on board
10 x 7 inches
Private Collection
Anna A. Hills
The Spell of the Sea
Laguna Beach near Moss Point
30 x 39
Oil on Canvas
Private Collection
Hills won the Bronze Medal at the Panama-California Exposition, San Diego in 1915; the Bronze Medal at the California State Fair, 1919; and the Landscape Prize at the Laguna Beach Art Association, 1922 and 1923. Anna A. Hills died at age 48 on June 19th, 1930. 

Anna A. Hills exhibited widely including with the San Francisco Art Association, the California Art Club, the Panama Pacific Exhibition in San Diego, the Laguna Beach Art Association, and the California State Fair in Sacramento. Her solo shows included the Kanst Galleries in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Museum of Art and California State University, Long Beach. Her works are often featured in shows curated by the Irvine Museum, Irvine, California.

The Eclectic Light Company, Into the Light, Anna Hills and California Light, retrieved December 11, 2017.
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1998, p. 142. 
Independent Spirits, Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1995, ppg 66, 68.
Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Monthly, Anna Althea Hills, 1880-1930,, retrieved December 11, 2017.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Waldine Tauch: American Sculptress

Waldine Amanda Tauch at work

The Tauch Family. Standing: Emma (left) and Waldine
Courtesy Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives
Waldine Amanda Tauch was born on January 28, 1892, in Schulenberg, Texas, the second of three children of William and Elizabeth (Heimann) Tauch. Her father, the mayor of Fayetteville, a farmer and photographer, recognized and encouraged her emerging artistic abilities by giving her photographs to draw. At age seven she began to sculpt, initially modeling in clay, and later carving soap, wood, chalk, and stone. When she was 13, while living in Brady, Texas, she carved a figure from butter for the McCulloch County Fair. Brady Tuesday Club president Maggie Miller Henderson convinced local rising sculptor Pompeo L. Coppini to take Waldine as his pupil, and in 1910, just two weeks shy of graduating from high school, she began her studies with Coppini in San Antonio. When funds for her education were exhausted, Coppini taught her without tuition and he and his wife welcomed her as a foster daughter in their home. 
Pompeo Luigi Coppini
May 19, 1870-September 26, 1957
b. Moglia, Mantua, Italy
Under the influence of Coppini, a staunch advocate of classical sculpture, Tauch developed a naturalistic style, He condemned abstract art as "an irritation to the eye and an insult to the mind!" By 1911 she had secured her first public commission, a bas-relief (low-relief sculpture) commemorating Mrs. I. J. Rice, for the Brownwood Library. More commissions followed, primarily for portrait busts. Tauch determined that she wanted to sculpt heroic public monuments and Coppini initially opposed her decision, arguing that a small woman would not have the strength to complete the larger-than-life-sized works, an issue that faces all women who sculpt large-scale works.
From 1918 to 1922 Tauch worked with Coppini in his Chicago studio, where she assisted him with various projects and completed a life-sized marble high relief commemorating her early patron, Maggie Miller Henderson (1919), which was placed over Henderson's grave in Richmond, Kentucky. Tauch returned to San Antonio for a short time but, in 1922, moved to New York to help Coppini's wife recover from an injury and to assist him in his work on the Littlefield Fountain for the University of Texas at Austin.
During the following twelve years in New York City, Tauch completed a number of major sculptures, including her first commission for a large work, the Indiana War Memorial (1926) in Bedford, Indiana. While in New York she began producing small genre figures that were reproduced for the mass market by the Gorham Company. Small statuettes such as Surfboard (ca. 1924), Gulf Breeze (1929), and Boy and Eel (1924), all of which celebrated the nude figure, revealed a more romantic, personal, vision than the sober commemorative works that occupied most of her time. 
Waldine Amanda Tauch
Turbulent Youth
Bronze Bookends
Tauch returned to San Antonio in 1935 in order to compete for commissions inspired by the Texas Centennial celebration (1936). She was awarded the commission to carve The First Shot Fired For Texas Independence (1935), a life-sized bronze bas-relief set in granite seven miles southwest of Gonzales, near the site of the battle of Gonzales. She also completed Centennial memorials to Moses Austin (1937–38) in San Antonio and Isaac and Frances C. Lipscomb Van Zandt (1938) in Canton. In 1936 Tauch and Coppini built a studio at 115 Melrose Place, San Antonio. Their sharing the costs of the studio indicated a move away from their mentor-protege's relationship to a partnership. Tauch remained in San Antonio for the rest of her career, completing works for patrons throughout Texas and in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Oklahoma. 

Waldine Amanda Tauch
Douglas MacArthur
ca. 1969
Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom
Affiliated with Howard Payne University
Her best-known works are Douglas MacArthur, an eight-foot bronze statue at Howard Payne University, Brownwood; Higher Education Reflects Responsibility to the World (1965), a heroic-sized bronze at Trinity University, San Antonio; Texas Ranger of Today (1960), an eight-foot bronze statue at the Union Terminal in Dallas; and Pippa Passes, a bronze, life-sized high relief at Baylor University, in Waco, Texas.

Waldine Amanda Tauch
Pippa Passes
ca 1956
Baylor University, Waco, Texas
In addition to sculpting, Tauch traveled throughout the state promoting traditional art in lectures to various clubs and organizations. In 1939 she began teaching, initially at the San Antonio Art Academy and later in her own studio. She taught at Trinity University from 1943 to 1945, when Coppini was head of the art department there. In 1945 Coppini and Tauch founded the Academy of Fine Arts, a club dedicated to traditional art styles and techniques. Members met regularly for discussion and exhibited their work in museums and galleries throughout the state. The organization was later renamed Coppini Academy of Fine Arts and was sponsored by Tauch after her mentor's death in 1957. 
Coppini Academy of Fine Arts
San Antonio, Texas
Tauch was active in a number of other organizations, including the Society of Medalists, the Southern States Art League, the Artists Professional League, the National Society of Arts and Letters, Artists and Craftsmen, the San Antonio Art League, and the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. In 1941 she was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree by Howard Payne College, and in 1964 she was elected a fellow of the National Sculpture Society of New York City. The Texas Senate awarded her a Recognition Certificate in 1969 for her contribution to the cultural and artistic life of Texas and the nation. In 1971 Alpha Delta Kappa, an honorary society for women educators, named Tauch Woman of Distinction. She continued to sculpt into her eighties, when her eyesight began to fail. 
Comanche Indian bas-relief figure, once a fountain
Waldine Tauch
Commerce Street Bridge, San Antonio, Texas
Waldine Tauch died in San Antonio on March 31, 1986, and was buried at Sunset Memorial Park in the plot where the Coppinis are buried. Many of her sculptures are on view at her former studio, which now houses workshops, classes, and exhibitions sponsored by the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts. Tauch, who was a fellow of both the National Sculpture society and the American Academy of Arts and Letters is also represented in many public collections, among them the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon; the MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Norfolk, Virginia; the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and the Witte Museum, San Antonio.

Here is a link to a video for more information on the life of Waldine Amanda Tauch. 

Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1998, p. 298.

Texas State Historical Association, Waldine Amanda Tauch, published in partnership with University of Texas at Austin, retrieved September 19, 2017.
Pompeo Coppini, From Dawn to Sunset (San Antonio: Naylor, 1949). Coppini-Tauch Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Dallas Morning News, April 3, 1986. 
Patricia D. Hendricks and Becky D. Reese, A Century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889–1989 (Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas at Austin, 1989). Alice Hutson, From Chalk to Bronze: A Biography of Waldine Tauch (Austin: Shoal Creek, 1978).

Vimeo, Waldine Tauch Documentary,, retrieved September 20, 2017.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Ethel Magafan: American Muralist and Painter of Abstract Western Landscapes

Jenne (left) and Ethel (right) Magafan
ca. n.d.
Ethel Magafan and her sister Jenne were identical twins, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1915 to Petros Magafan, a Greek immigrant father and Julia (Bronick) their Polish mother. Due to their father's health concerns, the family moved to Colorado, where the landscape reminded Petros of his native village in Greece. The family lived in Colorado Springs and then in Denver from 1931-1934. The twins both wanted to become artists and were supported by both teachers and family members. Unfortunately, Petros died suddenly in 1932, a tragic loss for both of the girls. 
The twins attended East High School in Denver, where they found a mentor in their art teacher Helen Perry. She had studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and her background made her uniquely qualified to help the girls in their pursuit of an art career.
 In 1936, Jenne won the Carter Memorial Art Scholarship and shared it with her sister so that they both could attend the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs. Once they ran out of money, Mechau, now teaching there, hired them as assistants. Through their involvement at the Academy, the twins entered into careers as muralists, working at first with Mechau and then with Peppino Mangravite.
From 1937 to 1943, Ethel was commissioned to paint her first of seven government sponsored murals. Located in the US Post Office in Auburn, Nebraska, this commission made Ethel (at age 26) the youngest artist in America to receive such an honor. Denver Art Museum director Donald J. Bear once commented that "[Ethel and Jenne's] study of local detail makes them appear as little Bruegels of ranch genre - natural and unforced."
Ethel Magafan
Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1814
Recorder of Deeds Building, Washington, D.C.
Other New Deal Works Progress Adminstration (WPA) murals included the US Senate Chamber, the Recorder Deeds Building, and the Social Security Building in Washington, D.C. which Ethel painted with her sister. One of her earliest submissions to the Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts was a study of The Lawrence Massacre for the Post Office of Fort Scott, Kansas. The subject was a tragic event in the town but was not accepted as a design at the time. Magafan realized that she needed to work with government bureaucracy in order to have her ideas accepted and focused her subjects on local agriculture and industry. She included subtle references that pushed against the limitations of subject matter in her work such as including Black workers depicted in a noble light during a period of segregation in the South for a mural in the Wynne Post Office in Arkansas.
Ethel Magafan
The Cotton Pickers
ca. 1940
Oil on Canvas
Post Office, Wynne, Arkansas
During the World War II era, the sisters would frequently drive across the country together in their station wagon to research and complete art assignments. They were thrifty as they saved gas coupons and used re-treaded tires in order to secure their work.
Ethel Magafan at Palisades Reservoir, Minidoka Project, Idaho.
As mural painting commissions diminished, Ethel began to do more easel painting for which she used a palette knife and tempera paints to great effect. Ethel earned her first solo exhibition in 1940 at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in New York. She and her sister collaborated to create seven joint exhibits during the course of their careers. While working together, yet maintaining their own artistic styles, the sisters were able to avoid the competitive nature of business and respect each other's abilities.
Phil Fitzpatrick, Ethel Magafan, Bruce Currie, Cecile Forman.
Photograph by Adrian Siegel.
Courtesy of WAAM Archives.
After living in Los Angeles, California for five years and briefly in Wyoming, the twins relocated to the art colony at Woodstock, New York in 1945, where the sisters lived and worked apart for the first time. Ethel began working in a style that evolved from the literal to the semi abstract and from figurative studies to landscapes. She met fellow artist Bruce Currie at an artist's party, and the two were married in 1946.
Ethel Magafan
Corralled Horse
ca. 1947
Etching, pencil signed and titled, lower margin
10 x 14 inches
Both sisters were awarded Fullbright Scholarships and Tiffany Foundation Awards which allowed Ethel to go to Greece and Jenne to Italy.In 1952, almost immediately upon their return to the U.S., Jenne died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage, a loss that Ethel would mourn deeply. With her sister gone, her landscapes became much more abstract, as she sought out the feeling of the scene rather than an exact representation. She ignored the rules for color and explored simplicity and open space in her work.
Ethel Magafan
Canyon Cascade
Tempera on canvas
96.5 inches highx48.5 inches wide
In 1956, Ethel gave birth to a daughter, Jenne Magafan Currie, named after her sister. During the mid-fifties, Ethel began to make annual trips to Colorado to sketch and find inspiration. She was elected an Academician of the National Academy of Design in 1968 and taught art throughout the 1970s at both the University of Georgia and Syracuse University in New York. Her stature within the art world was solidified in 1971 when the United States Department of Interior requested that Ethel tour and draw sketches throughout the Western U.S. These sketches were later exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington and then sent on a national tour by the Smithsonian Institution.
Ethel's last mural "Grant in the Wilderness" was installed at the Chancellorsville Visitor's Center at the Fredericksburg National Military Park, Virginia, in 1979. From 1962 until her death in 1993, she had an impressive 19 solo gallery shows. Ethel Magafan died at her home in Woodstock from a series of strokes in 1993. In a later Woodstock Times interview, her husband stated "if there was one word for Ethel, it would be warmth, because there was never a person or an animal with a broken wing or broken heart she didn't try to help."
Ethel Magafan
Gibson Dam on the Sun River Project, Montana
ca. n.d.
27 x 53 inches
Ethel Magafan was a member of the American Watercolor Society, Audubon Artists Incorporated, the National Academy of Design, Woodstock Artists Association and the WPA/Federal Arts Project.The recipient of a number of awards including the Fullbright Grant, Tiffany Fellowship, Hallmark and Ranger Awards, Purchase and Altman Prize, the Audubon Artists Medal of Honor and the Childe Hassam Purchase Award. Her work is included, but not limited to collections in the Denver Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, Museum of Modern Art, NY, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C., Oklahoma Museum of Art, and the United States Department of the Interior. 
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, University of Texas Press: Austin, 1998, p. 199-200. 
Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery, Ethel Magafan (1916-1993), Alish Patrick,, retrieved May 8, 2017.
David Cook Galleries, Ethel Magafan Ethel Magafan (1916- 1993), retrieved May 8, 2017.
Ask Art, Ethel (Currie) Magafan,, retrieved May 8, 2017.
New York Times Obituaries, Ethel Magafan, Dead, Published April 29, 1993,, retrieved May 8, 2017.