Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Margrethe Mather: Modernist Photographer

Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather,
 ca. 1914, gelatin silver print
Collection Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson AZ
On March fourth of this year, Photography News wrote this about Margrethe Mather on the 125th anniversary of her birth in Los Angeles. " . . . . Margrethe Mather was a photographer who --through her exploration of light and form-- helped to transform photography into a modern art."
Despite her marvelous body of work, Margrethe Mather remains an enigmatic figure, best known for her association with Edward Weston . . . . However, many consider Mather to have been Weston's mentor and teacher. She shared with him her intuitive eye for composition and her innate sense of artistic style, "teaching him how to edit an image to its very essence."

Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather 3, 1922
Imogen Cunningham
Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston
ca. 1922
Gelatin Silver Print
8 x 10 inches
Close companions for over a decade, Mather and photographer, Edward Weston, collaborated on many photographs. The photographers had a profound influence on each other and on the history of photography in the years just before and after the First World War, as photography swung back and forth between pictorialism and modernism. Mather, a photographer of considerable accomplishment who taught and learned from Weston, has unfortunately vanished into obscurity while his reputation has continued to flourish over time.

Collaboratively, Mather and Weston founded the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles in 1914 that became one of the most important camera clubs and exhibition venues in the country.

Lady in White
Margrethe Mather
Lady in White
ca. 1917
              Platinum print, 9 5/16 in. x 7 3/8 in.
 Collection SFMOMA
Mather's early work was in the Pictorialist style, beautifully photographed images, veiled in hazy, soft-focus effects, such as the above Lady in White, taken in 1917. Mather and Weston had begun to employ the distortion of shadows to intensify the drama of their images. In her 1918 photograph of a Chinese poet, Moon Kwan, Mather strategically placed the poet's figure and his shadow in broad spatial areas to produce spare, but arresting compositions, that were quite ahead of their time.

Margrethe Mather - Player on the Yit-Kim, 1918
Margrethe Mather
Player on the Yit-Kim
ca. 1918
Margrethe Mather
Florence Deshon,(1894-1922) US motion picture actress.
ca. 1921
Bromide print, 9 1/2”x 7 1/2”. Paul J. Getty Museum, Los Angeles 
Margrethe Mather
Japanese Combs
ca. 1931
Mather, an artistic and political rebel and a liberated sexual woman, helped to turn Weston's work in a more experimental direction by introducing him to her circle of free-thinking artists, actors and theater people, and political activists. Although Weston appreciated by Mather's intellectual curiosity, and for a time was passionately in love with her, he was also frustrated with her lack of dependability and unpredictable nature. In 1921, Weston embarked on an affair with the Italian-born actress photographer, Tina Modotti. When they departed for Mexico in 1923, Weston entrusted his Glendale studio to Mather's care, however by 1925, she lost interest in sustaining the business and drifted back to her bohemian haunts on Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles. Mather continued to shoot photographs sporadically until the mid-1930s, when she appears to have turned her back on photography altogether.

Mather's photographs were more experimental than those being produced by her contemporaries. Margrethe Mather died on December 25, 1952.

Her work is featured in the book, Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration (W.W. Norton & Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 2001).
In the early 1950s, recalling the greatest influences on his career, Edward Weston declared that Margrethe Mather was "the first important person in my life."

Sources, retrieved December 17, 2013.
Grace Glueck, Art In Review, Edward Weston and Margrethe Mather, A Passionate Collaboration, April 4, 2003,, Retrieved December 17, 2013.
SFMOMA,, Retrieved December 18, 2013
Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration,, Retrieved December 18, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Women Out West! Meet Ruth Peabody-Painter, Sculptor, and Educator

Thanks to all the readers of my blog-the first post was created one year ago on November 22, 2012. This has been an incredible journey of discovery. After I submitted my dissertation I thought, now what? I had been writing for two solid years, nearly every day, through weekends, holidays, vacations, and summers. The void after completing the program was immense, so I began to investigate other avenues in which to continue to grow.

I have learned so much from the research into the fifty female artists that have been profiled throughout this year, along with their remarkable lives and contributions both to society and to the art world. I have been influenced and inspired by them-talented women, all.

Ruth Peabody
Ruth Eaton Peabody
Laguna Beach Art Association Artist
Ruth Eaton Peabody was a painter who, along with her mother, artist Elanor Colburn, were California modernists in the early part of the twentieth century. Peabody was born in Highland Park, Illinois on March 30, 1893. She first studied sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago and was taught to paint as a child by her mother. The two women moved to Laguna Beach, California in 1924 and became active in the local art scene where, in addition to painting, Ruth sculpted fountains and memorial plaques along with teaching art.
Ruth Peabody
Boy and Dog
ca. 1935
Laguna Beach, California
In her early works, Peabody focused on the figure and on still lifes. The Cook Book combines both these subjects in a carefully constructed composition. The woman looks pensive, perhaps pondering what to make for dinner.
Ruth Peabody
The Cook Book Oil on canvas, 1925
32 x 40 inches
Little Pig in New Mexico is created in a post-Impressionist style of lively broad brushwork and strong colors. The painting was perhaps inspired by a trip to New Mexico to which Peabody and her mother took in early summer, 1930. (Note the pueblo in the background). In the 1930s, Taos, Santa Fe, and the Southwest in became popular destinations for artists that sought fresh subject matter and discovered sweeping new vistas.

Ruth Peabody
Little Pig in New Mexico
ca. 1931
Oil on canvas, 24 x 20 in.

For years, Peabody designed figural compositions that were much like her mother's style, but in the 1930s, she explored Dynamic Symmetry and Cubism and her work went beyond the objective to Constructivist compositions.

Ruth Peabody
Laguna Beach
ca, 1930s
25x 20 inches
Peabody was an active member in the Laguna Beach Art Association, the California Art Club, and the San Diego Art Guild.  She received dozens of awards in Southern California between the years 1926-1937. Ruth Peabody died in Laguna on October 22, 1966.

Peabody's exhibitions include the Panama Pacific International Exposition, 1915, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1931, Art Institute of Chicago;  Oakland Art Gallery, 1932, Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939, San Diego Fine Arts Gallery, 1939, California State Fairs.

Works are held in the San Diego Museum, drinking fountain opposite the  Laguna Beach Art Gallery, Laguna Beach Art Association (portrait medallion of Anna Hills), Laguna Beach Humane Society (fountains), Anaheim High School, Hoag Memorial Hospital, and in Newport Beach.
California Art:, retrieved 12.3.13
The Redfern Gallery:, Retrieved 12.4.13
The Orange County Register, article: Where the Art Is: Laguna Beach's Public Art Tour Day to highlight works found throughout the city,
, Retrieved 12.4.13
Patricia Trenton, ed., Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945 (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 100.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ruth Reeves: Art in Fabric Instead of Paint

[Ruth Reeves]
Ruth Reeves
ca. 1947
New York
Over this past year, we have explored painters, sculptors, and photographers. This post, I would like to introduce you to a textile designer who rightfully belongs in the category of Fine Art. Textiles are intimately related to us more so than painting and sculpture-we all wear clothing according to our tastes, climate, country, and ethnicity and, in some cases, our religion. Influenced by ancient civilizations and primitive peoples, Ruth Reeves felt that "The fabrics of our own time express our contemporary life both in actual motif, where fine contemporary forms seem feasible, and in feeling."

Ruth Marie Reeves (1892 - December 23, 1966) was a painter, an Art Deco textile designer, and an expert on Indian handicrafts. Her wall hangings were created for the children's room of the public library in Mount Vernon, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England; and for the carpet at the Radio City Music Hall in New York.  In that project, she was commissioned by textile designer, Donald Deskey, to create a wall fabrics and "vast carpet that would cover the grand lobby, staircase, and three mezzanines---and be symbolic of theatrical activities. In a mosaic-like configuration, Reeves interwove strong geometric abstractions of musical instruments. The rhythmical patterns, with a colorful combination of geometrically shaped banjos, guitars, accordions, piano keys, saxophones, and harps, hover against clouds of bright orange and yellow in a deep blue sky.  . . .The result is an immense, jazzy carpet that is opulent and urbane. It is perfect for a public pleasure palace." [1]
Ruth Reeves
ca. 1929
Radio City Music Hall Lobby, New York

Born in Southern California, Reeves attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York from 1910 to 1911, and returned to the West to attend the San Francisco School of Design in 1911-1913. Reeves won a scholarship to the Art Students League where she studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller during the years 1914 and 1915. She travelled to Paris and lived there from the years 1921-1928 where she studied with renowned Avant-garde artist Fernand Léger. Her designs displayed a modernist idiom and were influenced by artistic movements in France such as Cubism and other contemporary French styles.

Upon her return to New York, Reeves established herself in the artist's community and began to create hand-printed textiles. She joined the newly established American Union of Artists and Craftsmen which sponsored major exhibitions in 1930 and 1931 to promote modern American design. [2]

A commission to design fabrics for the period furniture retailer, W. & J. Sloan established Reeves' reputation as one of the foremost original designers in the field.
Ruth Reeves
American Scene
Block Printed cotton
105 1/2 x 47 1/4 inches
Yale University
Art Gallery, John P. Axelrod Collection

In her design for American Scene, Reeves combined "imaginary rooms in a country house where her given textile would have meaning." [3] The American Scene pattern recalls eighteenth century textiles with repeating groups of picturesque figures, surrounded by arabesques or foliage however, this particular type of pattern was also typically used in Art Deco fabrics. She took an eclectic approach in her design and choice of fabrics she employed. She elevated simple materials such as billiard-table felt, Turkish toweling, homespun, and unbleached cotton as she glorified those fabrics in a variety of treatments. Reeves also referred to Cubism, Futurism, folk and tribal art for inspiration.

Reeves, like many of her contemporaries, embraced modernism which served to move design away from old-fashioned historical styles and create sleek, abstract forms appropriate for modern life. She was able to incorporate both modern and primitive in her designs that combined "old and new as a synthesis of primitive vitality and machine-age sophistication." [4]

Ruth Reeves
Design for a Child's Room
ca. 1930?
Indianapolis Museum of Art

Funded by a grant from the Carnegie Institute in Washington, D.C., Reeves traveled extensively in Guatemala in 1934 where she visited the most remote villages and studied traditional Mayan textiles. Her intention was to create a set of modern variations that were inspired, not copied, by native work. She collected costumes that became part of an exhibition along with her own Guatemalan-derived designs at Rockefeller Center in March of 1935. Simultaneously, Macy's opened a display of additional costumes from her collection as well as a selection of modern adaptations and accessories using Guatemalan motifs. [5]

Reeves was a perfectionist who refused to compromise her high design standards. She always believed that textile design belonged to the Fine Arts. She also held that it was important to acquire an 'artistic literacy,' a familiarity with art in all forms and histories. Good design, she wrote, "rings a wonderful bell inside me." [6]

Overlooking Kingston 2
Ruth Reeves
Overlooking Kingston (Hudson River Series)
ca. 1934
Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection

A woman of the world, after 1956, Reeves lived in India, where she served on the All-India Handicrafts Board. She died in New Delhi in 1966.
1. Christine Roussel, The Guide to the Art of Rockefeller Center ( ), 17.
2. On the AUDAC, see R.L. Leonard and Adolphe C. Glassgold, Modern American Design by the American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen, intro. Mel Byars (1930; rpt. 1992)
3.Harry V. Anderson, "Contemporary American Designers," The Decorators Digest (Mar. 1935), 44. 
4. Reeves, "What Creative Design Means to Me," typescript ms., 3, in Ruth Reeves Papers, microfilm reel no. 3093, frame 59, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
5. Marian Wardle, ed., American Women Modernists: The Legacy of Robert Henri, 1910-1945, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 36.
6. Reeves, "Let's Not Be Timorous," Curtain and Drapery Department Magazine (Mar. 1946): 22; Reeves, "What Creative Design Means to Me," ms., 4-7; Anderson, "Contemporary American Designers," 58.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mary Curtis Richardson: The Mary Cassatt of the West

File:Mary Curtis Richardson - Portrait of Mary Blanche Hubbard.jpg
Portrait of Mary Blanche Hubbard
Oil on canvas
Mary Curtis Richardson (1848-1931) was an impressionist painter and suffragette.

Late nineteenth-century women used  gender to their advantage and claimed the child portraiture genre for themselves. Richardson became one of San Francisco's most celebrated painters of children.

Her father, Lucien Curtis, headed overland to the gold fields of California in 1849, while in the following year, Mary, her sister Leila, and her mother traveled to California via the Isthmus of Panama to join her father. The family settled in San Francisco.

She married Thomas Richardson, a man in the lumber business, who relocated to San Francisco from Canada.

In 1866 Mary and her sister traveled back to New York City to study wood engraving at Cooper Union. When they returned to San Francisco the sisters opened a wood engraving business and by the 1870s, both she and her sisters established the first women-run engraving company in San Francisco. The company became the Women's Printing Union.

When she was fifty years old, Richardson embraced a second career. Convinced by family and friends to pursue painting, Richardson studied with William Sartain at the Art Students League in New York and won the Norman Dodge Prize of the National Academy of Design for the best painting by a woman artist in the United States. After those honors, Richardson received numerous commissions to paint members of San Francisco's elite society and their families. 
Joseph M. Bransten (Son of MJB Coffee Magnate)
Date Unknown
Oil on Canvas
Oakland Museum of California

Richardson's work was forthright and sensitive, but free of the over-sentimentalized style that was popular at that time. By the 1910s, she was known as the "Mary Cassatt of the West" and she was singled out as the most important portraitist in San Francisco by Charles Keeler, ranked with painters William Keith and Thomas Hill.

Mary Richardson exhibited her portraits and paintings of mothers and children at the San Francisco Art Association between 1895 and 1901; the Vickery, Atkins & Torrey Gallery, San Francisco, in 1909; and the National Academy of Design, New York City, in the late 1880s. She and her husband remained in San Francisco in a home they built for themselves in 1888.

Mary Curtis Richardson

The Sleeping Child
No Date
Oil on canvas

 The Sleeping Child was eventually acquired by the Legion of Honor.

Seated Child Holding a Rattle
No Date
Oil on Canvas

Bonhams San Francisco - Mother and Child
The Young Mother
No Date
Oil on canvas

The Young Mother won a silver medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Despite her success and her feminist tendencies, Richardson felt compelled to tell an interviewer: "I am not a woman with a career; I am just a worker."

Mary Curtis Richardson died on November first, 1931, at her home and art studio in Russian Hill.
Further Reading and Sources
Ask Art: The Artist's Bluebook,
American Gallery: Greatest American Painters,
Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945
Artists of the American West, Volume I, Doris Ostrander Dawdy
"San Francisco Women who have Achieved Success," Overland Monthly 44 (November 1904), 517

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sarah Ladd-Pioneering Portland Photographer

By the turn of the twentieth-century, the visual arts became an established part of Pacific Northwest culture. Artists worked and lived there. The wealthy, whose money came from banking, law, timber, and railroads, began collecting European, Asian, and some American painting, prints, and sculpture. Artists and supporters began to form organizations to exhibit art, some of which was on loan and shown expressly for the purpose of enhancing the cultural sophistication of the community. Instruction in the arts became available. Early local magazines such as The Westerner and The Week-End, covered the arts and the visual arts. And, more important to this researcher, local female artists were featured in The Westerner magazine.

The 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition's exhibitions of international, national and local artists brought art to everyone. During this twenty-year time period, from 1890 until 1910, the expansion of railroad service to the Puget Sound region (Northern Pacific Railroad to Tacoma in 1885 and Great Northern Railroad to Seattle in 1893) and the discovery of gold in Alaska/Yukon,1896, resulted in a tremendous population boom. The influx into this stunning region brought artists (and people whose children would become artists), patrons, art appreciators, writers about art, and art educators.

Sarah H. Ladd
Early Morning above Vancouver
 Published in Pacific Monthly, Volume 14 No 1, 1905

Sarah Hall Ladd (13 April 1860 – 30 March 1927) was an early 20th-century American pictorial and landscape photographer. Ladd was born Sarah L. Hall in Somerville, Massachusetts, the daughter of John Gill Hall and Sarah Cushing. Little is known about her childhood. In 1881, Ladd relocated to Portland with her new husband, Charles, the son of leading Portland businessman William S. Ladd. The couple settled in a home that overlooked the Willamette River and began a comfortable life together.

It is not known or documented precisely when Ladd developed an interest in photography, but sources claim she joined the Oregon Camera Club in September 1899, and, by early 1901, a number of her works were on exhibition in San Francisco. In 1903, New York photographer Alfred Stieglitz formed Photo-Secession, an early-20th century movement that strove to elevate photography as a fine art. The group never numbered more than 105 members and were from various cities across the United States. Sarah Hall Ladd, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, and Lily E. White were included among the select membership.

Sarah H. Ladd
Columbia River
Early 1900s
In 1903, the adventurous Ladd and White began to take extended trips on the Columbia River on White’s custom-built houseboat, the Raysark, a vessel that contained a darkroom. Both women excelled at photography and became internationally known for their pictorialist-style landscapes of the Columbia Gorge filled with soft light, clouds and atmosphere. Their photographs illustrated travel brochures and magazines helping draw tourism to the area.  

featured image
Sarah H. Ladd
Submerged Forest
Early 1900s
Ladd took this photograph of the “submerged forest” on the Columbia River between 1902-1904. The remains of trees in the river are found 25 miles above Cascade Rapids. Most of this area is now submerged behind Bonneville Dam, 40 miles east of Portland. In those days, travel was a challenge as roads were not paved and the terrain was unfriendly to motorized vehicles.

By 1904, Ladd’s social and familial responsibilities kept her away from her photography. She was invaluable to her husband when he became part of the preparations for Portland’s 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition. In 1910, the Ladds moved to the town of Carlton, Oregon, after Charles became president of the Carlton Consolidated Lumber Company. In spite of these additional obligations, however, Ladd managed to exhibit fourteen photographs at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Ladd became a prominent member in the Christian Science movement beginning in 1911. After Ladd’s husband died in 1920, she moved to Carmel, California in late 1924 to join her long-time friend, Lily White. Ladd lived in Carmel for the rest of her life. She died there on March 30, 1927.


Further reading:

James V. Hillegas, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon History Project,

 Carole Glauber, “Eyes of the Earth: Lily White, Sarah Ladd, and the Oregon Camera Club,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 108:1 (Spring 2007), 34-69.

Richard L. Hill, “Science-Landslide Sleuths,” Oregonian May 15, 2002.

Jim E. O’Connor, “The Evolving Landscape of the Columbia River Gorge: Lewis and Clark and Cataclysms on the Columbia,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 105:3 (Fall 2004), 390-421.

Oregon Experience, The River they Saw, Photographer Profiles,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Henrietta Shore: Western Progressive Modernist

Henrietta Shore
Edward Weston
ca. 1927
Collection Center for Creative Photography
During the early years of the twentieth century, women modernists who were the most acclaimed artists were judged to have a "masculine" hand in their work. Directness, simplicity, and power--traits most prized in modernist abstraction--nearly always carried connotations of masculinity.[1] That gender stereotyping led to some women adopting male patterns of behavior such as wearing men's clothing and hairstyles in order to compete equally in a male-dominated genre.

At the time, there was a notion that women were perceived to have a uniquely feminine sensibility with special capacities to express themselves as Alfred Stieglitz explained, "Woman feels the world differently than man feels it. The woman receives the world through her womb. That is the seat of her deepest feeling. Mind comes second."[2] Obviously a man without a clue, but with a typical attitude for his era.

Henrietta Shore was irritated by the patronizing tendency of critics to see her work as conveying feminine sexuality rather than the intellectual, metaphysical themes she sought to express. She was, perhaps, the boldest and most experimental modernist among women artists in California before 1920.

Born in Toronto, Canada, Shore was encouraged in her artistic interests by her mother. She experienced a profound connection with nature at age 13 when she saw her reflection in a puddle with nature which surrounded her face. That event spurred Shore to paint. She studied in New York at the Art Students League with William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. Her fellow student there was Georgia O'Keeffe.

Shore's early training in New York encouraged both a traditional approach as well as a more contemporary take proposed by Henri that embraced a fresh consideration of subject matter. Her use of color and her direct emotional appeal reflect Henri's influence. Shore continued her studies at Heatherly's Art School in London where she was the only student of painter John Singer Sargent. During her twenties, her work was included in exhibitions in Toronto, Paris, London, and Liverpool. [3] She also traveled to Haarlem, Holland, Venice, and Madrid. By her mid-twenties, Shore was working as an art teacher in Toronto. She moved to the United States as a permanent resident in 1913 and became a citizen in 1921.

Henrietta Shore (Californian, 1880-1963), The Blue Slipper, c. 1915, oil on canvas, 32" x 36"

Henrietta Shore
The Blue Slipper
ca. 1915
Oil on canvas
32 x 36 inches

From 1913 until 1920, Shore lived in Los Angeles where she experimented with a number of styles. Her work was well-received by the critics, but she was reluctant to part with her early pieces and suffered from a lack of ability to promote her work. She returned to New York in 1920, where she explored and developed her modernist style. Shore and O'Keeffe exhibited together during here time in New York and critics were much more enthusiastic about Shore's efforts than that of O'Keeffe.

Henrietta Shore
ca. 1925
Oil on Canvas

During the late 1920s, Shore traveled to Mexico where she painted portraits of Jose Clemente Orozco and Jean Charlot. In 1927, she befriended Edward Weston who, some believe, influenced his photography.

Henrietta Shore
Jean Charlot
ca. 1927
Oil on canvas

Henrietta Shore
Women of Oaxaca
ca. 1928
Oil on canvas

Henrietta Shore
ca. 1930
Untitled (Cypress Trees, Point Lobos)
Oil on canvas
30¼ x 26¼ inches

Shore's subjects included portraits, many done on commission, as well as flowers, cacti, animals, seashells, trees, and land forms. She worked from the literal to the imaginative as she created works that represented the idea of a subject rather than the traditional view of it such as the work above.

In 1936 and 1937, Shore was commissioned to create six murals for the Treasury Relief Art Project. Four were done for the post office at Santa Cruz and were concerned with the local industries of that region. Artichoke Pickers was place in Monterey, and Monterey Bay, 1880-1910 was located in the post office there.

Artichoke Pickers mural by Henrietta Shore, 1934; c California State Parks

Henrietta Shore
Artichoke Pickers
ca. 1934
California State Parks

Shore exhibited from about 1898 to the 1950s. She participated in solo-exhibitions in New York and California including the M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco (1933) and the Carmel Art Association Gallery (1946, 1963). A partial list of where her works hung include the Royal Canadian Academy in Toronto, Panama-California International Exhibition, San Diego, New York Society of Women Artist, New York City, and in numerous shows of the Carmel Art Association. In 1986, the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art organized the Henrietta Shore: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1900-1963. [4]


Henrietta Shore, A Retrospective Exhibition: 1900-1963
Essays by Roger Aikin and Richard Lorenz
Edited by Jo Farb Hernandez
1986 by the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art.
1. Patricia Trenton, Ed., Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, (Los Angeles: Autry Museum of Western Heritage in association with the University of California Press), 25-26.
2. Ibid.
3. Jeri L. Waxenberg Wolfson Collection, Women Artists in the Modernist Tradition, Henrietta Shore,, (retrieved October 21, 2013).
4. Kovick, Phil and Marion Yoshick-Kovick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 279.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Myra Albert Wiggins: Northwest Painter and Photographer

Myra Albert Wiggins
ca. N. D.
Oil on Board
Myra Albert Wiggins is the most renowned artist of the founders of the Women Painters of Washington (WPW). The group began as one of the earliest arts organizations northwestern America, and remains among the few state-wide women’s arts associations in the country. [1]

During her long life, she was many things: a painter, poet, writer, singer, art and voice teacher, and mentor to artists. Wiggins was most likely the first internationally known artist from the Northwest. She garnered her reputation as a fine art photographer who, like Imogen Cunningham, became an associate member of Alfred Stieglitz’s exclusive Photo-Secession, as well as London’s The Brotherhood of the Linked Ring  as early as 1903. [2]

About the time Myra acquired her camera at age 18, women were becoming increasingly active in artistic circles, especially in photography. Camera clubs, competitions, and articles in magazines appeared, encouraging women to enter the field of photography both as studio professionals and as amateurs who created artistic photographs. Her father, a bank president and her mother, from one of the earliest pioneer families were well-connected and financially comfortable. Wiggins had the means to head to New York to study at the Art Students League beginning in 1891. At her time there, she learned from some of the major artists of the period including William Merritt Chase, who was a lifelong influence.. As a photographer, she was best known for her constructed Dutch figurative imagery that was inspired by Rembrandt and Jan Vermeer. Daughter Mildred was often posed in Dutch costume with background interiors matching classic European subjects. [3] By 1909 Wiggins had won more than 50 international awards in photography, but discontinued her work in that genre by the 1920s.

Myra Albert-Fred Wiggins Wedding, November 24th, 1894
Oregon State Library

Myra Albert Wiggins
 Edge of the Cliff
ca. 1903
 Platinum print photograph
 8 x 6 inches
Included in Alfred Stieglitz's 1910 International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography at the Albright Gallery, Buffalo, with Wiggins the only exhibitor from Washington, Courtesy Martin-Zambito Fine Art, Seattle

Her paintings evolved into a more impressionistic approach with looser brushwork and a broader use of color. Wiggins began to concentrate primarily on the still-life, particularly depicting copper and metal objects, and exploring the effects of light on their surface reflections-much in the manner of Merritt-Chase. [4]

Wiggins, Gloxinia - Artwork

           Myra Albert Wiggins                                                                                                          Myra Albert Wiggins
         Tulips in Luster Pitcher                                                                                                              Still Life: Gloxinia
                 ca. 1938                                                                                                                                       ca. 1930   
          Oil on canvas panel                                                                                                                        Oil on Board

In 1907, the family moved to Toppenish, Washington where Myra contributed to the family's finances by opening an art studio and school. She continued to produce an income of her own with her painting. In addition, Wiggins was active with the Public Works of Art Project in Seattle as an easel painter. Wiggins was esteemed in the Northwest art community, where she was known as the “Dean of Northwest Women Painters.” [5]

While living in Seattle, beginning in 1932, she continued her study of art, seeking teachers in design, watercolors, and oils. Besides her retrospective exhibits at the Seattle Art Museum (1953) and the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco (1954), she had one-person shows of her paintings in Vancouver, B.C., Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Salem, and the Larson Museum in Yakima, Washington. Individual paintings hung in group exhibitions in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Washington, many with honors and awards.[6]

At the PEN Women of America Biennium held in Washington, D.C. in 1948, Wiggins received highest honors for "Achievement in Art." A retrospective of her paintings and photography was held at the Seattle Art Museum in 1953. Wiggins continued to work until her death in 1955 at the age of 86 years old. A large collection of Myra Wiggins's photography is housed at the Portland Art Museum. Her photographs and paintings are also in the collection of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art   at Willamette University. In 2003, her work was included in the exhibition Pioneer Women Photographers at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, and her still-life paintings were the focus of an exhibition at the Hallie Ford museum in 2004. [7]

Myra Albert Wiggins
Copper Pot with Button Chrysanthemums
ca. 1930
Oil on Board
9.5 x 8.5 inches

1. History, Women Painters of Washington,, (retrieved October 7, 2013)
2. Ibid
3. Glauber, Carole. Witch of Kodakery, The Photography of Myra Albert Wiggins, 1869-1956. (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1997).
4. David F. Martin, An Enduring Legacy: Women Painters of Washington, 1930-2005, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005), 49. 
5. History, Women Painters of Washington,, (retrieved October 7, 2013)
6.Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, Carole Glauber, Trials and Triumphs of an Oregon Photographer: Myra Albert Wiggins,
7. Roger Hull, The Oregon Encyclopedia,, (retrieved October 7, 2013)3

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dorr Bothwell: California Modernist Artist

To those who live in the eastern region of the United States, California has been, and continues to be seen as another country. Identified with Hollywood and popular culture, the art of California appears to have little connection with the art of Europe and the more traditional East Coast, specifically the establishment in New York City. From my own experience as one who grew up in and around Washington, D.C., when return to visit my "home," people always seem to be taken aback or quite simply amazed when I tell them I've lived in Southern California for 35 years--as if I've just dropped in from Mars.

During the early years of the twentieth century when cross-continental travel became easier, more people, including artists, actors, writers, and the like, headed west where the climate and the landscape vistas vary, in some cases, in the extreme, within just a few miles. Translation: this means that those who live here enjoy incredible weather most of the year and the opportunity for artists and photographers to record nature at its most stunning, is nearly always guaranteed.

To be an artist in Southern California, you had to be, as Lorser Feitelson emphasized, quite sure you could live with your own art. [1] It took self-confidence, independence, and an adventurous spirit to move to the west during the twenties and thirties.

Dorr Hodgson Bothwell (1902–2000) was an American artist, designer, educator, and world-traveller. She was born in San Francisco, California,  moved to San Diego when she was nine years old and spent her childhood there. At age 19, Bothwelll returned to the Bay Area to study art where she began her art career at the California School of Fine Arts in 1921 under the tutelage of Gottardo Piazzoni, and later, with Rudolf Schaeffer at the Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design in San Francisco until the year 1925. She was a member of the San Francisco Art Association, and upon her return to San Diego, she joined the San Diego Art Guild and San Diego Moderns.

After receiving a modest inheritance from her great-aunt, Dorr decided to travel. After having seen Robert Flaherty's documentary film on the South Seas Islands, Moana (1926), she made the decision to go to American Samoa, a daring enterprise for a young woman alone, particularly in those days. She was adopted by a tribal leader and she became his daughter and chief hostess. While there, Bothwell did paintings in oil and watercolor, drawings, linoleum block prints, and measured drawings of tapa cloth designs. She remained in Samoa for two years, and sent back a show that was exhibited in San Diego and San Francisco. This show produced enough income to allow her to continue her travels.[2]

 When she returned to San Diego in1932, she became re-acquainted with and then married sculptor Donal Hord, but the union lasted just two years. After the couple separated, Bothwell moved to Los Angeles in 1934, where she joined the post-surrealist group around Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg, and worked in the mural division of the Federal Arts Project, where she learned the art of screen printing, which would become her favored graphic technique.

Dorr Bothwell
Camping by the Shore
Color Serigraph/Screenprint
12 x 9 3/4 inches

She returned to San Francisco in 1942. Bothwell loved to travel. She went to Paris in 1949/51, to Africa in 1966/67, to England, France and Holland in 1970, to Bali, Java and Sumatra in 1974, and to China and Japan in 1982/85. Throughout her travels, Bothwell studied indigenous artistic traditions in order to discover their rules of design. Growing out of a deep understanding that all things are integrated, she learned to see order and design in nature. Translation from the Maya represents the essence of Bothwell’s artistic and spiritual search.

Dorr Bothwell
End of Summer
ca. 1951
Color Serigraph/Screenprint
18 3/8 x 11 15/16 inches

Dorr was an innovator in the use of serigraphy as a fine art medium and was best known for her Surrealist inspired prints (though she rejected "Surrealism" as a description of her art).  During her career she worked in various styles from figurative to abstraction and created oil paintings, watercolors, sculptures and assemblages. In addition to her professional art career, Dorr was an author and a gifted teacher who taught serigraphy, color theory and design at institutions such as the California School of Fine Art, Parsons School of Design and the San Francisco Art Institute.  She passed away at the age of 98 on September 24, 2000. [3]

Dorr Bothwell
30, 11 1/8 x 8 7/8 inches
Dorr Bothwell
35, 11 1/8 x 8 7/8 inches
Dorr Bothwell
City Summer
 33/40, 9 1/4 x 12 5/16 inches
For more examples of Dorr Bothwell's extraordinary work, please visit  Annex Galleries or Tobey C. Moss Gallery.

1. Paul J. Karlstrom, ed., On the Edge of America: California Modernist Art, 1900-1950, (Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1996), 161.
2. Thomas L. Scharf, ed., "Doris (Dorr) Hodgson Bothwell, Painting Ladies-The Artists-The Images," The Journal of San Diego History, San Diego Historical Society Quarterly, 32, no. 3 (Summer 1986).
3. Mid-Centuria, Dorr Bothwell Serigraphs,, (retrieved September 25, 2013).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alice Carr de Creeft: Sculptor

Alice Carr de Creeft
c.a. 1930s
h 7 x w 15.5 inches
Alice Robertson Carr de Creeft was a sculptor who developed her skill in crafting animals, most notably horses, buffaloes, and bulls. Carr spent her early years in Roanoke, Virginia, until her family relocated to Sun River Valley in Montana. After completing high school in Seattle, Washington, she attended the Art Students League of New York(1919-1920) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1922-1923). She later spent three years in Paris during the years 1926-1929 during which time she studied at the Grande Chaumiere and Ecole des Animalieres and direct carving with Jose de Creeft, whom she married in 1928. During their nine-year marriage, the de Creefts divided their time between the island of Mallorca and NYC, ultimately settling in Santa Barbara, California. In addition to raising three children, de Creeft continued to sculpt.

Primarily a sculptor of animals, de Creeft focused on horses in particular. In 1921, she completed Stirrups, a model of a thoroughbred stallion. In later years she fell in love with Zamal, a desert-bred Arabian stallion owned by Sunical Ranch in San Simeon, California. [1] In 1928, while in Europe, de Creeft arrived at the studio of artist/printmaker Stanley William Hayter to buy some of his prints. A week later she and a friend revisited Hayter with a request that he teach them printmaking techniques. Intending to discourage, Hayter claimed that he didn't have a press or the equipment necessary to teach them, however, if there were two more people interested in learning, he might consider it.
A week later they were back with two others and persuaded Hayter to set up a workshop to learn the craft.

Her husband, Jose, was a sculptor who was largely responsible for the re-introduction of the direct-carving technique. He was commissioned to create a bronze statue of Alice in Wonderland in New York's Central Park. [2] Their daughter, Donna, was the model for the Alice figure.

                                                            Inauguration, 1959, Central Park
                                                          Jose de Creeft and daughter, Donna

Alice de Creeft completed additional commissions, including sculptures of other horses, most notably, Secretariat in 1973. Of her western pieces, de Creeft did studies of buffaloes while she was in living in Seattle. Her sculpture, Bull (seen above) and a variety of other statues were created for Santa Barbara County ranchers. Beginning in the 1960s, de Creeft added rodeo subjects to her western themes.

Alice Carr de Creeft
On the Hunt
c.a. 1930s
15.50 x 19 x 7.50 inches
During the 1970s de Creeft taught at the Santa Barbara Art Institute.  Her exhibitions include those of the Studio Club, New York; Artists of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle; Seattle Fine Arts Society, Seattle; Stockbridge Art Association, Massachusetts; Santa Barbara Artists; Artists of Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles County Fair. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Pollensa, Mallorca, Spain; National Art Museum of Sport, New York; River Edge Foundation, Calgary, Canada; and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California.

Alice de Creeft  died in Santa Barbara on Aug. 2, 1996.

Her daughter, Nina de Creeft Ward, actively an artist in her own right, works out of Santa Barbara in Southern California. She enjoys sculpting and monoprint. Here is the url to her website:

An addendum to the above: I received an email from Barbara Decreeft who informed me that 

"Donna de Creeft, the girl in the photo of the "Alice in Wonderland" sculpture, is the daughter of Jose de Creeft and Lorrie Goulet de Creeft ...Donna is the half sister of Nina de Creeft Ward. Nins is the daughter of Alice de Creeft." 
Thank you Barbara for the additional information!_____________________________________________
1. Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 71-72.
2. "Alice in Wonderland", (Retrieved September 11, 2013).