Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Edith White: Quaker and Painter of Roses


Edith White
Roses in the Sunroom
ca. 1895
Oil on canvas
50 x 36 inches
Private Collection
Edith White (1855-1946), along with Ellen Farr (1840-1907)and Fannie Eliza Duvall (1861-1934) were among the few professionally trained female artists in Southern California during the 1880s and 1890s. They collaborated professionally and helped to mold functional art colonies in Los Angeles and Pasadena during that time.

In 1859,White's Quaker family arrived in California by wagon caravan where her family settled at a mining camp in the Sierra Nevada region in 1859. She remained in Nevada County until 1868, with the exception of a 14-month residency in San Francisco. Later, in 1872, she enrolled at Mills Seminary (now Mills College), in Oakland, where she studied art until graduation in 1874. After graduation from Mills, she studied art at the School of Design in San Francisco under Virgil Williams until depleting her finances. She returned to finish her studies after earning enough money copying paintings for a San Francisco firm. [1]

In 1882, White moved to Pasadena, just northeast of Los Angeles, where she opened her own studio and worked in the city for ten years. White received early recognition for her realistic paintings of roses which became her signature genre.
In 1892, White relocated to New York in order to study at the Art Students League. One of her paintings of white roses was featured in a spring exhibition in New York City.



Edith White
White Roses and Glass Vases
ca. 1901
Oil on canvas
No size given
Private Collection
 White returned to California in 1893 where she continued to paint and was fundamental in the organization of the Pasadena Art Association in 1896. White was known as a deeply religious, formally educated young woman with a quiet strength. She became involved with the philosophy of the Theosophists (as did Imogen Cunningham) which espoused that "Deity, the Absolute, Infinite, All-powerful, Divine Essence [permeates] the life of everything that breathes, and [expresses] itself even in the flowers." White's concentration on floral studies is compatible with the Theosophists. [2]

White's desire to marry and start a family was discouraged by her father, who did not want interference of any kind in her artistic career. Her strong connection with family resulted in White's remaining under the influence of her parents throughout her adult life. By 1892, White and her parents moved to Point Loma, seven miles from downtown San Diego where Katherine Tingely, known as "The Purple Mother," had established the headquarters of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society. [3] For the next twenty-eight years, White served as the primary art instructor at the Raja-Yoga School where she was able to paint without concern of the commercial side of art.

Edith White
Roses
ca. 1901
Oil on canvas
No size given
Private Collection
In addition to her paintings of flowers Edith White also did portraits, landscapes and studies of the missions. Although White spent the bulk of her productive life in a single location, she exhibited widely. Her work was seen at the San Francisco Art Association, 1890; California Midwinter International Exposition, 1894; Arcade Sketch Club and Pasadena Art Association (founder), 1894-97; Denver Artists' Club, 1898. Works held: San Diego Historical Society; Santa Fe Railway; Mills College (Oakland); Mount Holyoke College; Denver Public Library; California Historical Society.

By 1930, White returned to northern California and established a home in Berkeley at 2801 Russell Street. At her studio there she continued to teach and paint into her old age. Never married, White died in Berkeley on January 19, 1946. [4]


Edith White
San Diego as seen from Point Loma
ca. 1927-1928
Oil on canvas
11 x 16 inches
Private Collection
  
Edith White
Blooming Desert Landscape
ca. n.d.
Oil on canvas
12 x 18.25 inches
Private Collection




















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1. Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 327.
2. Patricia Trenton, ed., Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945. (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 44.
3. Ibid.
4. Edan Milton Hughes, "Edith White, 1855-1946," http://www.edanhughes.com/biography.cfm?ArtistID=724 (accessed February 18, 2013).