Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Women Painters of Washington: Hardwick, Gilbert, and Jensen

Women artists were among the earliest instructors, exhibitors, and contributors to the cultural legacy of the state of Washington. The area's first art groups such as the Society of Seattle Artists, established in 1904, and the Fine Arts Society, founded in 1906, were organized primarily by women. The Women Painters of Washington, was founded during the summer of 1930, when six female artists met while attending a portrait class sponsored by the Fine Arts Society, a predecessor to the Seattle Art Museum. The founding members-Elizabeth Warhanik, Dorothy Dolph Jensen, Lily Norling Hardwick, Myra Albert Wiggins, Anna B. Stone and Helen Bebb, joined together to overcome the limitations they faced as female artists and to stimulate artistic growth through fellowship.[1]

Women Painters of Washington exhibit outside Seattle Public Library,
From left, standing: Louise Gilbert, Lily Norling Hardwick, Dorothy Dolph Jensen, Z. Vanessa Helder;
Bottom: Theodora Harrison, Ruth Kreps, Mary Garrett, Seattle,
ca. 1936
Courtesy Martin-Zambito Fine Art, Seattle
Lily Norling Hardwick (1890-1944) was best known for her portraits of Northwest Native-Americans. She was born in Ellensburg, Washington, into an artistic family and was one of three siblings that were all successful in the arts. Her sister, Dorothy Gilbert, was an illustrator and charter member of the Women Painters of Washington. Her brother, Ernest Norling, was known in both Seattle and California as a painter, muralist, and an illustrator.[2] Hardwick attended Central Washington College of Education, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and also studied portrait painting with Audubon Tyler in New York.

She married Charles D. Hardwick in 1911 and raised a son during the period of her studies. Hardwick created an extensive body of portrait studies of Northwest Native Americans. In about 1921, she painted her first Native American portrait of an elderly woman who had assisted her in her home-the daughter of Yakama Chief Owhi, which led to her painting other elders of the tribe. [3] She began to live and work throughout the state’s reservations at Colville, Nespelem, and LaPush, for nearly 20 years. Her collection serves as a significant record of Northwest Native culture.

Lily Norling Harwick
Chief Selatsee's Wife
ca. 1932
Oil on canvas
34 x 39 1/2 inches
Collection of Yakama Nation Museum
Toppenish Washington

Lily Norling Harwick
Katie Sly
ca. 1934
Oil on canvas
28 x 21 inches
Collection of Yakama Nation Museum
Toppenish Washington
Hardwick created numerous portraits of tribal figures, both male and female, painted in a vivid, modern style. The collection is now housed at the Yakama Nation Museum in Toppenish, Washington.


Louise Lewis Gilbert
Nazi Destruction
ca. 1945
Color serigraph 
17 7/8 x 12 inches
The Annex Galleries, Santa Rosa, California
Louise Lewis Gilbert (1900-1987) painter, printmaker, pacifist and political activist. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she moved to Seattle with her family when she was a young child. She studied at the Portland Museum School as a scholarship student. Confronted with tremendous levels of poverty and inequality during the Great Depression, Gilbert became politically conscious. She and her sister Jane, relocated to San Francisco just before World War II. They had become radicalized during the labor struggles of the 1930’s and Louise became involved in the California Labor School, while her sister began writing for the People’s World newspaper. Louise met the artist Refregier at the Labor School, and when he received a commission at the Rincon Annex Post Office, she assisted him on the mural. [4]

Gilbert's career spanned 70 years, and in those decades she created posters, prints, and other graphic work which she used to rally support for union struggles, farm workers, the women’s movement, gay and lesbian rights, and the international movement for peace. In San Francisco, Gilbert worked on murals for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and later, she joined the San Francisco Graphic Arts Workshop, an artist-run collective that specialized in traditional printmaking from lithographs and etchings to woodblocks and silkscreen. [5] A pacifist, peace and human rights were the issues that inspired the rest of her life's work, as she donated her art and her time towards the causes that, to her, were most important.

Louise Lewis Gilbert
Peace
ca. 1965  
Color serigraph
5 3/8 x 15 1/8 inches
The Annex Galleries, Santa Rosa, California
Dorothy Dolph Jensen (1895-1977) was born in Forest Grove, Oregon, to a prominent pioneer family, her grandfather was a U.S. Senator and her mother, a well-known character actress. In 1907, chaperoned by an aunt, she and her sisters went to Europe where she remained for seven years during which time she began her art education in Antwerp with a Monsieur Hanneau, and then continued her studies in Paris where she became a student at the Academie Julian. It there she first learned how to produce etchings at just thirteen years old.

At the outbreak of World War I, Jensen left Europe for the Northwest in 1914, where she returned to Oregon to study at the Portland Art School with Harry Wentz and Sidney Bell. Jensen met her husband, Lloyd, at the Schneider Art Gallery in Seattle where they worked together-he, a noteworthy craftsman, and she, working as a gilder. Following her marriage in 1919, Dorothy would remain in Seattle permanently, becoming one of the City's most highly respected artists. Lloyd Jensen produced exceptionally beautiful hand-carved frames not only for his wife but also for most of Seattle and Alaska's most important artists.[6]

Dorothy Dolph Jenson
Mt. Rainier
ca. 1930
 Oil on canvas
20 x 24 inches'
Collection of Doris Jensen Carmin
Jensens's earliest inspiration as a painter was the Oregon countryside including its coastal areas, mountains, and deserts in the eastern region of the state. Jenson continued to develop her technique in printmaking, and became one of the city's few artists working in intaglio methods in the 1920s and 30s. A founding member of the Women Painters Of Washington in 1930, Dorothy Dolph Jensen was also a charter member of the Northwest Watercolor Society and an early exhibitor and long time member of the Northwest Print-makers organization, which was formed in 1928.

Dorothy Dolph Jensen
Fossil Inclusions
ca. 1940
Linocut

9 x 12 inches
Susan Teller Galleries, New York
Her exhibition history includes a one-woman show at the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Fine Arts Society, Women Painters of Washington as well as exhibitions in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland and San Francisco.Her work is in the Permanent Collection of the Portland Art Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Hallie-Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Oregon.


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1. Women Painters of Washington, http://womenpainters.com/ABOUT/About07.htm, (accessed April 22, 2013).
2. David F Martin., An Enduring Legacy, Women Painters of Washington, 1930-2005, (Washington: University of Washington Press, 2005), 32.
3. Ibid.
4. Mark Vallen, Mark Vallen's Art for a Change, events, theory, commentary, http://art-for-a-change.com/blog/2005/10/louise-gilbert-rip.html, (accessed April 23, 2013).
5. Ibid.
6. Women Painters of Washington, 75th Anniversary, 1930-2005,  Dorothy Dolph Jensen, 1895-1977,  One of Six Founders,
http://www.womenpainters.com/75th/JENSEN/Jensen.html. (accessed April 24, 2013).
6. Ibid.