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, http://jlwcollection.com/jlwcollection.com/Henrietta_Shore.html, (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 Link.org, Women Painters of Washington, http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=7644, (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 Link.org, Women Painters of Washington, http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=7644, (retrieved October 7, 2013)
6.Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, Carole Glauber, Trials and Triumphs of an Oregon Photographer: Myra Albert Wiggins, http://www.ochcom.org/wiggins/
7. Roger Hull, The Oregon Encyclopedia, http://www.oregonencyclopedia.org/entry/view/wiggins_myra_albert_1869_1956_/, (retrieved October 7, 2013)3