Friday, February 21, 2014

Julia Bracken Wendt: Sculptor with Feminist Sensibilities


Notable American sculptor, Julia Bracken Wendt, was one of the few female artists ranked equally with their male counterparts during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century. Wendt was born in Apple River, Illinois, the twelfth of thirteen children in an Irish Catholic family. Following the death of her mother when she was only nine years old, she felt adrift within the family, so she ran away from home at age thirteen and was on her own.
By the time she was sixteen years old, she found work as a domestic servant for a woman who recognized her talent and drive, and paid to enroll her in the Chicago Art Institute. She studied with Lorado Taft for six years and by 1887, she became his studio and teaching assistant. Wendt earned an excellent reputation over the course of her career and was referred to as the "foremost woman sculptor of the west...whether men or women."

Julia Bracken Wendt
ca. 1915
8 7/8 x 7 1/4 inches
In 1893, during the Columbian Exposition she was one of several women sculptors nicknamed the "White Rabbits" who helped to produce some of the architectural sculpture that graced the exposition buildings. In addition, she was awarded a commission to produce Illinois Welcoming the Nations for the Fair. The work was later cast in bronze and unveiled at the Illinois State Capitol.

Wendt, who sculpted portraits, fountains, and bas-relief medallions in bronze, was not a modernist in artistic style, but she proclaimed her feminist sensibilities in her contribution to the Panama Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915, and in San Diego in 1916. Wendt proved to be an exceptional artist and was the only woman to win a gold medal for her work.

It was Wendt who originated the idea of placing the sculptured figures that typified the attributes of woman in the Women's building of the exposition, and it was she who carried the project through to the finish. Wendt not only created the figures, she completed the work on her own. She supervised the installation and raised the statues to their pedestals when the workmen were confounded with the process. Wendt demonstrated her executive ability, creativity, and problem-solving skills with thoughtfulness and imagination. Sculpture is a demanding, physical, endeavor that requires much more strength than that of painting on paper or canvas.

After successfully pursuing her career for a number of years, Wendt married painter William Wendt and moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1906, where they became a highly prominent artist couple. Wendt taught at the Otis Art Institute and became a member of the National Sculpture Society.
Julia Bracken Wendt
National Women's Trade Union Seal
Pen and ink drawing on board
Manuscript Division
Gift of the National Women's Trade Union League
In 1911, she began a commission of an eleven-foot high, three-figure allegory group for the rotunda of the Los Angeles County Museum. Wendt chose to represent History, Science, and Art as draped goddesses with uplifted hands holding electrically lit globes.

 NHM Rotunda: Julia Bracken Wendt -- Three Muses (Science, History, and Art)
Julia Bracken Wendt
Three Muses (Science, History, and Art)
ca. 1911
Natural History Museum Rotunda

In 1913, she was commissioned by the government of Canada to create a King Edward Peace Memorial, which was installed at Saskatoon.

Julia Bracken Wendt's Studio
ca. 1915
Photographer unknown

Julia and William had no children. Julia Bracken Wendt passed away in 1942

                                                   Julia and William in their Laguna Beach Studio

Lincoln the Lawyer
Julia Bracken Wendt
Lincoln the Lawyer
ca. 1926
Lincoln Park, Los Angeles, CA

World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
Annual Exhibition, Palette Club, AIC, 1895
Annual Exhibition of Works by Chicago Artists, AIC, 1899-1910 (9 times)
St Louis/Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904
Chicago Municipal League, 1905
Pan-California Expo, San Diego (CA), 1915
California Art Club, 1918
Solo exhibits with husband, AIC, 1909-21
National Sculpture Society, 1929
National Sculpture Society, Los Angeles (CA) Museum
Commission, "Illinois Welcoming the Nations" for Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1892
Commission, Exposition Park, Los Angeles (CA). Commission, Battle Monument, Missionary Ridge (TN)
Sculpture Prize, Chicago, 1898
Municipal Art League Prize, Chicago, 1905
Gold Medal, Pan-California Expo, San Diego (CA), 1915
Harrison Prize, Los Angeles (CA), 1918
Chicago Society of Artists
Chicago Municipal Art League
Society of Western Artists
Los Angeles (CA) Fine Art Association
California Art Club, Los Angeles
Three Arts Club of Los Angeles (CA)
Laguna Beach Art Association
Los Angeles (CA) County Museum of Art       
Waggoner, "The art of J.B. Wendt," Los Angeles Herald Sunday Magazine, March 27, 1910, p.1.
Edenhurst Gallery, Julia Bracken Wendt,, retrieved 2/21/14
Illinois Women Artist Project, Julia Bracken Wendt,, retrieved 2/21/14
American Treasures of the Library of Congress,, retrieved 2/21/14
Yesterday and Tomorrow: California Women Artists, Sylvia Moore, ed. Midmarch Arts Press, New York, 1989.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jessiejo Eckford: Dallas Native and Artist of Western Scenes

JessieJo Eckford
Mosquito Fleet Galveston
ca. 1933
Woodblock print
Painter and woodcut artist Jessiejo Eckford was born November 25, 1895 in Dallas, Texas. Her unusual name is a combination of her mother's; Jessie, and her father's; Joseph, a local judge. She lived her entire, but relatively brief life of only forty-six years in Dallas, but traveled extensively to paint around the state of Texas. In addition, she created art in New Mexico; Mexico; Massachusetts; the Ozarks; New York; and internationally when she toured the world in the mid-1920s.

Eckford began her art training in Dallas at the Aunspaugh Art School and later studied with Hale W. Bolton and Frank Reaugh in Texas. She also trained in Los Angeles and in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1929, Eckford won $250 in the Edgar B. Davis Texas Wildflower Competition with her painting, Prickly Pear.

Texas:Early Texas Art - Regionalists, JESSIEJO (JESSIE JO) ECKFORD (American, 1895-1941). Birches onLake Carlos, 1929. Oil on panel. 10 x 13-1/2 inches (25.4...
JessieJo Eckford
Birches on Lake Carlos
ca. 1929
 Oil on panel
 10 x 13-1/2 inches 
Prior to 1930, Eckford painted primarily in oil, but after that year, she gravitated towards working with wood blocks and watercolors.

JessieJo Eckford
Monterey, Mexico
ca. 1920s
Watercolor on paper
In 1934, she had a one-person exhibition in Dallas at the Joseph Sartor Galleries. The names of her works reflect her interest in western scenes, particularly of Texas such as Bluebonnets; Garza Prairie; and Afternoon, West Texas. There was a certain element of expressive, romantic fantasy in her buildings and landscapes.

JessieJo Eckford
Uncle Ben
ca. 1934
  woodcut on paper
6 x 8 inches 
Group shows include the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Print Club of Albany, New York; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; International Printmakers, Los Angeles, California; Washington Watercolor Club, Washington, D.C.; American Watercolor Society, New York City; Midwestern Artists, Kansas City, Missouri; and the Southern States Art League.

Eckford also exhibited in many Texas venues: the Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio; Centennial Exposition, Dallas; Texas Fine Art Association, Austin; San Antonio Competitive Exhibition; Fort Worth Museum of Art; Dallas State Fair; and Dallas Women's Forum.

Jessiejo Eckford died in Dallas on December 5, 1941 after a long illness.

Eckford's work is in the collections of the Witte Memorial Museum, and the Elisbet Ney Museum, Austin, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, University of Texas Press, Austin.
University of North Texas Digital Library, Jess Edith Self, History of the Growth of Art Interest in Texas in the Last Two Decades., (retrieved February 17, 2014).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Donna Noreen Schuster: Interested in Everything

Donna Noreen Schuster
In the Garden
ca. N.D.

As the daughter of a Milwaukee cigar manufacturer, Donna Schuster had the family resources to study with the best painters in America. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and, after graduation, the Boston Museum of Fine arts school. Schuster continued her education in art by accompanying noted artist William Merritt Chase on a painting tour of Belgium in the summer of 1912. As a result of her study, her work was strongly influenced by the Boston School and Impressionism as tempered by Chase.

Donna Noreen Schuster
ca. N.D.
Upon her return to the United States, Schuster moved to California in 1913 where she once again studied with Chase in Carmel. She stayed in San Francisco during the fall of 1914 where she worked on a series of watercolor sketches of the construction of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. She earned a silver medal for watercolor there, which was shown at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in 1914.

Donna Noreen Schuster
Tiger Lilies
ca. N.D.
During the 1920s and 1930s Schuster taught at the Otis Art Institute and was an organizer in the creation of several artists’ clubs and was a founder of The California Watercolor Society and a group that later became Women Painters of the West. Her subject matter included harbor scenes, landscapes, figure studies, and showed Cezanne's influence in her studies of water lilies in both oil and watercolor.  Indeed, her early works show the influence of Monet and Chase; however, after she studied with Stanton MacDonald-Wright, she later experimented with various modern idioms including Cubism and Abstract Expressionism.

Donna Noreen Schuster
Little Mother
ca. N.D.

Summers found Schuster at her small home in Laguna Beach where she spent her time painting and helped to establish the Laguna Beach Art Association. Her paintings recorded many areas of the Southern California landscape before it became the congested metropolis that it is, unfortunately, today.

During her early years, Schuster's art was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the years 1914, 1917, 1920, 1927 and 1929. Later, in the 1930s, she had shows at the San Francisco Art Association, the New York Academy of Fine Art and the New York Water Color Society. In addition, Schuster exhibited with the California Watercolor Society from 1921 until the mid 1940's.

Tragically, in 1953, Schuster died, trapped inside her home as it was destroyed in a brush-fire.

Minnesota Artists, 1913 (gold medal); Blanchard Gallery (LA), 1914; LACMA, 1914, 1917, 1920, 1927, 1929; PPIE, 1915 (silver medal); Panama-Calif. Int'l Expo (San Diego), 1915 (silver medal); NW Exhibition (St Paul, MN), 1915 (silver medal); Calif. Art Club, 1915-33; SFAA, 1916; Woman’s Club (Hollywood), 1920, 1927; Calif. WC Society, 1921-42; Laguna Beach AA, 1924-30; LA County Fair, 1924, 1927; Friday Morning Club (LA), 1925; Ainslie Gallery (LA), 1926; Calif. State Fair, 1926; Bernay Gallery (LA), 1926; Artland Club (LA), 1927; Pasadena Art Inst., 1927; Ebell Club (LA), 1930; Artist’s Fiesta (LA), 1931; Palos Verdes Library, 1933; GGIE, 1939; Festival of Arts (Laguna Beach), 1949.

LACMA; Downey (CA) Museum; Oakland Museum; Fleischer Museum (Scottsdale); Irvine (CA) Museum; Orange County (CA) Museum.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1913-33; Who's Who in American Art 1936-56; Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure); California Impressionism (Wm. Gerdts & Will South); Plein Air Painters (Ruth Westphal); Art of California, May 1991; Art in California (R. L. Bernier, 1916); Los Angeles Times, 1-3-1954 (obituary).