Monday, May 18, 2015

Isabelle Clark Percy: Artist and co-founder of the California College of Arts and Crafts

Isabelle Clark Percy West
At her namesake Isabel West Gallery
  Campus of the California College of Arts and Crafts
ca. 1958-59 
Isabelle Clark Percy was a painter, lithographer, etcher and a liberated woman of her times. Born in Alameda, California on November 6, 1882, she was the daughter of prominent architect George W. Percy, designer of the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, the Hobart Building in San Francisco, and the Christian Brothers Winery in Sonoma. Isabelle studied art at the Mark Hopkins Institute from 1901 to 1905 under Arthur Mathews, with Brangwyn in London, and with Dow and Snell in New York. 

Along with Perham Nahl and Frederick Meyer, Percy founded the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in about 1907, and for many years she taught there as a Professor of Design. Over the course of her career, Isabelle designed book plates and worked in oil, pastel, watercolor, and color lithography and in 1915, won a bronze medal for her lithography at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Isabelle continued to teach at the college until her retirement in 1941 at which time a gallery, which is still in use on the campus, was named in her honor.

In 1916, Isabelle married George Parsons West, a San Francisco historian and journalist, and settled into a home that she built across the bay in Sausalito where she maintained a studio and continued to paint. The couple divorced in 1934. Following residency in Brooklyn and New York City, until 1920, she returned to the California School of Arts and Crafts from 1921-1942. Isabelle was a member of the San Francisco Art Association and the California Society of Etchers. Her work was exhibited in Paris, Germany, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago in addition to the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco. 

Percy produced a large body of work of both California Themes and of subjects viewed during trips to Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. She created landscapes, seascapes, and trees in Marin and Monterey counties, studies of adobes, Bay Area scenes and landmarks, views of the missions, and Mother Lode Country themes. She worked until her death in nearby Greenbrae on August 15, 1976. 

Isabel Clark Percy 
Maartjie and Neltjie in the Yard
ca. 1913
Oil on canvas board
16 x 12 3/4 inches
Isabelle Clark Percy
European Street Scene
ca. 1913?
Isabel Clark Percy
Cervantes Inn, Toledo, Spain
ca. 1914
13 5/8 x 10 7/8 inches
Color lithograph
Isabelle Clark Percy
Carmel California
ca. 1913?
Pencil and pastel on paper
12 x 9 inches
Isabelle Clark Percy
House Beautiful Cover
ca. 1928
Watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper
20 3/8 x 15 3/ 4 inches
Member: San Francisco Sketch Club; San Francisco Art Ass'n; California Society of Etchers. Exhibited: Guild of Arts & Crafts, 1904; Starr King Fraternity, 1905; Del Monte Art Gallery (Monterey), 1908, 1909; Paris Salon, 1911 (honorable mention); Sorosis Club, 1913; California Society of Etchers, 1913; Panama Pacific International Exposition, 1915 (bronze medal); California Artists, Golden Gate Park Museum, 1915; San Francisco Art Ass'n, 1916-25; Oakland Art Gallery, 1932; California College of Arts and Crafts, 1973 (solo). Works held: California Historical Society; Oakland Museum; California College of Arts and Crafts.

Sylvia Moore, ed., Yesterday and Tomorrow, California Women Artists, Midmarch Arts Press, New York, 1989, p. 69.
Edan Milton Hughes, Specializing in the Art of Early California,, retrieved May 19, 2015.
The Annex Galleries, 19th, 20th, and 21st Century Fine Prints, Isabel Percy West Biography,, retrieved May 19, 2015.
Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, University of Texas Press, 1998.
Isabelle Percy West, askART,, retrieved May 19, 2015.

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