Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mary H. Teasdel: Prolific Artist but...Where is Her Work?

Mary H. Teasdel
One of the most frustrating aspects of doing the research and writing a blog about early American female artists is the lack images available of their work. Mary Teasdel is the perfect example of a well-known, respected artist who studied abroad, exhibited in both Europe and the United States, and whose work hangs in museums and in the state capitol in Utah, her home state. Locating more than just a few of her pieces, however, is nearly impossible. I present to you a fascinating, driven artist with just a few examples of her work.

Mary Teasdel, daughter of a successful merchant, was born and grew up in Salt Lake City. An important and active impressionist painter, she was one of the first women from Utah to study in Paris. 
Teasdel took music lessons, was provided the best schooling available, and lived in a large and comfortable home in Salt Lake City. She attended the University of Deseret from 1882 until 1886 where she studied under painter, George Ottinger. At the age of 23, Teasdel graduated with honors and continued her studies with painter, J. T. Harwood. Teasdel, along with her friend Cora Cooper, traveled to New York to study drawing and painting at the National Academy of Design. 

Mary H. Teasdel
ca. 1922
Oil on academy board
9 x 11.75 inchesUtah Museum of Fine Arts
Upon her return home to Utah, she found her family had fallen on severe financial times which appeared to prevent Mary's dream of becoming a professional artist. However with the money she had saved and an inheritance from one of her brothers, Mary was able to travel to Paris to study art. Early in 1899, Teasdel and two close artist friends, Lara Rawlins (later Chairman) and May Jennings (later Farlow), studied in France for three years where William Benjamin-Constant, Jules Simon, and James Whistler were her instructors. She also spent summers sketching and painting in Normandy.
Mary H. Teasdel
A Summer Bouquet
ca. n.d.
21 x 17.5 inches
Teasdel's work was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1899—the first woman and second Utah artist to receive this honor. She exhibited at the International French Exhibition in 1900. When she returned again to Utah in 1902, she was immediately appointed by Governor Wells to the governing board of the Utah Art Institute, and became involved in a number of statewide and Salt Lake City cultural activities. Teasdel was an art instructor in the Salt Lake City school system as well as in her private studio within her residence.
Mary H. Teasdel
Mother and Child
ca. 1920
Oil on canvas
30.5 x 24.5 inches
State Fine Arts Collection, Salt Lake City, Utah
In 1920, Teasdel lived briefly in Carmel California before moving to Los Angeles the following year. During her years in Los Angeles and, until her death, she was active with the California Art Club and the Women Painters of the West. In addition, she frequented the Monterrey Peninsula and sketched in other scenic spots around our beautiful state.
Mary H. Teasdel
ca. n.d.
Oil on canvas
30.5 x 24.5 inchesJ. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah
Teasdel, known as Utah's Mary Cassatt, was one of the most interesting and talented Utah artists ever to study in Paris. As Robert Olpin, Utah Art Historian commented, “she was a more flamboyant brush handler than (her instructor) J.T. Harwood. A subtle colorist she would in fact demonstrate an increased love of the “painterly approach“ in many later landscape and still life scenes. Also a portraitist, Teasdel was proficient in oils, watercolor, and pastels. Her artistic eye was often combined with her other skills within interior design and eventually, she became the designer of several residential locations accentuated by her own painted work. Teasdel's inclination toward the decorative arts frequently inspired her choice of attitude toward the pictorial subject matter she treated.
Mary H. Teasdel
Untitled Seascape
ca. n.d.
7 x 10 inchesUtah Museum of Fine Arts
In 1908, Teasdel received the top prize at the Utah State Fair, a first for a woman. She won other local awards during the following years and displayed works at the Springville Museum of Art in Utah and the annual exhibition in Heyburn, Idaho. She had a one-woman exhibition at the Gallery of Alice Horne in Salt Lake City in 1932. Her work hands in the Smithfield Library, Museum of Art, the State Capitol, the University of Utah and the Utah State Institute of Fine Arts.
Mary H. Teasdel, Springville Museum of Art, (retrieved March 16, 2016.
Deseret News, Art Historian Robert S. Olpin Dies,, (retrieved March 17, 2016).
Utah Artists Project: J. Willard Marriott Library, Mary H. Teasdel,, (retrieved March 17, 2016).
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki- Kovinick, University of Texas Press, Austin,1998, p. 298-299. 

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