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by Artist, Victoria Chick
It has been often stated, especially after the beginning of the feminist movement, that women artists have been largely ignored. By perusing art history books prior to the early 1980’s it can be seen that art historians did omit female artists. In their defense, the history of art revolves around, not just good artists, but artists that changed the directions art took in interpreting the sociological, technological, religious, philosophical, or political times in which they lived. Most male artists were never mentioned either.
If asked to name two famous American women artists of the 20th century, many people would answer,” Georgia O’Keeffe and Grandma Moses”. Certainly, each of them expressed a unique view in their art and have been extensively written about and included in recent art history textbooks. The trained artist O’Keefe blended European abstraction with American Realism while the untrained Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson) combined primitive perspective with a naïve view of life.
In my collecting of original American prints from the 19th and 20th centuries, I have come across many done by women artists. Surprisingly, on researching the biographies of those artists whose works I have purchased, I have found records of the respect they were accorded by their peers, recognition by established museums during their lifetimes, and their work being sought after by commercial sales galleries. These discoveries altered my view that women artists were ignored, though you won’t find a lot of them mentioned in Art History texts. I would like to tell you about two such artists that were contemporaries of Georgia O’Keeffe and Anna Mary Robertson.
To keep things in a time perspective I will list the birth and death dates of the artists:
You can see, they were all born in the second half of the 19th century and lived
at least into the mid 20th century -
Alice Standish Buell
According to information from the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Alice Standish Buell was an active printmaker from the 1920’s into the late 1950’s.
She was born in 1892 in Oak Park, Illinois and received her early art education attending Oberlin College in Ohio although she is not listed in the online roster of Oberlin alumnae. She also studied at the Art Students’ League in New York and, privately, from Martin Lewis, a prolific Australian born printmaker who worked in New York.
Buell alternated between her studios in Woodstock, Vermont and Sanibel, Florida. Her rural subject matter was often taken from those places. As a six –year member of the board of directors of the Art Students League and as secretary of the Pen and Brush in the late 1950’s one could surmise she also spent considerable time in New York.
Her etchings were exhibited at the Art institute of Chicago and at the Chicago Century of Progress expositions in both 1933 and 1934.
The New York World’s Fair in 1939 was also a venue for her work. Her achievement in etching was especially recognized by the Philadelphia Printmakers Club in 1939 and, in 1947, she won first prize for graphic art from the National Association of Women Artists.
Her etchings are in the collection of the Library of Congress, the Art Students’ League, and the National Museum for Women in the Arts.
Margaret Jordan Patterson
This artist has one of the most unusual backgrounds of any artist I have come across.
She was born on the island of Java during one of the journeys her parents took, her father being a sea captain. If you can imagine what it was like being a child living on a 19th century sailing ship, you have some inkling of her life. She spent her early years traveling around the world and, as an adult, retained her penchant for travel. Her work as a teacher at Dana Hall prep school in Massachusetts left her summers free and, except for the war years, she spent each summer doing art in Europe. Initially, she went to northern Europe but, by 1909, she had discovered Spain with its brighter light. Her color palette changed tone. After WW I, she most frequently went to Italy where she interpreted the mountains and architecture in a modernist style with loose brushwork. During this time she also did her earliest black and white woodblock prints.
Margaret J. Patterson is internationally known for her woodblock prints, both in black and white and in color, examples of which are owned by the Smithsonian, Metropolitan Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Cleveland Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Art, South Kensington Museum in London, and many others. Her earliest one person show in Europe was in Paris in 1913. James Bakker Gallery in Cambridge, Mass. gave her two retrospective shows in the 1980’s. A retrospective exhibition of 50 of her paintings and prints, “Margaret J. Patterson: Master of Color and Light”, was mounted in 2006 at the Calhoun Museum of American Art in Cape Cod.
Patterson’s peers recognized her talent as an oil painter, but she became more renowned for her pioneer color woodcut printing in the United States. One source said most of her woodblock prints had been destroyed and were now very rare but did not give any details nor could I find collaborating information from other sources.
Artist Victoria Chick was interviewed on Big Blend Radio to talk about women artists. To listen to her interview, please click here.