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An Enduring Legacy:
Women Painters of Washington

Whatcom Museum
Bellingham WA thru Sep 11, 2005

Barbara Pitts - To Spite Her Face
Barbara Pitts, To Spite Her Face (2000), watercolour and collage [Whatcom Museum, Bellingham WA, to Sept 11]

Including many pieces not shown publicly since the 1930s and 40s, An Enduring Legacy: Women Painters of Washington, 1930-2005 focuses on the goals and accomplishments of an organization known as the Woman Painters of Washington (WPW). The WPW was founded in 1930 to facilitate the advancement and general awareness of art in northern Washington. The group is celebrating its 75th year. This exhibition, which includes a large colour catalogue with an essay by curator David Martin, highlights how early WPW members influenced artistic standards still maintained today.

Early members of the group included Dorothy Dolph Jensen, one of the only artists to own an etching press in Seattle during the 1920s; Myra Albert Wiggin, a recognized photographer and associate member of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession group and Lily Norling Hardwick who created an extensive body of portrait studies of Northwest Native Americans. Painting from life, Hardwick lived and worked at various reservations for nearly 20 years. Her collection serves as a significant record of Northwest Native culture.

The depression era severely reduced the WPW’s financial ability to continue annual shows. Artists increasingly leaned toward murals and federally funded projects. The WPW members became active again during the 1940s, and in 1945 held a large auction of paintings to raise money for war bonds. Although the post -WWII social climate contributed to more abstract painting methods (as seen in the work of Mark Tobey and the Northwest School), the WPW group remained largely unaffected by changing styles. The majority of WPW members, such as Yvonne Twining Humber and Vanessa Helder, continued to favour realism and precisionist techniques.


Mia Johnson

 Tue, May 31, 2005