Friday, August 3, 2012

Bessie Potter Vonnoh

Collaboration by Lauren Mills, Chris Saper, and Sarah Bishop
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 53, 4th Quarter 2011

In Arcadia
bronze on marble base
12 7/8 x 28 3/4 x 6 5/8"
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Known as “the grand dame of American sculptors,” Bessie Potter Vonnoh is credited with pioneering the genre of small, elegant bronze sculpture depicting women and children in everyday domestic life. Potter’s artistic direction was a significant departure from the world of sculpture at the time …a world dominated by male sculptors who created large scale public works often described as avant- garde.

Her work was not without its critics, and was at times marginalized by both her gender and choice of subject matter:  

“The work of Bessie Potter…is of the first order of merit, and yet of such a nature as to be in place only in the home. It is too delicate to relate to the private phases and emotions of the home life to appear beautiful anywhere outside the home.”
--Theodore Dreiser, "Frank Edwin Elwell, Sculptor,"
New York Times,
4 December 1898

Clara Westhoff: Art and Community

By Pat Aubé Gray
Edited by Lauren Harris
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 41, 3rd Quarter 2008

Bust of Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1922
by Clara Westhoff
Clara Henriette Sophie Westhoff Rilke was born September 21, 1878 in Bremen, Germany.  At seventeen, Clara Westhoff began her artistic education at the private Munich Damenakademie, one of three art schools in Germany at the time for women artists.  Until the early twentieth century, women were officially barred from traditional government fine art academies in Germany, an obstacle that Clara and her contemporaries circumvented by seeking instruction in other artists’ studios and abroad.

At the conclusion of her formal education at the Damenakademie in 1898, Clara moved to Worpswede, a small town north of Bremen and the recently founded artist colony there that took its name.  While seeking instruction in the studios of other Worpswede artists, Clara was encouraged by Fritz Mackenson, the award-winning German Lyrical painter, to expand her artistic study to include sculpture, a medium which quickly became her primary form of artistic expression. 

Lavinia Fontana Zappi

By Angelo Fernandez
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 40, 2nd Quarter 2008

Judith and Holofernes
oil on canvas, 175.9 x 134.1 cm
Born in the major art center of Bologna, Italy to leading painter, Prospero Fontana, Lavinia enjoyed her professional training at home. In her artistic development, she was influenced by her role model, Sofonisba Anguissola, the first internationally recognized Italian female portrait painter. Lavinia’s own portrait style combined elegance and elongation of the human figure, typical of the Mannerist style. She was admired for the beauty of color and the precise description of clothing, texture, and jewelry worn by her subjects.

Women painters of the era were generally limited to portraiture. Lavinia enjoyed a well established reputation for portraits of many women sitters but also of local, aristocratic men. She became the portraitist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen and important individuals connected with the University of Bologna. By the 1570’s, public commissions for large paintings of religious and mythological subjects, which included female nudes, resulted in her unique reputation.

Dawn Whitelaw

By Terry Howell Stanley
The Art of the Portrait Journal
 Issue No. 37, 3rd Quarter 2007

A common thread between the most successful women artists, past and present, is they consider their success neither a result nor an accomplishment in spite of their gender. Dawn Whitelaw echoes that sentiment, saying “I feel that my career is shaped by my personality, by my likes and dislikes, my strengths and weaknesses.  My gender has influenced who I am and the choices I’ve made, but I honestly don’t feel like it has generally hindered or helped…my career.”
Private collection, oil

Dawn studied art in college at David Lipscomb University, but her first years in the workforce focused on graphic arts…until she saw the painting Man With A Cat by Cecilia Beaux. Her love affair with painting began in that moment. 

Patricia Watwood: Contemporary Classicist

By Pat Aube Gray
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 38, 4th Quarter 2007

Cecelia Payne Gaposchkin
oil on canvas, 47" x 38"
University Hall, Harvard University
Sewing machine whirring as she finishes a Halloween costume princess cape, successful artist Patricia Watwood, mother of two, expresses, “Having young children is a blessing.  You can’t postpone it until your career is established.” 

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Watwood was enrolled in art classes throughout her childhood.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Trinity University in Texas, with a major in Theatre (Scenic Design), and a minor in Art and Art History.  Watwood moved to Seattle, Washington where Tony Ryder introduced her to traditional figure drawing and painting at The Academy of Realist Art.  She knew then this would be her life’s work.  

Mary Beth McKenzie

By Terry Howell Stanley
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 47, 1st Quarter 2010

oil on canvas, 64" x 48"
Mary Beth McKenzie is not an artist who claims to have found overnight success immediately after first putting paint to canvas. Her path was deliberate and focused, encompassing study with several of today’s acknowledged Masters, as well as the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Cooper School in Cleveland, the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. McKenzie struggled to find her artistic voice for nearly five years, during two of which, she discarded more of her art than she kept.  Persevering as student, artist and instructor, she has emerged as a celebrated member of today's fine art community.

Mary Beth McKenzie cites Robert Phillipp as one of her most influential instructors and mentors. 
Painting as his student at the National Academy of Design and modeling for him in his studio, McKenzie explains the education she received by watching Phillipp develop paintings was invaluable. “…his remarkable enthusiasm and excitement for life as well as for painting was contagious. I never left his studio without feeling a renewed motivation and inspiration. He really enjoyed the act of painting, and through his bold handling of paint I became aware of a more sensuous side to painting, a lushness of paint surface and a beauty of color. I loved his loose, seemingly effortless way of working.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bettina Steinke On Her Own Terms

By Terry Howell Stanley
Edited by Luana Luconi Winner
The Art of the Portrait Journal
Issue No. 34, 4th Quarter 2006

Bettina at the easel, 1940
The Oklahoma Journal Record dubbed Bettina Steinke the “acknowledged Grande Dame of portrait painting” on the occasion of her retrospective exhibition (at the Cowboy Hall of Fame) in 1995. What else would you call an artist whose first commissioned assignment resulted in two paintings that are now part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection? In talking to Bettina’s peers and protégés, tags of “mentor”, “critic" and “teacher” were often heard, but the common thread in all of the conversations was an almost overwhelming sense of love and admiration. It quickly became evident that any profile of Bettina needed to address the person as well as the artwork in order to do her justice.

            Bettina Steinke had the DNA of an artist: Her father, William (“Jolly Bill”) Steinke, was an editorial caricaturist (and later a popular children’s radio show host) who nurtured her talent and encouraged her to pursue her dreams.  She attended Fawcett Art Institute in New Jersey, Cooper Union and the Phoenix Art Institute (both in New York City) over the course of six years.