Looking West

By Colpitt, Frances | Art Journal, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Looking West


Colpitt, Frances, Art Journal


Patricia Trenton, ed. Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. 317pp.; 143 color ills., 134 b/w. $60.00 cloth, $29.95 paper

Paul J. Karlstrom, ed. On the Edge of America: California Modernist Art, 1900-1950. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. 308pp.; 10 color ills., 106 b/w. $45.00

Two recently published anthologies attempt to revise the history of the first half of twentieth-century art in the western United States. Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-945 accompanied a 1995 exhibition organized by the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles, but it bears little resemblance to the typical exhibition catalogue, nor does it feature artists representative of the modernist canon. Compiled by Patricia Trenton, the book includes an introduction and nine essays by scholars who chronicle women's contributions in various regions, from the Great Plains to the West Coast, with two essays on southern California. The book is devoted to what Trenton calls "Western painting," an appropriate subject for the [Gene] Autry Museum. In the introduction, Virginia Scharff's acknowledgment that women artists in this part of the country were overshadowed by George Cabin, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington, and Charles Russell indicates the genre of art to be covered, these days a genre that is scarcely ever treated in modernist histories. While the time frame spans the traditional dates of modernist innovations, other than Wassily Kandinsky, whose theories influenced a few experimental painters, the avant-garde is missing in action here. Instead of Pablo Picasso or Stuart Davis, Robert Henri and William Merritt Chase (with whom many of the women studied) are palpably present, as are the ghosts of Thomas Hart Benton, Charles Sheeler, and Reginald Marsh.

Although the essays are distinctly focused, the authors share several points. The women they write about are economically comfortable, schooled in art, and primarily Anglo, with the exception of a few Asian Americans and Native Americans, such as Mine Okuba and Tonita Pena. Many taught art or worked on federal art projects during the Depression. The authors emphasize the fact that women artists were frequently responsible for founding or staffing cultural institutions and often participated in art clubs or societies. Club members tended to be more conservative than women modernists, who cherished their individualism. One of the most significant and unresolved issues raised by the book as a whole is the relationship of feminism to modernism, which author Susan Landauer equates with masculine power and Ilene Fort identifies with free thinking and liberation. It is easy to see why the subjects of the book, mostly genre or landscape painters rather than modernists, are caught in a theoretical bind.

In the authors' words, some of the artists take on mythic dimensions. Eugenie Lavendar met her husband at the Louvre and later immigrated to the United States, where "the family crossed swollen rivers with their animals and wagons, dodged Indians, fought a prairie fire, and killed rattlesnakes and panthers" on the way to Texas (Susan Landauer and Becky Duvall Reese, 185). Equally adventuresome was Idahoan Minerva Teichert, who studied at the Art Students League in New York and "supported herself by performing as a trick rider and Indian dancer in a Wild West troupe" (Erika Doss, 238). The book's method is primarily biographical, except for Fort's essay, and the reader is informed of each artist's education, marriage, memberships, and exhibitions. However, as author Vicki Halper points out, an interesting life does not necessarily result in interesting art. What is the point, then, of including so many mediocre conservative artists? I suspect that Trenton, who contributed the chapter on "Women Traditionalists of Southern California," has a real affinity for "Western painting. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Looking West
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.