Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945

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Independent Spirits brings to vivid life the West as seen through the eyes of women painters from 1890 to the end of World War II. Expert scholars and curators identify long-lost talent and reveal how these women were formidable cultural innovators as well as agitators for the rights of artists and women during a period of extraordinary development.
Abundantly illustrated, with over one-hundred color plates, this book is a rich compendium of Western art by women, including those of Native American, African, Mexican, and Asian descent. The essays examine the many economic, social, and political forces that shaped this art over years of pivotal change. The West's dynamic growth altered the role of women, often allowing new avenues of opportunity within the prevailing Anglo culture. At the same time, boundaries of femininity were pushed earlier and further than in other parts of the country.
Women artists in the West painted a wide range of subjects, and their work embraced a variety of styles: Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism, Surrealism. Some women championed modern art as gallery owners, collectors, and critics, while others were educators and curators. All played an important role in gaining the acceptance of women as men's peers in artistic communities, and their independent spirit resonates in studios and galleries throughout the country today.

A rich compendium of Western art by women, this book also contains essays which examine the many economic, social, and political forces that have shaped the art over years of pivotal change. The women profiled played an important role in gaining the acceptance of women as men's peers in artistic communities. Their independent spirit resonates in studios and galleries throughout the country today. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This highly readable and engagingly illustrated exhibition catalog fulfills a dual purposeto retrieve lost talent from among the largely unknown and strikingly diverse group of Western women painters and to probe their emergence as professionals in the previously male-dominated U.S. art world. Ten essays by female curators and academicians examine the social, economic, intellectual, and political forces affecting this period of profound change. One-third of the book focuses on California, with additional individual essays on the Northwest, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. The inclusion of Native, Mexican, African, and Asian American painters adds balance and breadth. As the first comprehensive scholarly survey to single out Western women artists, the work makes an important contribution to studies of the West, U.S. cultural history, and women's history.Russell T. Clement, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
Published to complement an exhibition organized by the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles. An introductory essay precedes nine essays that do more than simply retrieve lost talent. Cognizant of theory without being overburdened with it, the essays explore the mechanisms of privilege and exclusion and the interplay of economic, social, and political forces in shaping women artists of various regions of the West. One hundred and forty paintings, with b&w photos of the artists, are interspersed with the text, in an arrangement based on geographic region. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520202030
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/27/1995
  • Edition description: First Edition, (In association with Autry Museum of Western Heritage)
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,395,395
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Trenton is a consultant/curator at the Los Angeles Athletic Club Art Collection. She is the coauthor of The Rocky Mountains: A Vision for Artists in the Nineteenth Century (1983), Native Americans: Five Centuries of Changing Images (1989), and California Light: 1900-1930 (1990).

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Table of Contents

Virginia Scharff, Introduction: Women Envision the West, 1890-1945
Susan Landauer, Searching for Selfhood: Women Artists of Northern California Patricia Trenton, "Islands on the Land": Women Traditionalists of Southern California Ilene Susan Fort, The Adventuresome, The Eccentrics, and The Dreamers: Women Modernists of Southern California Vicki Halper, Northwestern Exposure Sarah Moore, No Woman's Land: Arizona Adventurers Sandra D'Emilio and Sharyn R. Udall, Inner Voices, Outward Forms: Women Painters in New Mexico Susan Landauer with Becky Duval Reese, Lone Star Spirits Erika Doss, "I Must Paint": Women Artists of the Rocky Mountain Region Joni L. Kinsey, Cultivating the Grasslands: Women Painters in the Great Plains

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