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

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"The history of women's participation in the westward expansion has often been subsumed into myths of pioneers and cowgirls. Independent Spirits offers convincing evidence of real women's contributions to the cultural life of the American West. Many of the names may be unfamiliar, but the stories can't help but transform our idea of history. An accessible and informative volume."—Whitney Chadwick, Professor of Art History, San Francisco State University

"Independent Spirits offers the first step in documenting the achievements and innovations of women in the pictorial arts. The history of Western American painting can never again be examined without the consideration of women in that development."—William Gerdts, Professor of Art History, The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York

"This book makes available the material we need to begin rethinking the West's cultural history. The art history of the region—like the general histories of the West itself—has long concentrated on the work of men. With tightly focused regional essays, fresh photographic illustrations, and reproductions of many little-known works of art, this book establishes women as central figures in the creation of American art."—Martha Sandweiss, Director of the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College

"At last there is for art of the American West a serious diversion from the enduring continuum of male-oriented surveys. In this handsome volume, for the first time, women's art is copiously revealed and duly celebrated. Their persistent and remarkable creative forces have played a powerful part in interpreting Western life and evolving regional tastes. Here we finally see women's rightful place in the Western creative saga."—Peter Hassrick, Director, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Wyoming

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: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 756,901
  • 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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