March 12, 2018

10 Women Who Influenced Historic Artists' Homes

Women artists have historically been trailblazers in their chosen forms, prospering from their considerable talent and perseverance during a time when it was difficult for women to sustain themselves financially at all. Other women, many of whom where underappreciated artists in their own right, have worked tirelessly to preserve the works and homes of those they loved most. See below for a list of 10 women who greatly impacted Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios (HAHS), and who are receiving much-needed recognition for their many contributions to the world of art.

Carlie Wilmans in the David Ireland House.

photo by: The 500 Capp Street Foundation, Winni Wintermyer

Carlie Wilmans inside 500 Capp Street.

Carlie Wilmans | The David Ireland House (500 Capp Street)

San Francisco art collector and patron Carlie Wilmans was immediately taken with artist David Ireland’s 500 Capp Street home. With just 48 hours before the house—arguably Ireland’s greatest piece of work—was to appear on the real estate market, Wilmans stepped in to secure its legacy. After purchasing the home, Wilmans engaged Bay Area arts leaders in a series of conversations about stewardship and programming opportunities that resulted in the creation of The 500 Capp Street Foundation. Thanks to Wilmans’ passion and patronage for the arts, the David Ireland House opened its doors to visitors starting in January 2016.

Alice Austen, "Queer Emigrant and Pretzel Vendor." 1896.

photo by: Alice Austen House

Alice Austen, "Queer Emigrant and Pretzel Vendor." 1896.

Alice Austen | Alice Austen House

Photographer Alice Austen was a trailblazer who pushed the boundaries of gender roles and social rules during the Victorian era. Born in 1866, Austen was given her first camera at age 10. Soon after, she began to document the world around her with a critical eye and sense of humor. Austen’s only published work during her lifetime, Street Types of New York, documents the diverse lives of recent immigrants to the Lower East Side in New York City. Austen would roam the streets with a bicycle and 50 pounds of equipment on her back, turning her lens on everyday scenes with warmth and curiosity.

Nancy Russell in Charlie's studio, 1908.

photo by: C.M. Russell Museum

Nancy Russell in C.M. Russell's studio, 1908.

Nancy Russell | C.M. Russell Museum

During the late 1800s, Nancy Cooper was helping out a family in Cascade, Montana, when she met her future husband, Charles M. Russell. The pair married in 1896, and Russell began to act as her husband’s marketer and business manager. She transformed Russell—known also as “The Cowboy Artist”—into a fine artist, showing his work at galleries from St. Louis to New York City. Russell also increased her husband’s prices, culminating in his 1926 double-paneled mural, which sold for $30,000. In 2018, the C.M. Russell Museum will launch Charles M. Russell: The Women in His Life and Art, which will feature over 65 paintings and stories about the women who helped shape Russell’s character and career.

Helen Torr, "Oyster Stakes." 1929.

photo by: Heckscher Museum of Art, Mrs. Mary Rehm

Helen Torr, "Oyster Stakes." 1929.

Helen Torr | Arthur Dove/Helen Torr Cottage

Known as “Reds” for her auburn hair, Helen Torr was one of the artists most closely associated with the town of Huntington, New York (the other was her husband, Arthur Dove). Torr’s subjects are abstracted from nature, and her modernist work is characterized by its strong rhythmic, lyrical, and decorative qualities. Torr was discouraged by her husband’s gallerist from showing her work, and rarely exhibited during her lifetime. After Torr’s death, then Heckscher Museum Director Eva Gatling launched an exhibit that has rightfully restored Torr’s place among America’s early modernists.

Elisabet Ney in her studio, 1895.

photo by: Elisabet Ney Museum

Elisabet Ney in her studio, 1895.

Corinne Melchers, "The Model." 1930.

photo by: Gari Melchers Home and Studio

Corinne Melchers, "The Model." 1930.

Elisabet Ney | Elisabet Ney Museum

Born in Westphalia in 1833, Elisabet Ney applied for admission in the Munich Art Academy against her parents’ wishes. She became the first woman formally accepted in the academy and eventually received a scholarship to work in Berlin under a master sculptor. Ney and her husband, Edmund Montgomery, escaped to the United States after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Once there, Ney used money won from a commission at the Chicago World’s Fair to purchase her home and studio in Austin, Texas. Though she returned to Europe to supervise the cutting of marbles, she cut her last major piece in Austin. Many of her works can be found throughout Texas today.

Corinne Melchers | Gari Melchers Home and Studio

Had it not been for Corinne Melchers’ efforts, her husband Gari Melchers' art would have been forgotten by future generations. After abandoning her own art career to marry her husband, Melchers became the facilitator of his career by providing criticism, prepping and squaring canvases, sewing costumes, and attending to the needs of models. The surviving examples of Melchers’ own work are of such high caliber, she would likely have had a successful career of her own, had she chosen to pursue one. Following her husband’s death, Melchers worked tirelessly to reintroduce his paintings to a new audience. Melchers left their property as an endowment to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which included an extensive collection of his works, fully furnished studio, and an archive.

Florence and others in a canoe.

photo by: Florence Griwold Museum

"Miss Florence" Griswold and others in a canoe.

"Miss Florence" Griswold | Florence Griswold Museum

Thanks in large part to “Miss Florence” Griswold, what is known today as the Florence Griswold Museum has been the home of the Lyme Art Colony, America’s center of Impressionism, for over a century. In 1899, artist Henry Ward Ranger in Old Lyme, Connecticut, found Griswold's home to be an ideal setting for establishing a new American school of landscape painting. Other artists followed suit, and the Lyme Art Colony was born. Griswold was the very soul of the colony. She packed and shipped paintings and other belongings that her boys, as she called them, left behind. She divided her attic into bedrooms, converted outbuildings into studios, and organized entertainment for the artists. Her unfailing optimism also endeared “Miss Florence” to the artists, and she quickly became their friend and confidant.

Grace Carpenter Hudson | Grace Hudson Museum

Painter Grace Carpenter Hudson was descended from a trailblazing mother and grandmother who fought for abolition and women’s rights in the mid-19th century. During Hudson’s 45-year-long career, she achieved national acclaim for her work. She focused her subject matter on the Pomo Indian peoples of Northern California, and together with her husband, ethnographer John Hudson, set out to record all they could about them. In 1911, the Hudsons built a Craftsman bungalow that they named the “Sun House,” after the Hopi sun katsina, symbolizing growth and abundance. Today, the house—which is tailored to their respective occupations as painter and ethnographer—is open to visitors.

Lee Krasner | Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center

After moving to the rural hamlet of Springs, East Hampton, 20th-century artist Lee Krasner blossomed. Her home, the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in East Hampton, New York, contains Krasner’s original furnishings and personal possessions, as well as several examples of her artwork. Her spontaneous, intuitive painting technique is also documented on the walls of her barn studio, where she worked for over two decades. Her painting often spilled over the edges of her canvas and onto the walls, leaving vivid traces of many of her major works behind.

Grace Hudson, "Yokia Treasures (Painting #20)."

photo by: Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House

Grace Hudson, "Yokia Treasures (Painting #20)."

Lee Krasner painting "Portrait in Green," 1969.

photo by: Pollock-Krasner House

Lee Krasner painting "Portrait in Green," 1969.

Dorothy Weir Young | Weir Farm National Historic Site

Dorothy Weir Young, daughter of artist J. Alden Weir, kept sketchbooks filled with drawings and often worked beside her father. She studied at the National Academy of Design and the Arts Students League under Louise Howland Cox, one of the few women teaching art in the late 19th century. Weir’s work has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum and other galleries throughout her lifetime. Weir and her husband spent much of their time on the Weir Farm, where she produced numerous pieces of art and meticulously researched and documented her father’s life. Her work culminated in his biography, The Life and Letters of J. Alden Weir.

Dorothy Weir with Young Hank on Weir Farm.

photo by: Weir Farm National Historic Site

Dorothy Weir with Young Hank on Weir Farm.

Carson Bear is an Editorial Coordinator at the National Trust. She’s passionate about combining popular culture with historic places, and loves her 200-year-old childhood farmhouse in Pennsylvania.

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