Women Artists in Arkansas showcases the contribution of women who have created art in Arkansas during the past one hundred years. This exhibit celebrates the myriad ways in which the spirit and contributions of women artists working in Arkansas have added to the richness and diversity of the American art scene. The four primary artists represented in the museum’s permanent collection are: Jenny Delony, Maud Holt, Elsie Freund and Josephine Graham. The exhibit is organized along medium and subject matter--with modern portraits alongside 19th-century portraits, and modern drawings alongside 19th-century drawings, and so on--making for an interesting study of contrasts and similarities over the years.
Jenny Eakin Delony (1866-1949) was born in Washington, Arkansas. She was one of the first artists from Arkansas to rise to national and international prominence as a painter. She exhibited at the National Academy of Art and was accepted as a member in 1903, when few women were members. Delony was also one of the first American artists to get training in oil painting during the 1880s, a study she initiated under William Merritt Chase in New York from 1881-1882. She attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1896, the first year women were admitted for instruction. Delony established the first art degree program at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and served as its first director of art from 1897-1900. In 1904, she was chosen by the U.S. Suffrage Council to represent American women as an exhibitor at the International Council of Women in Berlin. Her work on display consists mostly of portraits.
Maud Holt (1866-1952) was born in Carbondale, Illinois, and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1886 when she married Winfield Scott Holt. She was an avid traveler and in her sojourns sketched and painted to express her deep appreciation of nature. In 1892, while in Paris, one of her still life paintings was accepted for exhibit in the Salon, at the Palais de l’Industrie. Her books include: Studio Talk (1939), A Travelogue through the Years (1940), a compilation of her travels, and Devotion (1948), a collection of short stories. Her landscapes are on display in this exhibit.
Elsie Bates Freund (1912-2001), jewelry-maker, watercolorist, craftsperson and educator, was born in Mincy, Missouri. She attended the Kansas City Art Institute from 1930 to 1932. During the 1930s she owned a gift shop in Branson, Missouri, and worked as an artist and craftsperson. In 1936, she met Louis Freund whom she married in 1939 in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The two moved to Conway and taught at Hendrix College before moving to Colorado where Elsie studied design and lithography at the Colorado School of Fine Arts. From 1949 to 1967 Freund taught a variety of design classes as a faculty member of Stetson University in Deland, Florida. In the 1940s the Freunds purchased Hatchet Hall, the last home of Carry Nation, in Eureka Springs, which served as the site of the Summer School of the Ozarks from 1940 to 1951. When the Freunds retired to Eureka Springs in 1967, Elsie continued to work as an artist while remaining active in the art community and worked along with Louis to preserve the historic character of Eureka Springs and to promote Arkansas art and artists. In 1995, the Freunds moved to Little Rock.
Josephine Graham (1915-1999), originally from Newport, Arkansas, was an artists as well as a folklorist and historian of Northeast Arkansas culture. The people and stories of this region inspired her work and often showed up as subject matter in her paintings of rural Arkansas life. Graham did not pick up painting until later in life, when she studied under Max Beckmann at the University of Colorado. In 1961 she earned her Masters of Fine Arts and had her first solo show at the Explorer Gallery in New York where she exhibited a series of dramatic architectural studies, the theme of much of her early work. Graham also taught drawing and painting in the art departments at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock and the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
On display are works by these artists and works by several other women from the 19th century up to today--all from the museum's permanent collection.