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1 Works on Paper in Collection

Margaret Patterson


Works in Select Public Collections

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Oakland Art Museum, CA; Worchester Art Museum, MA; Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; Smith College, Northampton, MA; Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN: Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA

Selected Recent Exhibitions

Color Woodcuts in the Arts and Crafts Era, Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN, 2019

Floating World: The Influence of Japanese Printmaking, Sun Valley Museum of Art, Ketchum, ID, 2013

 Coast Cedars Included

Women Artists in the Modernist Tradition, Boise Art Museum, ID, 2002

 Coast Cedars Included

A Studio of her Own—Women Artists in Boston 1870-1940, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, 2001

Uncovered and Recovered: Women Artists in the Modernist Tradition, Sun Valley Museum of Art, Ketchum, ID, 1999

 Coast Cedars Included

A Spectrum of Innovation: Color in American Printmaking 1890-1960, Worchester Art Museum, MA. Traveled to Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, TX and Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO,  1990-1991

Selected Publications

Floating World: The Influence of Japanese Printmaking, exhibition catalog with text by Curator of Visual Arts, Courtney Gilbert, Sun Valley Museum of Art, Ketchum, ID, 2013

A Spectrum of Innovation: Color in American Printmaking 1890-1960 by David Acton, W.W. Norton and Co, New York, 1990

Born 1867 Surabaya, Java, Indonesia
Died 1950 Boston, Massachusetts

Margaret Jordan Patterson is a celebrated American watercolorist and wood block printmaker whose colorful work focused on coastal, garden and harbor scenes and later on flower still lifes.

Patterson was the daughter and granddaughter of Maine sea captains and was born in a harbor hospital near Surabaya, Java. As a young girl she accompanied her parents on ships around the world which cultivated a lifelong appetite for travel. She attended high school in Boston, a city which remained her home base. For much of her life, Patterson supported herself teaching, first working in Boston public schools and then serving for thirty five years as the director of the art department at a girl’s school in Wellesley, Massachusetts (1915-1940).

Patterson’s formal art education began in 1895 when she enrolled at Pratt Institute in New York. There she developed a close relationship with Arthur Wesley Dow who championed both wood cut prints as well as the aesthetics of Japanese printmakers. Dow and painter Charles Woodbury both served as teachers and advisors for Patterson. Dow impressing on her an appreciation for Japanese tendencies toward flat areas of color, asymmetry and unusual perspectives and Woodbury reinforcing her instincts to look to nature for inspiration not replication.

Patterson early artistic output was as a watercolor painter. Her desire to understand new approaches eventually took her to Europe, which she first visited in 1899. From 1900 through 1929 she used her summers away from teaching for extended European stays, making and looking at art in Italy, Holland, Belgium and France. Her early watercolor subjects were the New England coast and European landscapes. She exhibited her paintings at Copley Society in Boston beginning in 1910 and with the Boston Watercolor Club and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art.

Ironically, it was in Paris that she learned to make color woodcuts from American artist Ethel Mars. Patterson’s first prints, created in 1910-11, were picturesque views of Europe. Initially she used the color woodcuts as foundational studies for her paintings. Eventually the tables turned and her watercolors served as preliminary sketches for her color block prints. Patterson’s approach was precise. She made exacting studies in which color and composition were worked out before transferring the image to woodblock.

Patterson’s skill in manipulating the inking and printing of the woodblock are evident in the effects of atmosphere and light attained in Coast Cedars in the Wolfson Collection. In making the sky lighter at the horizon line and the water deep blue, she creates spatial depth. Like Frances Gearhart, whose color block print work is also in the Wolfson Collection, Patterson frequently printed with a lavender blue key block instead of the more traditional black. The muted tones soften the outlines between colors, achieving a more harmonious composition. Her use of contrasting colors, low vantage points and dynamic compositions align her with a handful of other American printmakers who looked to Japanese Ukiyo-e prints for inspiration. Here her use of filtered color gives the viewer the very real sensation of warm sun on a beach. The coastal subject matter is one that Patterson returned to frequently throughout her lifetime.

The first exhibition of Patterson’s block prints was in 1913 at Galerie Levesque in Paris, followed shortly thereafter with a show at Galerie Barbazanges. Around 1914 she had a one person exhibition in New York at Louis Katz Gallery. Later in her life she exhibited in Boston as well as New York. Among her awards was an honorable mention at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.

Once WWI prohibited travel to Europe, Patterson frequented Cape Cod to paint the coast. After the war she began annual trips to Italy (1922-1929) working in watercolor, gouache and woodblock. By the 1930s floral still lifes began to supplant landscapes as Patterson’s main subject. In the still lifes, an atypical subject for woodblock prints, Patterson used a diversity of flowers to explore further the relationship between color and form. While the pieces were not abstract, they relied less on subject matter and stressed the formal elements of composition. She shared these later works at the Exhibition of Lithographs and Woodcuts in Chicago, the American Color Prints exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum (1933) and the Philadelphia Watercolor Club where her work was awarded a medal in 1939.

While Patterson exhibited frequently during her lifetime, her name and work slipped into obscurity during the later half of the century. Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in American color wood block artists, particularly those aligned with the Japanese tradition.

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