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1 Painting in Collection

Henrietta Shore


(1880 - 1963) Canada / United States

Works in Public Collections

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada; Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Oakland Museum of Art, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; San Diego Museum of Art, CA; DeSaisset Museum, Santa Clara, CA; University of Washington, Seattle, WA: Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Monterey Museum of Art, CA;

Selected Exhibitions

At The Dawn of a New Age: Early Twentieth Century American Modernism, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, NY, 2022-2023

Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, NY, 2020-2021

California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820–1930, Laguna Art Museum, CA, 2017-2018

Pursuit of Abstraction, Wolfsonian-FIU Museum, Miami Beach, FL, 2016. Traveled to Artis-Naples, The Baker Museum, Naples, FL, 2017

Caribbean included

Women Artists in the Modernist Tradition: The Jeri L. Waxenberg Collection, Boise Art Museum, Idaho, 2002

Caribbean included

Uncovered and Recovered: Women Artists in the Modernist Tradition, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Ketchum, ID, 1999

Caribbean included

Origins of Abstraction in Canada: Modernist Pioneers, Robert McLauglin Gallery, Oshawa, Canada, 1994

Henrietta Shore: A Retrospective 1900-1963, Monterey Peninsula Museum, Monterey, CA 1986. Traveled to Laguna Art Museum.

Selected Publications

California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820–1930, Katherine Manthorne, Editor, University of California Press, 2017

Women Artists in the Modernist Tradition: The Jeri L. Waxenberg Collection, by Kristin Poole, JLW Collection, 2002

Uncovered and Recovered: Women Artists in the Modernist Tradition, Kristin Poole, Curator, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Ketchum, ID, 1999

Henrietta Shore and her Work by Merle Armitage, 1963

Henrietta Shore, by Merle Armitage with an article by Edward Weston, E. Weyhe, NY, Limited edition book

Born 1880 Toronto, Canada
Died 1963 San Jose, CA

To be true to nature one must abstract. Nature does not waste her forms. If you would know the clouds–then study the rocks. Henrietta Shore, 1933

Early in her life Henrietta Shore was recognized as a modern artist whose powerful honest interpretations of nature assured her a place in art history. Painting with simple forms and flat areas of pure color her works helped define the direct and sensual look of American Modernism. Despite critical accolades, the combination of a number of factors resulted in Shore's dying virtually unknown and destitute.

Born in Toronto, Canada, Shore was encouraged in her artistic interests by her mother. She was motivated to paint by a profound connection with nature, first felt and articulated at age 13. I was on my way home from school and saw myself reflected in a puddle. It was the first time I had seen my image completely surrounded by nature, and I suddenly had an overwhelming sense of belonging to it--of actually being part of every tree and flower. I was filled with a desire to tell what I felt through painting.

Shore went to New York to study at the Art Students League with William Merritt Chase and Ro
bert Henri. Among her fellow students was Georgia O'Keeffe. Shore's early training in New York developed traditional skills of picture making as well as a more radical approach to subject matter proposed by Henri who insisted that art should come from the immediate world. Shore's use of color, content choices and her direct emotional appeal reflect Henri's influence. Shore continued her studies at Heatherly's Art School in London. During her twenties, she was in exhibitions in Toronto, Paris, London and Liverpool.

In 1913 Shore moved to California where critics responded favorably to her work, calling her paintings thoroughly modern. She won medals at both the 1914 and the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and exhibited at Los Angeles Museum of History, Science & Art (now LACMA) four times between 1914 and 1927. In an attempt to steer her own path and support other artists who were experimenting stylistically, she helped found the Los Angeles Modern Art Society in 1916. The group only held two exhibitions before disbanding but the second included her mentor Robert Henri as well as his Ashcan school colleagues George Bellows and William Glackens. In 1919 she showed with the California Progressive Group which included Helena Dunlap, William Cahill and Luvena Buchanan. During this period Shore’s paintings were realistic, painterly scenes of daily life, an approach consistent with Henri’s teachings. 

In 1920 Shore returned to New York City where she co-founded the New York Society of Women Artists and was working alongside modernists who were taking a more abstract approach. Her work began to shift and while she was still painting from life, her focus was largely on simple forms found in nature. As she began to exhibit the new work, she received encouragement from critics. Her use of bright color, polished surfaces and simple organic shapes established her stylistic approach and one that was in keeping with other American modernists. Shore’s ability to apply colors in layers illuminated her subjects. Her connection with nature is evident in the directness and sensuality with which she treats botanical forms.

In 1923, Shore and Georgia O'Keeffe exhibited simultaneously in New York. Interestingly, the critical response focused much more enthusiastic attention on Shore, but both were interpreted through the lens of their gender, a reductive approach which bothered Shore as she aspired to demonstrate more serious themes in her work. 

When the artist returned to Los Angeles in 1923 it was with an established reputation in place. In 1928 she was given an exhibition at the Fine Arts Gallery, San Diego (now San Diego Art Museum). The director, Reginald Poland, wrote that Shore was unquestionably one of the most important living painters in this country, as strong as any on this coast for the intellectual, technical, decorative and aesthetic qualities of her latest work. While the demand for Shore’s pictures was strong, she worked slowly and was reluctant to part with paintings. 

In 1927 Shore met the photographer Edward Weston and began a friendship that would profoundly affect both of their lives. Weston, then a young, unknown and struggling photographer, recorded in his Daybooks that he was struck by the intensity and accomplishment of Shore's paintings. Weston found in Shore and her artwork inspiration and dedication. Additionally, the two artists shared a desire to explore the relationship between art and nature. Weston made his first photographs of nautilus shells in Shore's studio where he had been moved by Shore's paintings on the same subject.

More than likely Caribbean was painted in the late 1920s or early 1930s after Shore lived for a season in Mexico with fellow artist Helena Dunlap. There Shore was introduced to lithography and the work of the Mexican muralists who were interested in elevating the life of indigenous peoples. Shore did a number of paintings and lithographs of women in traditional Mexican dress as well as plants of the area. Her portraits of Jose Orozco and Jean Charlot (LACMA) show a flattened, simplified approach to portraiture. Caribbean is similar in its directness. In this painting Shore conveys the strong spirit of this unnamed woman with uncomplicated, rounded forms and flat areas of strong color. Heavy outlines enhance the simplicity of the forms and the vibrancy of Shore's palette. The straightforward clear gaze and sincere expression convey dignity to the sitter. 

From letters between Shore and Weston and entries in Weston's Daybooks we learn that Shore worked methodically. Her output was minimal and there was a constant struggle for money. Her exposure and sales began to suffer from her lack of ability to promote her own work while she often advocated for Weston’s. The occasional portrait commission and teaching jobs supplemented her meager income.

In 1930, Shore followed Weston to Carmel, California. She wanted to live closer to the natural world that had become the subject of her painting and for a time there was a robust arts colony in Carmel. Ultimately though this choice would add to Shore's isolation and her poverty. She was honored with a retrospective at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in 1931 but exhibited rarely after another solo exhibition at the M. H. deYoung Memorial Museum in 1933. In her fifties, Shore received six public commissions from the Treasury Relief Art Project, an elite program of the Works Project Administration (WPA), which provided temporary economic relief. She made four murals for the Santa Cruz Post Office, one for the Old Customs House in Monterey and one for the Monterey Post Office.

After completing the murals there is only the occasional record of her exhibiting. Unable or unwilling to sell the work she was making Shore had no income and became impoverished. Sometime in the late 1950s acquaintances visited Shore and found her home and studio messy and deteriorating. Concerned, they erroneously took it upon themselves to commit Shore to a mental health facility. In 1963 at the age of 83, Henrietta Shore died in a mental institution in San Jose with her art virtually unknown. Posthumously, the Carmel Art Association organized an exhibition of her work in 1963. More recently Henrietta Shore has received growing recognition in part because of a retrospective mounted by the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art in 1986. 

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