Early Women Artists of Colorado
Julia Vernon Criswell
Gladys Caldwell Fisher
Mary Chilton Gray
Elsie Haddon Haynes
Elsie Ward Hering
Ann E. Jones
Nellie Augusta Knopf
Ann Gregory Van Briggle
Myra Laura Thomas
Gwendolyn Meux Waldrop
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, social norms dictated a number of paths that women were expected to follow. Although some roles in art and education were considered acceptable occupations for educated women of the time (elementary art teacher, anonymous illustrator, or hobbyist, for example), female artists were expected to stay within relatively narrow confines. But life in the American West was changing (Colorado was among the first states to grant women the vote in 1893), and the state’s early women artists helped create some changes of their own.
They continued their struggle for greater opportunity, expanding their art careers into unexpected roles and seeking to determine their own careers. Tenacious, resilient, and persistent in the face of convention, many were avid travelers, often traveling solo. After training in Colorado and in major art hubs such as New York and Paris, they became career artists, mothers, educators, institutional founders, wives, commercial artists, and trailblazers.
This dynamic group of little-known artists, some whose work has not been displayed in decades, is brought to light in part by a group of advanced students at the University of Denver School of Art & Art History. Thirty-two students contributed foundational research to this exhibition. Guided by professor of art history Annette Stott, students conducted detailed research, often finding surprising information overlooked and erased in the writing of Colorado art history. Vicki Myhren Gallery director Dan Jacobs continued the process, leading students through the planning and presentation of the exhibition.
Throughout the two-year research project, the team had access to a large group of objects on loan from Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, part of a long-term research partnership. Generous loans from that leading Colorado museum are supplemented by numerous additional loans by private collectors and institutions.
The Vicki Myhren Gallery is pleased to present the rediscovery and interpretation of eighteen imaginative, determined early women artists of Colorado.