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 Beatrice (Beato) Wood  (1893 - 1998)

About: Beatrice (Beato) Wood


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Lived/Active: California      Known for: ceramic vessels, collage

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BIOGRAPHY for Beatrice Wood
1893 (San Francisco, California)
1998 (Ojai, California)


Photo submitted by Lena Ringstad

Often Known For
ceramic vessels, collage

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Living 105 years, Beatrice Wood was a noted ceramist and also a sparkling personality in the New York art world in the early 20th century. She was friends with early Dadaists Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Isadora Duncan, Francis Picabia, and, because of these associations, was dubbed the "Mama of Dada". Man Ray spoke of her "demurely raunchy wit and famed naughtiness, your bohemianism . . . and extraordinary sense of personal style. . . and her lustrous, opulent ceramic vessels" ("Art in America" 1/98).

She was born into an affluent family and studied at the University of Southern California and with Glen Lukens. At age 18, she went to Paris and became friends and lovers in a menage a trois arrangement with Man Ray and his friend Henri-Pierre Roche. Later, Roche's novel, "Jules et Jim" was based on this relationship. In New York, the three of them founded the magazine "Blind man", one of the earliest manifestoes of the Dada movement.

She moved to Los Angeles in 1928 and began ceramics in 1937, opening a studio on Sunset Boulevard where she also worked in collage and drawings. Many of her innovative works were iridescent with special glazes and embraced a wide range of styles from ancient Roman glass that looked like it had been buried for centuries to Japanese tea ware to Middle Age ritual vessels. "She could often be found in her studio with her long gray hair in a bun, dressed in a sari and silver jewelry reminiscing about her encournters with other Bohemians such as Nijinsky and Isadora Duncan for whom she once knitted a scarf". (Hughes) In later years, she published her autobiography entitled "I Shock Myself".

In 1994, she was named by the Smithsonian as an "Esteemed American Artist" and was also declared a "California Living Treasure" by Governor Pete Wilson. She was the inspiration for Rose, the elderly lady character in the movie "Titanic" by James Cameron, her neighbor in California.

Wood credited her long life to "chocolate and young men." A traveling retrospective exhibition of her work, originating at the American Craft Museum, toured in 1998.

Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California"

Biography from City of Ventura Municipal Art Collection:
One of America's most famous ceramic artists, Beatrice Wood lived and worked in Ojai, California from the 1940s until her death in 1998 at age 105.

Her trademark metallic "lustre" glazes are created by reducing the oxygen inside the kiln while at high temperature. The process is unpredictable, and Wood often fired her pieces several times until she achieved an effect she liked.

The simple, classic form and golden glaze make the Municipal Art Collection's double handled urn resemble an ancient treasure.

Wood also created wry figurative works and humorous drawings. Her celebrated autobiography, "I Shock Myself," chronicles her many adventures, including her involvement with Marcel Duchamp and the avant-garde in New York in the 1920s and her experiences as a follower of the philosopher Krishnamurti in Ojai in the 1940s.

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