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 Louise M. Woodroofe  (1892 - 1996)

About: Louise M. Woodroofe


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Lived/Active: Illinois      Known for: circus figure and genre and landscape painting, teaching

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BIOGRAPHY for Louise Woodroofe
1892 (Champaign, Illinois)
1996 (Illinois)


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circus figure and genre and landscape painting, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An art professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Louise Woodroofe traveled in the 1930s with the Ringling Brothers Circus and from that experience painted numerous scenes of circus life.

She studied at the University of Illinois and Syracuse University in New York and with Hugh Breckenridge.

During the 1940's-1960's, Louise Woodroofe painted abstract works and sometimes collage.  She exhibited with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the National Association of Watercolor Painters, Cincinnati Art Museum and the Butler Art Institute.

Treadway/Toomey Auction catalogue, May 2001

Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:

Louise Woodroofe’s palette is vibrant, powerful, bold and uniquely artistic.  Her brushwork is sure, immediate and precise and her individualistic artistic technique is uniquely hers.  Influenced by the French Impressionist and Fauvist masters, Woodroofe also was a student of American architecture and had a degree in Painting from Syracuse University (1919). 

The artist was born in Champaign, Illinois, January 28, 1892.  She yearned to be an artist from childhood and drew realistically in her early years.  She studied and exhibited at the University of Illinois and Syracuse University in the teens and developed a fine impressionistic style but her extraordinarily bold Fauvist techniques took hold after she met and studied with the innovative Huge Breckenridge at the Breckenridge School of Art in East Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Breckenridge was highly stimulated by the Parisian Pointillists and Impressionists but it was the dramatically placed vibrant colors of the “wild beasts” (the Fauvists) that changed the palette of Breckenridge and he taught the Fauve movement’s use of brilliant pigments laid down in broken color to Woodroofe and other students in East Gloucester and at the PAFA.

Woodroofe adhered to the American Fauvist movement as taught by Breckenridge, giving special attention to the scientific analysis of color as it applied to her needs and any given composition. Woodroofe was a confident painter who studied buildings and architecture for years, thus many of her canvases have houses and buildings in them.  Her brushwork was laid down with vigor and speed.  She painted in the picturesque fishing village of East Gloucester, where she painted in nature alongside Jane Peterson and Eleanor Parke Custis during the 1920s and 1930s.  She also painted in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco (CA) and in Milwaukee (WS) before settling in the Chicago (ca. 1927).  Woodroofe exhibited at the 32nd Annual Exhibition of American Art at the Cincinnati Art Museum (1925), was given one-woman exhibitions at the Findley Gallery (Chicago) and by 1928 she was an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois (1928), becoming a full Professor of Art in 1948.  She won numerous awards for painting excellence from 1930-1965 and was voted the “Most Supportive University Faculty Member” at the University of Illinois (1978).

Woodroofe was known to be exceedingly shy when it came to publicity and she kept personal data private and refused to be interviewed.  However, she was a member of the North Shore Arts Association (1931-1937), the National Association of Women Painters and the American Watercolor Society.  Her paintings were shown at the National Arts Club and the National Academy of Design.  In 1925, she exhibited Gloucester paintings at the 32nd Annual Exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum alongside Childe Hassam, Robert Henri and Mary Cassatt.  She also exhibited at the North Shore AA, Butler Institute of American Art, PAFA and in galleries in Chicago and London, England. 

During an era in which women were somewhat restricted to obeying their husbands, Woodroofe led an interesting diversified life.  After painting for over a decade in Gloucester, she traveled with the Ringling Brothers circus so that she could paint clowns and circus acts (1940s) and she was given free passes to the Ringling circus by John & Henry Ringling North throughout the 1960s.  At the end of the 1940s the Crane Gallery of London, England gave Woodroofe a one-woman exhibition of her circus paintings and as late as 1955 she won an award for a circus subject at the National Academy. After 1940, when she was not teaching summer painting classes in Syracuse, she traveled throughout the U.S. painting villages and coastal towns.  Never satisfied with her artistic output, Woodroofe continuously experimented with techniques and by the end of her life she was an Abstract Modernist. Well known throughout the U.S. and especially the Chicago area, The American Institute of Architecture gives deserving students The Louise Woodroofe Prize each year for artistic and academic achievement. 

Louise Woodroofe was advanced and innovative, unafraid to be as bold as male counterparts and to develop and individually unique style and artistic look.  She supported herself selling paintings that best exemplified the American Fauvist movement that was initiated by men like Breckenridge and was in full swing by 1928.  Woodroofe never married.  She dedicated her life to painting and teaching and she died in Illinois February 15, 1996 at the age of 104 a well-respected painter and college professor.


Submitted by Patricia Jobe Pierce, Pierce Galleries, Inc. of Nantucket & Hingham, MA


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