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 Kyra (Gaither) Markham  (1891 - 1967)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/Vermont      Known for: genre-streets, figure, graphics

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BIOGRAPHY for Kyra Markham
1891 (Chicago, Illinois)
1967 (Halifax, Vermont)


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genre-streets, figure, graphics

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Realist painter-printmaker Kyra Markham had significant experience as an actress from 1909 into the 1920s with the Chicago Little Theater, in movies in Los Angeles, and from 1916 with the Provincetown Players in Massachusetts.

Born Elaine Hyman in Chicago in 1891, Markham studied art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1907-1909, when, discovered by Maurice Brown, she left school to act. Though she supplemented her income from acting with work as a muralist and illustrator, it was not until 1930 that she returned to the study of art with Alexander Abels at the Art Students League in New York City. In 1934, she studied printmaking, including lithography, and took part in the WPA artists' program from 1935-1937. She was awarded the Mary S. Collins Prize at the Philadelphia Print Club annual exhibition in 1935.

Her paintings and lithographs are primarily realist in style and run the gamut from poetic landscapes to Social-Realist commentaries such as ("Penny, Lady?," 1936, a poor, aged couple playing the hurdy-gurdy on the street, and "Lockout," 1937, with laborers prevented from going back to work. There are also everyday urban scenes such as "Bleecker Street Fire Hydrant," 1942, where kids dance in arching swathes of water that are charged with an element of magic and transcendence. "Night and Morn," 1937, with two nude figures, a dark male and light female, becomes a yin-yang swirl of forms.

Markham reprises her theatrical career in the lithograph "Twelfth Night," 1934, creating a complex design of architectural elements backstage at a theater with two carpenters at work on two levels of the stage set for Shakespeare's play.

Prior to 1916, Markham was emotionally involved over a period of time with the novelist Theodore Dreiser, author of "An American Tragedy."

Her work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and Georgetown University (Lady MacBeth, A Self-Portrait," 1935, and "Winter Twilight"), both in Washington, D.C.; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art, both in New York City.

Markham was a member of the National Association of Women Artists, Southern Vermont Artists and Deerfield Valley Artists.

Kyra Markham died in 1967.

Source: Jules and Nancy Heller, "North American Women Artists of the 20th Century"

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