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Ethel Du Pont Barksdale Wack

 (1898 - 1974)
Ethel Du Pont Barksdale Wack was active/lived in California, Arizona, Delaware / Europe.  Ethel Wack is known for portrait and landscape painting.

Ethel Du Pont Barksdale Wack

Biography from the Archives of askART

Ethel Du Pont Barksdale Wack 1898 – 1974
Born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1898, Ethel Du Pont Barksdale was a great- granddaughter of the founder of the Du Pont chemical empire. After a private school education in Wilmington, and several extended educational and cultural trips to Europe followed by a brief stint at the Art Students League in New York City, Ethel Du Pont Barksdale studied painting with Russian expatriate portrait painter and member of the National Academy of Design, Ivan Olinsky (1878-1962), who introduced her to academic portraiture and the Russian style of a restrained and painterly impressionism.

Ms. Barksdale also studied privately, probably in Philadelphia, with American Impressionist master, Cecelia Beaux (1855-1942) sometime before 1924, the year Beaux broke her hip and retired from an active teaching schedule. In 1923, Ethel Du Pont Barksdale finally married socialite John T. deBlois Wack, the son and heir to the founder and publisher of a number of American periodicals including Field and Stream Magazine.

After an extended honeymoon, the couple first established a residence in Santa Barbara, California, where Mrs. Wack became a well-known socialite, champion golfer and amateur airplane pilot. The Wack family also owned a large cattle and race horse farm in Yavapai, Arizona, where they raised championship stock.

Edan Milton Hughes, in his Artists in California 1786-1940, reports that Ethel Du Pont Barksdale Wack returned to painting in California where she developed a smooth and painterly impressionism of rich and highly saturated colors that incorporated reflective almost abstract elements such as those experienced on the surface of bodies of water. Both the Santa Barbara Historical Society and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art note that Wack’s later landscape work also illustrates her brief study with Indiana impressionist and portrait painter, Wayman Adams (1883-1959), a student of American Impressionist William Merritt Chase and a follower of Ash Can innovator Robert Henri.

Because of Adams known European jaunts and his teaching schedule, this author theorizes that Adams and Wack most probably met in Santa Barbara during one or more of Adam’s teaching field trips to California in the 1940s and early 1950s. Ethel Du Pont Barksdale Wack, a prominent society artist and philanthropist died in Santa Barbara, California, in 1974.

Examples of her mature painting are included in the Collections of the Faulkner Memorial Art Museum, Santa Barbara; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; The University of Virginia Art Museum, and several cultural institutions in California.

She is listed in a number of significant publications including Arizona’s Pioneering Women Artists,  2012; Davenport’s Art Reference : The Gold Edition 2005, Who Was Who in American Art 1925, 1985 and 1999 and The Artists Bluebook, 2005.

Wack’s Reverie is signed and dated 1945. The artist presents a soft-focus and atmospheric view into a deciduous forest in autumn when a number of trees and shrubs have begun to visibly react to the change of season. The foreground is dominated by the reflections of the distant forest in a still body of water accented by a few ripples viewed in the left foreground. Overhead, a bright blue sky completes the artist’s vision into nature, memory and their interaction in the experience of art.

Written and submitted by Gary R. Libby,  author, editor and former Museum director and curator

Biography from Crocker Art Museum Store
A portrait painter, born in Wilmington, DE on Aug. 26, 1898 , Ethel Barksdale Dupont Wack of the prominent DuPont family, studied art under Ivan Olinsky, Cecilia Beaux, and Wayman Adams. 

In 1923, she married John T. deBlois Wack, whose father was the founder of Field and Stream Magazine. In the early 1930s, the couple settled in Santa Barbara, CA, but also in the 1930s and 1940s, they owned a cattle spread, The Yolo Ranch, in Yavapai County, Arizona.  

As licensed pilots, the Wacks flew their plane all over the U.S. while raising race horses and maintaining this cattle ranch in Arizona.

Mrs.Wack was also a golf champion and active in Santa Barbara cultural, civic and charitable affairs until her death on Feb. 27, 1974.

Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery (Santa Barbara); Santa Barbara Public Library; Univ. of Virginia; Santa Barbara Historical Society, Santa Barbara Museum.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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About  Ethel Du Pont Barksdale Wack

Born:  1898 - Wilmington, Delaware
Died:   1974 - Santa Barbara, California
Known for:  portrait and landscape painting