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Eileen Monaghan Whitaker

 (1911 - 2005)
Eileen Monaghan Whitaker was active/lived in Connecticut, California, New York.  Eileen Whitaker is known for figure, animal, Indian genre and still-life painting.

Eileen Monaghan Whitaker

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Eileen Monaghan Whitaker

By Jack Williams
September 29, 2005

Using vivid watercolors to express and evoke emotions, La Jolla artist Eileen Whitaker became widely known for painting with her heart.

In a career that spanned more than 60 years and resulted in 87 awards, she exhibited her work from coast to coast and internationally.

"She exuded vitality in her work and in her life," said Barbara Cox, director of The Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Foundation in Friday Harbor, Wash.

The foundation was established in 1988 to promote watercolor art, especially that of Mrs. Whitaker and her husband, Frederic, who died in 1980.

Mrs. Whitaker died of natural causes early yesterday at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.  She was 93.

She began suffering from back pain due to compression fractures late last year and had become increasingly frail, said Jan Noreus Jennings, whose recent book chronicles the Whitakers' careers.

"Eileen, like her late husband Frederic, had an intense passion for working in watercolors," said Robert L. Pincus, art critic for The San Diego Union-Tribune. "She painted people and objects with equal devotion to detail, color and form and was rewarded with national recognition for her gifts.  Her draftsmanship was consistently elegant."

In 1978, Mrs. Whitaker became the second woman to be elected as an Academician in the watercolor division of what is now the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts in New York, a prestigious art society.  Her husband previously had been designated an Academician, making the Whitakers the first married couple to be so honored.

Mrs. Whitaker's paintings have been exhibited at the national academy and in international venues including England, Canada, Guatemala and Mexico.

Locally, her art was displayed beginning in the 1960s at the former A. Huney Gallery in Hillcrest, the Jones Gallery in La Jolla, Circle Gallery in Old Town and the Art Center in Rancho Santa Fe.

"I'm always looking for something that gives me the opportunity to add a special twist, a different look, something that will jolt the imagination but in both a surprising and pleasing way," Mrs. Whitaker told Jennings.

Jennings' book, "Contrasts That Complement: Eileen Monaghan Whitaker - Frederic Whitaker," was published in February by Marquand Books.

Starting with a small sketch, Mrs. Whitaker liked to feel her way through a painting. "She would find a rhythm and go with it," Jennings said. "By contrast, Fred thought his way through paintings. He painted to please the average man, to connect. She did it to please herself and people in the art world whom she admired and looked up to."

Art patron and philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington once said, "Frederic paints with his head and Eileen with her heart."

A retrospective exhibition of the two artists is scheduled to open in January 2007 at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

The couple, who moved to La Jolla in 1965 from Norwalk, Conn., met on Valentine's Day 1943 at an opening reception for his one-man show in New York City.

"That's what they considered their anniversary," Jennings said. "They didn't marry until 1950. Fred had been separated from his first wife for a long time, and finally got a divorce in Mexico."

A commercial artist with an emphasis in fashion design, Mrs. Whitaker had dabbled in watercolors before meeting her future husband.  "He kind of spurred her on to get more involved," Jennings said.

In 1953, Mrs. Whitaker was elected to the American Watercolor Society.

The Whitakers' relationship "was one of those things you see in movies," said Cox, the Whitaker foundation director. "It was a love affair on every level."

When her husband died at age 82, Mrs. Whitaker suffered a prolonged malaise.  It took her at least two years to get back on track, Jennings said.

When Mrs. Whitaker resumed painting, her palette took on a pronounced darkness.  It would regain its customary brightness in subsequent years, inspired by a project to paint San Diego County scenes and three visits to Guatemala, where she admired the people and the richly hued tapestries.

In 1986, The Copley Press Inc. published a 150-page book, Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Paints San Diego, that showcased her paintings of San Diego area landmarks.  It culminated four years of traveling throughout the county and was commissioned by the Copley family.

"Eileen was loved by everybody, and all that love came back to her tenfold," said Richard Reilly, former curator of the James S. Copley Library in La Jolla, where a reception celebrated the release of her book.

"I've never known anybody so in love with life," Reilly said. "She was remarkable."

Eileen Monaghan Whitaker, the fourth child in a family of six, was born Nov. 22, 1911, in Holyoke, Mass.

Her first love was clay sculpting. During her fourth year at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, she changed her major to costume design and fashion illustration.

She spent 15 years in commercial art for various East Coast agencies before devoting herself to watercolors.

Along with her husband, who won 150 awards, she competed for years in exhibits sponsored by the National Watercolor Society, Jennings said.

One of Mrs. Whitaker's most prestigious honors was the Walter Biggs Memorial Award, presented in 1987 by what was then the National Academy of Design.

Once she moved from New England to La Jolla, her art reflected the new environment and her frequent visits to Mexico.

"The watercolors were just beautiful," said Annette Blaugruend, director of the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Art, where the Whitakers endowed a watercolor prize. "In subject, style and light, she represented the watercolor movement in California. And she continued to be active in her 90s. She was a lively, jaunty lady who was always thinking ahead."

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Eileen Monaghan Whitaker
The following is from Jan Jennings, The Whitaker Foundation, San Diego, CA.  The website is:


Eileen Monaghan Whitaker is an Academician in the National Academy of Design (NAD) and a member of the American Watercolor Society (AWS).  She is listed in a number of Who's Whos including Who's Who in America and Who's Who in American Art, and throughout her career has been a frequent juror for competitive art exhibitions across the country.

Whitaker paints representational watercolors of any subject that excites and teases her creative spirit.  People are a major source of inspiration, as well as birds, animals, still lifes, architectural themes, and personalized renderings of offbeat, isolated objects such as an old mission door, a lock, a lantern, a Mexican mask.  An emotional artist, Whitaker says she "feels" her way through each painting.

Born in Holyoke, Mass., Nov. 22, 1911, Eileen Monaghan studied at the Massachusetts College of Art, then worked in New York City as an artist and art director for a number of advertising agencies, combining her artistic and design skills with a flair for, and love of, cutting-edge fashion.  On Valentine's day 1943, artist Eileen Monaghan met artist Frederic Whitaker at a one-man exhibit of his works at New York's Farargil Galleries. Voila! The beginning of companionship, love, and a lifelong devotion to fine art.

Whitaker entered her first competitive exhibition in 1948 and won an award.  Since then, she has won 85 major awards for her paintings.  In 1953 she was elected to membership in AWS and in 1957 to associate membership in the NAD. She was elected full Academician in 1978, and at that time, the Whitakers were the only husband-wife team to attain this honor.

The Whitakers moved from their home in Norwalk, Conn., to La Jolla, Calif., in June of 1965, and without skipping a beat, in less than two months, Whitaker won an award in a competitive exhibition at the San Diego Civic Center. The Whitakers had numerous two-person shows in San Diego, La Jolla, and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Each regularly juried and entered national competitive shows.  Frederic Whitaker died in 1980.

In 1982 Whitaker was commissioned by Copley Press to paint San Diego County what she wanted, when she wanted, how she wanted. Totally free reign. Whitaker combed San Diego County for nearly four years, sketching, drawing, and photographing, then creating the finished paintings in her La Jolla studio. The result: Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Paints San Diego, (Copley Books, 1986).

Inspired by trips to Guatemala in the late 1980s, early 1990s, Whitaker painted pictures culminating in a one-person exhibit at the Charles and Emma Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Wash.  She is CEO of the Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Foundation which is pursuing its goal: to present a traveling, retrospective exhibition of the works of these two artists, accompanied by a fully illustrated and biographical book/catalog.  Whitaker naturally continues to paint and is a frequent exhibition juror.


Magazine: Watercolor: An American Artist Publication
Spring 2004
"Preserving the Past, Insuring the Future"
M. Stephan Doherty

Magazine: The Artist (London)
Year: 1959
Month: July
Article Title: "My Concept of Watercolor I"
Author: Eileen Monaghan Whitaker
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: The Artist (London)
Year: 1959
Month: August
Article Title: "My Concept of Watercolor II"
Author: Eileen Monaghan Whitaker
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: The Artist (London)
Year: 1959
Month: September
Article Title: "My Concept of Watercolor III"
Author: Eileen Monaghan Whitaker
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: American Artist
Year: 1964
Month: October
Article Title: "Eileen Monaghan Believes in an Individual Approach"
Author: Eileen Monaghan Whitaker
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: Southwest Art
Year: 1975
Month: December
Article Title: "Capturing the Essence of Any Theme"
Author: Jan Jennings
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: Artists of the Rockies and the Golden West
Year: 1983
Month: Winter Issue
Article Title: Eileen Monaghan Whitaker
Author: Eileen Monaghan Whitaker
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: American Artist
Year: 1987
Month: March
Article Title: "Eileen Monaghan Whitaker: Painting From the Heart"
Author: Janice Lovoos
Color Illustrations: Yes

Magazine: Art of California
Year: 1991
Month: October
Article Title: "Eileen Monaghan Whitaker"
Author: Jan Jennings
Color Illustrations: Yes

Biography from California Watercolor
Eileen Monaghan Whitaker, N.A. (1911- 2005) Born: Holyoke, MA; Studied: Massachusetts College of Art; Member: National Academy of Design, American Watercolor Society, California Water Color Society, Philadelphia Water Color Club, Connecticut Watercolor Society.

Eileen Monaghan Whitaker studied art in Boston.  For the next fifteen years, she worked as a commercial illustrator, producing watercolor sketches with fashion themes. In the 1940s and 1950s, she earned a reputation as an important American watercolorist by having her work shown in major museum exhibitions. Since moving to California, she has continued showing on a national level, contributed to books on watercolor painting, and presented one-woman exhibitions in the San Diego area.

Biographical information:
Interview with Eileen Monaghan Whitaker, 1985.

Biography courtesy of California Watercolors 1850-1970,
©2002 Hillcrest Press, Inc.

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About  Eileen Monaghan Whitaker

Born:  1911 - Holyoke, Massachusettes
Died:   2005 - La Jolla, California
Known for:  figure, animal, Indian genre and still-life painting