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May Preston

 (1873 - 1949)
May Wilson Preston was active/lived in New York.  May Preston is known for illustration, genre, figure, landscape painting.

May Preston

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for May Preston
"At the height of her career, May Wilson Preston was one of the highest paid illustrators in America. Her illustrations were seen weekly in the SATURDAY EVENING POST, and her name was well known. She and her husband, James Preston, lived in New York City and entertained the "literary and artistic celebrities of the day. They were elegant, talented, and fun to be around."

Her birth name was Mary W Wilson but she was called May most of her life. However, confusion has existed with her signatures, and in 1908, she wrote to an inquirer from Oberlin College: "I am not surprised at a mix-up for I have had three signatures."

By age 16, she was one of the founders of the Women's Art Club, but her parents discouraged her going to art school and sent her to Oberlin College where she studied both art and music. From 1892 to 1897, she was enrolled in the Art Students League in New York and was a student of Robert Henri, John Twachtman, and William Merritt Chase.

In 1898, she married Thomas Watkins, and they traveled to Paris where she studied with James Whistler. Watkins died in 1900, and as a widow, she lived in New York and roomed with art student Edith Dimock, (who later married William Glackens) and Lou Seyme. Their apartment in the Sherwood Studios on 57th Street was in the same building as the Henris, and it became a gathering place for artists whose discussions there led to the founding of the Ashcan School and the Society of Illustrators of which May Wilson Preston was the first and only woman member for years. In 1941, she was elected an honorary life member, the first woman to receive that honor.

During this period, Preston sold her her first illustration to HARPER'S BAZAAR. In 1903, she married James Preston, a painter, and from then had the personal and professional name of May Wilson Preston. The couple traveled regularly to France, often with Edith and William Glackens, and there May Preston painted impressionist landscapes of the countryside. However, her strength remained with illustration, which she did for writers including Ring Lardner, Mary Roberts Rinehart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and P.G. Wodehouse.

She exhibited widely including the Pennsylvania Academy, Art Institute of Chicago, National Academy of Design and Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco.

In 1933, Preston retired from illustration because of a serious skin condition, but "she took up gardening with the same fervor she had devoted to art." In 1935, she and her husband retired to Easthampton, where she died in 1949.

Source: Stephanie Strass, "American Women Artists"

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About  May Preston

Born:  1873 - New York, New York
Died:   1949 - Easthampton, New York
Known for:  illustration, genre, figure, landscape painting