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Molly Luce

 (1896 - 1986)
Molly (Burroughs) Luce was active/lived in Rhode Island, New York.  Molly Luce is known for landscape-town, figure and genre painting.

Molly Luce

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Molly Luce
Molly Luce was a realist painter of the American Scene and a New England Regionalist. She was called "The American Breughel" by art critic Henry McBride of The New York Sun newspaper. Although she was born in Pittsburgh, raised in New Jersey, trained in Massachusetts and New York, and resided in New England, she came from a family whose roots were in northeast Ohio. In 1922 and 1923, Luce traveled in Europe. She lived in Minneapolis in 1925; Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1926; Belmont, Massachusetts in 1929; and finally Little Compton, Rhode Island.

Luce had her first exhibition in 1924 at the Whitney Studio Club in New York City. Among many other exhibitions, Luce showed regularly until 1950 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her work was collected early by the Whitney. In fact, the Museum acquired two of her paintings from the Studio Club show. Ten years later, the Metropolitan Museum of Art added Luce to their collection.

Teachers were miniaturist Amy Otis at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts; and George Bellows, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and F. Louis Mora at the Art Students League in New York City.

Luce's paintings are realistic, yet charged with intensified color and psychological symbolism such as life and death referenced in Dawn on the Commons, 36 x 24, 1955. A snowy owl in flight, silhouetted against darkly striated clouds, looks down at a nearby black crow almost camouflaged by the darkness of the clouds. The owl flies closely over a dead sunflower stalk and seed-head, with a church and houses small in the distance beyond. And Fortieth Birthday, seems a comment on the passage of time and a woman reaching that age. Nude to the waist, she sits in nature, chin to hand, while dark crows fly in the sky behind her, and a lamb cavorts next to her as if to lend comfort and support.

In 1979, a retrospective exhibition, "Molly Luce: Eight Decades of the American Scene: A Traveling Exhibition," was put on by the Rhode Island School of Design, and it traveled from 1980 to 1983 to thirteen museums:

Molly Luce died in 1986 at Little Compton, Rhode Island.

Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Jules and Nancy Heller, North American Women Artists of the 20th Century

Her works can be located at:
Little Compton Historical Society (on permanent display at Brownell Library):
1. Oil painting, "Betty Burroughs and Molly Luce" (ca. 1917-1918)
2. Oil painting, "Netting Herrings"
3. Oil painting, "Weeding the Yard" (Burroughs-Luce home)
4. Oil painting, "Tree with Redbirds"
5. Oil painting, "Hell Hounds" (1952)
6. Oil painting, "Spring Wheat" (1946)
7. Oil painting, "Summer Sunday" (1949)
8. Oil painting, "Cat off Red Fence" (1954)
9. Oil painting, "Point of Land" (probably Warren's Point) (1965)
10. Oil painting, "The Alien"
11. Oil painting, "Rosa Rugosa"
12. Oil painting, "Cathedral in France" (1923)
13. Oil painting, "Harvesting Hay" (1936)
14. Oil painting, "West Island" (1934)
15. Oil painting, "Red Wings and Pussy Willows" (1979)
16. Oil painting, "Ohio Sugarbush" (ca. 1917-1918)
17. Oil painting, "M to A" (self-portrait) (1925)
18. Oil painting, "Wild Horses"
19. Oil painting, "Sin and Flesh Brook, Tiverton" (1937)
20. Oil painting, "Sand Dunes, South Shore" (1932)
21. Oil painting, "Lake Erie" (1920)
22. Oil painting, "Harbor in a Storm" (Sakonnet)
23. Oil painting, "Pompton Turnpike" (1924)
24. Oil painting, "Open House" (Wilbor House, Little Compton Historical Society) (1963)
25. Oil painting, "Rainbow and Blue Flag" (1960)
26. Oil painting, "Fall Warblers" (Warren's Point in winter) (1958)
27. Oil painting, "Rural Library" (view through door of Brownell Library) (1947)
28. Oil painting, "Burning of the Methodist Church" (1941)

Little Compton Historical Society: Access Restricted
1. Oil painting, "Fisherman's House"
2. Watercolors--45 watercolors painted ca. 1917-1920 (chiefly landscapes, figures)
3. Drawings--88 drawings produced during the 1920's-1930's
4. Five sketchbooks from her years at the ASL (ca. 1916-1922)
5. Two scrapbooks, (1924-1927) & (1935-1940) chiefly newspaper articles about Luce's work.
6. Two notebooks compiled by Virginia Lynch (owner of the now defunct Virginia Lynch Gallery, Tiverton) and Molly Luce, during the 1980's, to provide photographic/descriptive documentation of the works in her studio.
7. Miscellaneous papers, photographs, and other items which partly comprise the Luce Estate bequeathed to the Historical Society.

Town Hall, Little Compton:
1. Oil painting [untitled]--a crowded scene of the commons

Unveiled by Elinor L. Nacherman, a directory and guide to 19th century born artists active in Rhode Island, and where to find their work in publicly accessible Rhode Island collections

Biography from Childs Gallery
Biography photo for Molly Luce
Molly Luce was born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Glen Ridge, New Jersey and graduated from Wheaton College in the class of 1916. She trained at the Art Students League in New York from 1916-18 and then from 1919-22 studied under Kenneth Hayes Miller, F. Luis Mora, George Bellows and others.

There, she was part of a remarkable group of students which included Lloyd Goodrich, Reginald Marsh, Alexander Brook, Yasuo Kunioshi, Peggy Bacon, Betty Burroughs, and her brother, Alan Burroughs, whom Luce married in 1926. Luce had her first one-woman show at the Whitney Studio Club (later the Whitney Museum) in the fall of 1924, just after her return from Europe.

The reviews were enthusiastic and emphasized Luce's rootedness to her heritage as well as her commitment to developing her own style of painting. A critic for "Art News" said "Suburbia" (and other paintings) "have the kind of vitality that it is a pleasure to discover in young American painters, for it proves that our coming artists are discovering themselves early." She has found something in her own environment that is worth recording, and when artists do that a great period is born. Her style of painting is definitely her own. There is a rhythm of line in it, solidity of structure and a vibrant quality of surface attained by a modified use of such elongated swirls of color as Van Gogh used. Clearly, Molly Luce had arrived on the New York scene with the "American Scene."

She continued to exhibit at the Whitney, at least fifteen times in the Annual and Biennial Exhibitions up to 1950 and in at least six special theme exhibitions. One of the high points of her career came in 1934, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought her painting, "Beach at High Tide". The purchase was the museum's second from a living woman artist and was followed by another acquisition in 1940. The Whitney Museum acquired its first Luce painting in 1928, followed by a second in 1941. Since that time, the Currier Gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, as well as other distinguished public and private collections, have acquired her works.

In 1980-83, she was the subject of a long overdue retrospective exhibition of fifty-five works entitled "Molly Luce: Eight Decades of the American Scene." This show traveled to thirteen museums across the United States. In addition, her work was included in an inaugural exhibition "American Women Artists 1830-1930," at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. in 1987. Molly Luce's place as an important and enduring American woman painter of the 1920's, 30's and 40's seems assured.

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About  Molly Luce

Born:  1896 - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died:   1986 - Little Compton, Rhode Island
Known for:  landscape-town, figure and genre painting