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Agnes Tait

 (1894 - 1981)
Agnes Gabrielle Tait was active/lived in New York, New Mexico.  Agnes Tait is known for portrait, landscape, mural, still-lives, illustrations.

Agnes Tait

Biography from the Archives of askART

Born in Greenwich Village in New York City, Agnes Tait was a painter of landscapes, figures, portraits and decorative panels, as well as a print maker and children's book illustrator.  Her style was romantic realist, with some of her works being allegorical.  Book illustrations include Heidi in 1947 and Paco's Miracle in 1961.

From the age of fourteen, she studied intermittently for ten years (1908-1918) at the National Academy of Design in New York City with Charles Hinton, Francis Jones, and Leon Kroll.

In 1930, she received a grant from the United Fruit Company to paint tropical scenes and portraits of natives in Jamaica and Haiti, and in 1932, she painted a series of portraits commissioned by Florenz Ziegfeld of his Follies girls.

Tait was an active WPA (Federal Arts Project) artist in the 1930s, and in this capacity, painted murals including one in 1936 for the Psychiatric Building at Belleview Hospital in New York and in the 1950s for the U.S. Post at Laurinburg, North Carolina. In the 1950s, she painted an historical-themed mural for the First National Bank of Santa Fe (1953).

She married journalist William Mc Nulty in 1933, and in 1941, moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where she died in 1981. Her existence there was both productive and restless.  When she was in residence, she did book illustrations and painted many commissioned portraits as well as cat studies, landscapes, and scenes with adobes and churches.  She moved thirteen times within the city during the 40 years she lived there.  She also traveled extensively, staying in Fort Worth, Texas from 1942 to 1943; and spending time in Europe, Mexico, and other parts of the United States.

Tait was a member and exhibitor in 1936 of the National Association of Women, a seven-time exhibitor at the Art Institute of Chicago between 1915 and 1936, an exhibitor in three annual exhibitions of the Pennsylvania Academy, and in four annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design.  Other exhibition venues were the New York World's Fair in 1939, Weyhe Gallery, New York City in 1973 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976.

Paul Sternberg Sr., Art by American Women
Jules and Nancy Heller, North American Women Artists of the 20th Century
Marion and Phil Kovinick, Women Artists of the American West
Peter Hastings Falk (ed.), Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from Fred R. Kline Gallery, Inc.
Agnes Tait (1894-1981)

Born in New York City in 1894, Agnes Tait's career as an artist began in 1908 as a 14 year old student, with her acceptance and enrollment at the National Academy of Design in New York.  In 1914, when she was 19, she took a life drawing class at NAD taught by Leon Kroll, whose emphasis on craftsmanship and balanced design was a major influence on Tait's own work.  She finished her training at the academy in 1916.  During this time she searched for whatever art-related employment she could find, eventually modeling for Frank Tenny Johnson and George Bellows.

In 1927 she traveled to Paris for the first time and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, where she learned lithography.  In 1928 she returned to New York, where she had her first exhibition at the Dudensing Galleries; and in that same year she was included in the First Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture at Art Institute, Chicago.

Tait traveled to Europe a second time in the early 1930s and returned via Haiti and Jamaica, which fostered an interest in tropical scenes.  Her first solo exhibition of mostly portraits took place in 1932 at the Ferargil Galleries in New York and included portraits of Follies girls commissioned by Florenz Ziegfeld and portraits of natives and tropical scenes in Jamaica and Haiti commissioned by United Fruit Company.

In early 1934 Tait was employed by the Public Works of Art Project, for which she executed what is today considered her most famous work, "Skating in Central Park". With her husband, journalist William McNulty (d.1952), she was invited to spend the summer of 1934 at Yaddo artists colony, an honor that was repeated in 1940. Throughout the 1930s Tait worked on small lithographic editions, easel paintings, and mural work.

In 1941 Tait and McNulty moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico which remained her home from then on, in spite of her restless nature and a number of short-lived moves to various locales.  Her sister Anita, who suffered from spinal meningitis and deafness, came to Santa Fe in 1945 at the end of WWII to live with her.  Tait built a guest cottage for Anita on her property and cared for her until she died in 1968.

Agnes Tait traveled continually throughout her career and painted distinctive works in New York, New Mexico, Texas, the West Indies, France, Spain, Ireland, Mexico and Italy.  To supplement her income, she often worked on portrait commissions, book illustrations, and mural commissions.  The rich subject matter of her creative works in oil paintings, watercolors, and lithographs include genre, landscape, portraiture, floral still life, and cats—all of which she rendered in a distinctive and well-drawn realistic manner.  For most of her active career of some 40 years, she participated in numerous one-woman and group exhibitions in the United States.

Tait's works are in many private and public collections including: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of New Mexico, New York Public Library, Roswell Museum, School of American Research, and Yale University Art Gallery.

Agnes Tait died in Santa Fe, NM in 1981 at age 87.

Sources include:
1. Lydia M. Pena, S.L. The Life and Times of Agnes Tait, 1894-1981. 1984 Exhibition Catalogue (92 pp, richly illustrated): Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities & Roswell Museum and Art Center.
2. Smithsonian American Art Museum
3. Fred R. Kline Gallery Archive
( Material revised & edited by Fred R. Kline Gallery, Santa Fe, NM )

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About  Agnes Tait

Born:  1894 - New York, New York
Died:   1981 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Known for:  portrait, landscape, mural, still-lives, illustrations