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Edith Truesdell

 (1888 - 1986)
Edith Park (Edy) Truesdell was active/lived in California, Massachusetts, Connecticut.  Edith Truesdell is known for portrait, landscape and genre painting, teaching.

Edith Truesdell

Biography from the Archives of askART

Edith Park Truesdell was a painter, a teacher, a writer and a poet. Over a span of more than 75 years she executed portraits, landscapes and genre scenes in oil, acrylic, watercolor and linocut. Her early works have an affinity with the "Boston School" of the early 20th century. Her mature works are semi-abstract and can be connected with the Bay Area Figurative style.

Edith Park was born in 1888, in Derby, Connecticut, the youngest child in a family of one boy and five girls. Edith's parents were Reverend Charles Ware Park and Anna Maria Ballantine Park, a former Congregational missionary to India and the daughter of a missionary.

Charles died in 1895 at the age of 50, leaving Anna a widow.  Anna then moved the family to Wellesley, where she rented out rooms to students from Wellesley College to make ends meet.  Despite her father's passing Edith, an artistic teenager who also played the cello, later had pleasant memories of the period.  Remembered as "different" from her sisters, Edith chose to study art at the Boston Museum School.

Truesdell's instructors at the museum school were associated with the "Boston School," a group of American Impressionists noted for the elegance and refinement of their subject matter. Truesdell's teachers included Frank Weston Benson, known for luminous paintings of his wife and daughters and Edmund C. Tarbell, a popular instructor who grounded his students in academic technique. She also studied with Frederick Bosley and Phillip L. Hale, a painter and the author of a book about Johannes Vermeer.

In 1912 Edith, who had contracted tuberculosis, left to recover in Denver. She remained there through 1913, and returned to the Boston Museum School in 1915. In 1916 Edith won a gold medal for a painting she submitted to the school's summer exhibition.

After graduation Edith put all of her energy into art and teaching. Slope shouldered, with blue eyes and curly brown hair, Edith stood less than 5 foot 4 inches tall. She was known for her abundant energy and forthright manner, not quite a beauty, but certainly a great personality. "She was brisk, not romantic," says Natalie Park Schutz, her grand-niece. She also had a great "whoop" of a laugh and spoke in a clipped manner that reminded people of Eleanor Roosevelt.

A born teacher, Edith returned periodically to the Boston Museum School as a lecturer. She also taught art and drama to children at The Park School, in a brown 3 story house in Brookline where her older sister Julia served as principal. In 1920 Edith exhibited her paintings at the prestigious Copley Gallery in Boston.

On March 21st, 1922, Edith Park married John Truesdell, an attorney eleven years her senior. Truesdell, had worked for the Justice Department in Denver since 1912 and had gained a reputation as a champion of Indian rights. The newlywed Truesdells, who moved to Los Angeles in 1924, were known to their friends as "Jack and Edy."

Although Jack kept an office in Los Angeles, the Truesdells were often on the road, spending several months at a time in Arizona and Colorado. Later in her life, Edith painted many desert and mountain scenes inspired by her memories of these trips. In the early years of marriage Edith had several miscarriages, and the Truesdells never had children. 

From the moment that the Truesdells reached Los Angeles in 1924 Edith was active in the city's burgeoning art scene executing oils, watercolors and block prints. Edith took a first place in the 1925 Laguna Art Association show, and joined the California Art Club, showing work in the Club's annual exhibition from 1924 through 1932, and winning a gold medal in 1930.

Writing about a 1927 solo show of Edith's work held at the University of California, Los Angeles Times critic Arthur Millier held up several of her works - including Sleeping Child, Old Timer and The Boss - for praise.  Millier commented that Edith's paintings,"…displaying marked strength and beauty, show an unusually intelligent understanding of the art of space design and psychological effect of lines."

It was in 1928 that Edith's 17 year old nephew David Park - pulled from a boarding school at her insistence - drove west with her in a Model T to attend Otis Art Institute.  He stayed with Jack and Edith in their cabin in the hills above Los Angeles for only a short period, leaving for the Bay Area in the spring of 1929.  Truesdell remained close to her nephew who later gained acclaim as a leader of the Bay Area Figurative style of painting.

Jack Truesdell retired from his position as Chief Field Counsel for the Indian Irrigation Service in 1934. Because Edith was increasingly needed at the ranch she soon gave up the teaching that she had been doing each winter at the Winsor School for Girls in Brookline, Massachusetts. Edith made the most of her increasingly isolated living situation, and visits by friends and family.

During the war years, Edith would return to the east coast each winter, where she busied herself teaching painting both at the Waynflete School in Maine, and at the Boston YMCA.  In an article from the Christian Science Monitor dated January 9th, 1942, Edith discusses the positive effects of the art classes for "laymen" that she had been teaching at the YMCA on Clarendon Street in Boston. "Mrs. Truesdell's experience has been that her pupils find it not so much an escape from pressing duties as a restorative, a new side to life, a means toward fuller use of the faculties, and thus an aid to normalcy."

Later in her life, Edith told friends that between 1940 and Jack's death in 1953 she did not work on her own paintings.  She continued to teach and in 1948 she designed and marketed original wallpapers.  After Jack's death in 1953 Edith deeded the Colorado ranch property to the U.S. Fish and Game Service.

Facing her future, Edith had to decide "…whether to stay here in the house on Clarkson, or go back and join my sisters at the farm house in New England, or turn a new leaf and go somewhere else. I decided to try living along and concentrating on my painting - that's when I moved to California."

While searching for a place to live Edith rented a room in Berkeley and took classes at UC Berkeley while searching for a place to build a home.  She eventually bought property on Mt. Tamalpais; a steep lot far above Mill Valley.  To fit the shape of the lot, her new home was designed with triangular rooms, including a generous living room. It also had a broad deck for taking in the view.  Edith lived there for nearly 13 years, entertaining friends and family, writing poetry, collecting Mexican folk pottery, and painting in acrylic.

In 1963, determined not to be a burden to her relatives, Edith took a room at Carmel Valley Manor, a coastal retirement home.  Still a dynamo, she immediately started a magazine, taught poetry, hung her paintings on the walls, and taught painting. She painted using acrylic on Masonite - or sometimes sheetrock -- laid flat across her bed.

During the more than 20 years that Edith lived in Carmel, she worked hard to put her paintings in front of the public.  She had solo shows at the Boston Museum School in 1970, and also at the Monterey Peninsula Museum in 1983. She participated in group shows with the Carmel Art League, had several shows at the Cannery in San Francisco, and had a one woman exhibition at the Pat Carey Gallery in 1979.

When Edith Park Truesdell died in December of 1986, she specifically requested that there be no memorial service.

Solo Exhibitions:
Copley Gallery , Boston, 1920
Denver Public Library, 1920, 1922
UCLA, 1927
Denver Museum, 1932, 1934
The Pat Carey Gallery, San Francisco, 1979
Monterey Peninsula Museum, 1983
Pacific Grove Art Center, 1987
The Art Exchange Gallery, San Francisco, 2006

Group Exhibitions:

Boston Museum School, Summer Exhibition, 1916, gold medal
Laguna Beach Art Association , 1925 (first prize), 1932
LA County Fair 1925, 1928
California Art Club, 1925-32 (1930: gold medal)
LA Chamber of Commerce 1927
California State Fair, 1930
Los Angeles Artists Fiesta , 1931 (2nd prize)
Oakland Art Gallery, 1933-34
Calif. WC Society, 1932-36
Boston Museum School, 1970

The Denver Museum


John Seed: Interviews with family members (April, 2011) including Natalie Park Schutz, Helen Park Bigelow, Nancy Park and Roger Cogswell.

John Seed: Correspondence with the Park School, Brookline, Massachusetts, April 2011


Thomas Albright, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-80, 1985, University of California Press
Helen Park Bigelow, David Park: Painter, Nothing Held Back, 2009, The Hudson Hills Press
Phil Kovanick, Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, 1998, University of Texas Press


The Los Angeles Times, January 16, 1927, "Art and Artists" by Arthur Millier
The Christian Science Monitor, "Hub YWCA Layman to Aid Morale," January 9, 1942
The New York Times, "It May Not Be Art But It's Fun," December 17, 1944
The Christian Science Monitor, "Original Wallpapers Evolve for Designer…" Apr 13, 1948

Biography by John Seed,,

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in Derby, CT on Feb. 15, 1888, Edith Park Truesdell studied for six years at the Boston Museum School with Tarbell, Benson, Hale, and Bosley.  She lived in Brookline, MA where she maintained a studio and taught at the Park School.

In 1922 she wed John Truesdell, a lawyer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Leading a peripatetic existence, the couple lived part of the year in Los Angeles where he had an office and spent several months at a time in Arizona and Colorado.

A widow, she returned to California in 1953 and lived on Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley until 1963 when she entered a retirement community in Carmel Valley. Mrs. Truesdell died there on Dec. 12, 1986.

Her early works are mostly traditional landscapes; works done during her last 30 years are semi-abstract.

Copley Gallery (Boston), 1920 (solo); Denver Public Library, 1920, 1922 (solos); Laguna Beach AA, 1924 (1st prize), 1933; UCLA, 1927 (solo); Womans Club (Hollywood), 1927; County Fair (LA), 1925, 1928; Calif. Art Club, 1925-30 (gold medal); Chamber of Commerce (LA), 1927; Calif. State Fair, 1930; Artists Fiesta (LA), 1931 (2nd prize); Denver Museum, 1932, 1934 (solos); Oakland Art Gallery, 1933-34; Calif. WC Society, 1932-36; Boston Museum School, 1970; Monterey Peninsula Museum, 1983 (solo); Pacific Grove Art Center, 1987 (solo).

Denver Museum.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Interview with the artist or his/her family; Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure); Women Artists of the American West; American Art Annual 1925-33; Who's Who in American Art 1936-40.

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.

Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in Derby, Connecticut, Edith Park Truesdell had an art career in both the east and western parts of the United States.  She studied for six years at the Boston Museum School with Edmund Tarbell, Frank Benson, Ellen Day Hale, and Frederick Bosley, and continued to live in Boston until 1922, teaching at Park School.

In 1924, she moved to Los Angeles with her husband who was a lawyer for the Department of Indian Affairs in Arizona.  Each year, they spent time in Arizona and Colorado where some of her best painting was done.  In 1940, she was working as instructor in Waynflete School in Portland, Maine, and was also an instructor at the YWCA Workshop in Boston, Massachusetts.

Following this period, she gave up painting for fourteen years, devoting herself to her ill husband.  He died in 1953, and she moved to Mill Valley, California until 1964, when she settled in Carmel.  Her early work is traditional landscape, but her paintings of the last thirty years have semi-abstract patterns.

Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, Women Artists of the American West
Doris Dawdy, Artists of the American West, Volume II

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About  Edith Truesdell

Born:  1888 - Derby, Connecticut
Died:   1986 - Carmel, California
Known for:  portrait, landscape and genre painting, teaching

Essays referring to
Edith Truesdell

The California Art Club