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 Phyllis (Pele) De Lappe  (1916 - 2007)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: social realist themed painting, cartooning, illustration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in San Francisco, CA on May 4, 1916, Phyllis "Pele" De Lappe began art studies at age 14 at the California School of Fine Art under Arnold Blanch and continued during 1931-33 at the Art Students League in New York City.  While there, she assisted and posed for Diego Rivera on the Rockefeller Center mural. 

Over the years her caricatures and illustrations appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications in New York and California.  She was  a resident of Berkeley, CA and the arts editor for People's Daily World for many years.  She later lived in Petaluma, CA until her demise on Oct. 1, 2007. 

San Francisco Art Asss'n, 1936-37; New York World's Fair, 1939; Washington, D.C., 1939 (solo); Huntington Museum (LA), 2007. 

Works held:  Int'l Longshore & Warehouse Union (SF); Woodstock (NY) AA; Library of Congress. 
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who's Who in American Art 1940; Interview with the artist or his/her family; San Fransisco Chronicle, 10-5-07 (obituary)
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 Spencer Jon Helfen Fine Arts:
Phyllis "Pele" de Lappe was an artist, editor and instructor committed to political activism and social justice.  From the beginning of her artistic career in the early 1930s, de Lappe devoted herself to making images of working-class people, and was widely respected in San Francisco Bay Area progressive communities.

A fourth-generation San Franciscan, Pele de Lappe was born in 1916, the daughter of illustrator and commercial artist Wesley de Lappe, who encouraged her artistic pursuits. de Lappe enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts at age 14, where she studied with Arnold Blanch, and as a young teenager was befriended by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who were staying in San Francisco while Rivera painted murals both at the school and at the San Francisco Stock Exchange.

de Lappe left San Francisco to live in the artists' colony of Woodstock, New York, and eventually moved to Manhattan, where she studied at the Art Students' League from 1931 to 1933 and both assisted with and posed for Diego Rivera's Rockefeller Center mural.

de Lappe returned to San Francisco during the 1934 maritime strike, which she actively supported. The series of portraits she executed the following year, depicting longshoremen who had participated in the strike, now hang in the San Francisco headquarters of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. de Lappe also drew caricatures and political cartoons for the Union's publications, after which she continued her association with newspapers, contributing cartoons and illustrations to the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as acting as arts editor for the San Francisco Communist Party paper People's World and working for the African-American-oriented West Oakland Beacon.

de Lappe exhibited with the San Francisco Art Association in 1936 and 1937, and in 1939 she exhibited at the New York World's Fair and had a solo show in Washington D.C. de Lappe was an art instructor at the California Labor School during the 1940s, and co-founded the San Francisco's Graphic Arts Workshop in the early 1950s.

de Lappe married and was later divorced from lawyer Bertram Edises, who became prominent as a defender of left-wing causes. A long-time resident of Berkeley, de Lappe eventually moved to Petaluma, California in the 1990s to join her friend and fellow artist Byron Randall. While living in Petaluma, Pele published her autobiography, Pele: A Passionate Journey through Art and the Red Press.

de Lappe's work is in the collections of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; the Woodstock Art Association, New York; and the Library of Congress. Just weeks before her death, the Huntington museum in San Marino, California interviewed her for their major American print exhibition, which showcased her work and recordings of her voice.

Pele de Lappe passed away in Petaluma, California in 2007.

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