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 Elaine Badgley Arnoux  (1926 - )

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Lived/Active: California/Nebraska / France      Known for: portrait painting, social commentary, teaching

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Ad Code: 4
Elaine Badgley Arnoux Black Man on a Black Horse
"Black Man on a Black Horse"
oil on canvas 72x66" 2007

Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Elaine Badgley Arnoux (1926-)

Born: Omaha, Nebraska 1926 nee: Helen Elaine Harper

Age 11, moved to Southern California, Whittier.

Scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute, 1944-46.

Married Robert Stranahan, 1946, 2 children.

Moved to San Luis Obispo, worked as a watercolorist depicting landscapes and buildings of the area.

Divorced, 1952.

Helped found San Luis Obispo Art Association in1952, was its first president. 2006, her retrospective was held at the now San Luis Obispo Art Museum.

Married John Badgley, architect, 1952

Influenced by local serigraphers, Dorothy Bowman & Howard Bradford, began to paint with oils.

Met Channing Peake, 1957.  He influenced her work over the next two years, with critiques, and to sign her name EB. She began to paint in a more cubist style as a result.

Also met Peakes colleagues, Rico Lebrun, Howard Warshaw. Was influenced by seeing Rufino Tamayos imagery.

Son born, 1961.

1961, traveled to Spain, studied the work of Francisco Goyas.

Moved to San Francisco, 1965, John Badgley joined SF architectural firm, Welton Becket.

Painting style changes with use of acrylics, Matisse was now major inspiration.

Divorced, 1973.

1975, moves to Biot France, with soon-to-be husband Gilles Arnoux.

Painted and drew the village people as a way for her to assimilate into the village.

1977, show Les Gens de Biot held at the Syndicat d'Initiative.

1977 moves back to San Francisco, begins work on The People of San Francisco.

1979 opens her own art school on Geary Boulevard, The EBA School of Art with core course 'The Edge of Vision'.

1985, 100 portraits of San Franciscans held at the California Historical Society. This project continued through the years until present with the most recent exhibition at the San Francisco Old Mint, 2009.  Currently the series contains 175 portraits.

1989, traveled to New Mexico to conduct workshop with Charles Strong, influenced by the Navajo chieftain blankets of bold stripes

1989, moves her school to 689 Bryant Street, San Francisco, after the earthquake in 89.

Homeless shelter built next to the school in 1990.  Influenced her next series The New Frontier.  This period initiated her as an artist/activist, working with the shelter and its residents, staging processions to raise consciousness about homelessness.

1992, circled homeless carts part of the inaugural opening ceremony of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

2002, began work Once Upon A Time, as a reaction to 9/11, based on Mother Goose rhymes.

2008, Once Upon A Time, shown at The Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz

Solo Exhibitions:
2010 "People," Cain Shulte Gallery, San Francisco, CA
"Blooms," Salon at Jackson Square, San Francisco, CA
2009 "The People of San Francisco," Premier Installation: Old Mint and Museum of San Francisco, CA
2008 "Once Upon A Time," Santa Cruz Museum, MacPherson Center, Santa Cruz, CA
2006 "The Shadows of War," California Institute for Integral Studies, CA
2004 Retrospective, San Luis Obispo Art Center, San Luis Obispo, CA
2001 "The People of San Francisco," Art Commission Gallery, San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco, CA
2000 "India Watercolors," Kala Art Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1999 "Shadow & Light," Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA
1999 Selections from "The People of San Francisco - 100 Portraits," Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA
1996 Atherton Gallery, Atherton, CA
1993 "The Night Sky," Bridge Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1992 Continuing installations of "The New Frontier," San Francisco, Solano and Marin Counties, CA
1992 Premier Installation: "The New Frontier: Rebuilding the American Dream" - Twenty painted shopping
carts as covered wagons pushed by homeless people and artists to the civic center in San Francisco, CA
1990 College of Holy Names, Oakland, CA
1990 Robert Mondavi Gallery, Oakville, Napa Valley, CA
1985 California Historical Society, "The People of San Francisco - 100 Portraits," San Francisco, CA
1979-80 Phillip Bonnafont Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1977 Municipal Art Gallery, Biot, France
1971-75 Gump's Art Gallery (yearly shows), San Francisco, CA
1969-70 Gordon Woodside Gallery, Seattle, WA
1964-67 Atherton Gallery (yearly shows), Atherton, CA
1963 V.C. Morris Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1960 Scripps College Gallery, Pomona, CA
1957 Robert Day Gallery, Richmond, CA

Selected Group Exhibitions:
2010-09 "Group Exhibition," School House Art Gallery, 1892, Brownville, NE
2007 "December Group Exhibition," MM Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2007 "MAH's Plein Air Affaire," Santa Cruz Museum, MacPherson Center, Santa Cruz, CA
2007 "Soirée of Petite Treasures," San Luis Obispo Art Center, San Luis Obispo Art Center, CA
2005 "Looking Back and Seeing Forward," Charles Campbell Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2004 "The Ceremony of Tea," Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA
2003 "Liquid Art," SomArts Bay Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2001 "Works on Paper," The Achenbach Collection, San Francisco Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
1999 Invitational Exhibition for Five Women Artists, SomArts Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1998 "The California Landscape," Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA
1997 HOME, De Saisset Museum, Santa Clara, CA
1997 "Face to Face," Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA
1996 Yerba Buena Sculpture Walk: Terrain Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1993 "The Night Sky," Premier Exposition: Center For The Arts, Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco, CA
1992 "Food for Thought," Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, CA
1989 Modesto Lanzone Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1985 Creative Growth Programs, Oakland, CA
1984 Susan Blanchard Gallery, New York, NY
1984 "Faces," De Anza College, San Mateo, CA
1983 Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery, University of Nevada, Reno, NV

Information provided by Flora Davis, the artist's assistant.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for her painting, sculptures, and installations that portray individuals of wide-ranging lives in rural and cosmopolitan areas, Elaine Arnoux has had a near 70 year career.  She "is a critically acclaimed San Francisco artist and teacher whose works have been featured in exhibitions in the United States and Europe for more than six decades---with more than 30 solo exhibitions since 1957." (tfaoi)

In the documentary, Shadow and Light-The Life Of Elaine Badgley Arnoux, the artist tells of her childhood, when, as an 11 year old girl, she was brought to California from Nebraska by her grandparents to be with her parents from whom she had been separated.  She later learned that her father had been in prison for taking a 14 year old girl across state lines and impregnating her.  From that point Elaine's life of growing up with her parents was chaotic.  The post-prison father was violent, beat up the mother, and Elaine, in her word, "fought him off". 

Mother Goose Rhymes with their allegorical power and seeming relevance to her own life became an ongoing influence on her imagination, which later transferred to her artwork.  She was given a copy of Mother Goose when she was three-years old, and the "volume has taken up permanent residence on her night stand through her many childhood homes, her four marriages, and her life in three countries.  Its illustrations and narratives served as a departure point and as a support through which the artist expressed her concerns for all the world we inhabit." (tfaoi) In 2008, an exhibition, Once Upon a Time, of Arnoux's paintings, sculptures, and works on paper,  is a departure point from Mother Goose stories, and reflects her dark childhood "at play with hard reality"  (tfaoi).

Meanwhile as a youth, Elaine had become talented singer as well as a young artist, and knowing she could not excel at both, she focused exclusively on her painting abilities.  On scholarship, she studied at the Chouinard Art Institute from 1944 to 1946.

She also made a pragmatic decision to find security and escape from her unsettling home life by marrying in 1946 a young man, Robert Stranahan, a World War II veteran.  They had two children, but other than that, according to her, had "nothing in common", and divorced in 1952.   That same year, she married her second husband, John Badgley, "rescued her" as the "struggling mother of two young children", and also encouraged her to fulfill her potential---to become 'pretty' and to shine as an artist and generally as a person.  With him, she began to sparkle in many ways, which became difficult for him, and hard on her because she felt that her art expression was hollow.  This second marriage, in which she had a son, ended in 1973.

Then a young Frenchman whose last name was Giles Arnoux came into her life.  He was 22 years younger, full of artistic talent and zest of living, and in 1975, she, age 50, followed him, age 27, to his hometown of Biot, France.  They married, and she had more personal struggle because she, who had been getting increasing attention in California for her good looks and artistic talent, had no identity in this small town.  For a period she broke down, and then rallied by focusing on a project that proved very successful.  She did portraits of each of the town's 65 influential people who 'made the village'.  Doing their individual portraits, she was welcomed into their homes, which gave her much understanding and depth about them and the small community, and, in turn, gave them an understanding of who she was and of her intentions as a person and an artist.   Of this experience, she said she "triumphed".   It also set the course of her future career.

Moving back to California in 1977, Elaine Arnoux increasingly became an activist in the Bay Area.  She opened an art school, the EBA School of Art, near a homeless shelter in San Francisco, and got involved with a coalition working with the Mayor of San Francisco to help these less fortunate people, and to correct some of the imbalance between affluent and impoverished persons.  In spring of 2009, she received positive acclaim for another series of portraits, memorializing what she called a "hodgepodge of San Franciscans---from cab drivers, firemen, postal workers and cultural leaders to politicians"....(Luna)  In March 2009, an exhibition at the Old Mint Building of 140 of these portraits, titled "The People of San Francisco", was sponsored by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

From this period in her life, when she is in her 80s and when she is in looking back on her life, she said:  "I was very old when I was young; I wasn't young until I was old."


tfaoi:  Traditional Fine Arts Online essay, "Elaine Badgley Arnoux: Once Upon a Time", July 12-September 7, 2008.  From exhibition catalog sponsored by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.

Shadow and Light:  Elaine Badgely Arnoux, William Farley, Director, and Mary Morrow, Producer; Film Arts Division, San Francisco;

Kristin Luna, "Elaine Badgley Arnoux Displays 'The People of San Francisco' at the Old Mint Building", March 27, 2009,

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