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 Nelbert Murphy Chouinard  (1879 - 1969)

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Lived/Active: California/Minnesota      Known for: landscape, art educator

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Delbert Murphy is primarily known as Nelbert Murphy Chouinard

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A landscape painter, designer, and art educator, and most notably the founder of the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, Nelbert Chouinard spent most of her career in California as a painter and educator. However, her paintings are rarely found because she devoted more time to teaching than painting.

Chouinard was born in Montevideo, Minnesota. She studied in Brooklyn, New York at the Pratt Institute with Arthur Dow, Ernest Batchelder, and Ralph Johonnot and in Munich with Hans Hofmann. She taught in the public schools in Minnesota and in 1909 moved to Pasadena, where she had teaching positions at the Throop Institute, Batchelder School of Design and Otis Art Institute.

In 1956, Nelbert Chouinard was featured as "Woman of the Year" in the "Los Angeles Times". This honor was recognition for her founding in 1921 of the Chouinard Art Institute, which she served as President until her death in 1969. Between 1921-1972, the Chouinard Art Institute had over 50,000 students and 400 teachers, many whom were well known such as Alexander Archipenko and Stanton MacDonald-Wright.

After Chouinard's death in 1961, the Institute was merged with the Louisiana Conservator of Music and took the name of California Institute of Arts. Walt Disney was one of the main supporters of the school, but it closed in 1972 due to infighting and the firing of most of the staff. A major factor in the closing of the school was the advent of modernist movements such as Conceptualism, which ran counter to the underlying philosophy of many of the Chouinard supporters.

In July-August 2001, an exhibition honoring Nelbert Chouinard was held at the Oceanside Museum of Art in Oceanside, California. For the occasion, museum director James R. Pahl wrote: "It would be difficult to find a more powerful influence on the development of Southern California's reputation as a center of 20th Century American art than Mrs. Nelbert Chouinard, founder and guiding light of Chouinard Art Institute from 1921-1972. When Robert Perine brought this concept to Oceanside Museum of Art's Exhibitions staff, we were amazed by the number of distinguished artists and revered teachers that have called themselves Chouinardians. Since the closing of the Institute in 1972, it is remarkable there has never been an exhibition that attempted to describe the breadth of her dynamic legacy. . . Nelbert Chouinard started out with nothing but her love for young artists and their creative spirit, and her generous need to offer them encouragement and training. Her gift reverberates not only through the impressive fifty-year roster of her students, but through those whom they, in turn, have taught or influenced. I'd venture to say there's barely an artist working in Southern California today who has not been touched in some way by the vision of this richly achieving woman.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
James R. Pahl,

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