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 Nell Danely Brooker Mayhew  (1875 - 1940)

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Lived/Active: California/Illinois      Known for: landscape painting, etching, mural decoration

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Nell Cole Danely is primarily known as Nell Danely Brooker Mayhew

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Ad Code: 3
Nell Danely Brooker Mayhew
from Auction House Records.
Sycamores in a mountain landscape
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Sullivan Goss - An American Gallery:
Nell Brooker Mayhew
Painter & Master Of The Color Etching

by Alissa Anderson

Recognized for her boldly colored "paintings on paper," Nell Brooker Mayhew (born Nell Cole Danely) brought an innovative approach to painting and printmaking to Southern California in 1908. Having trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mayhew was fluent in the aesthetics of French Impressionism, Japanese woodblocks, Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau and Symbolism. She combined these cutting edge ideas and won acclaim, showing along side such artists as William Wendt , Edgar Payne, and Hanson Puthuff. Sullivan Goss is pleased to present the Estate of the artist.

Born in Astoria, Illinois in 1875, Mayhew trained as a painter and muralist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University. Taking only three years to graduate, she received a B.S. in 1897. Soon after, she began her post-graduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Moving to Los Angeles in 1908 as a single woman she became a faculty member at the University of Southern California’s School of Fine Arts. Exhibiting alongside major local aritsts Hanson Puthuff, Elmer Wachtel, and Edgar Payne – she established herself in a circle of nationally renowned artists.

Heralded by Los Angeles art critics, Mayhew became recognized for her provacative use of color and unrefined lines. Critics were engaged by the vitality and life of her pieces -- whether it be the simplistic but vivacious lines of a tree or the delicate outline of a flower. With a distinctly lyrical quality, her ‘paintings on paper’ radiated a somewhat spiritual nature.

Heavily influenced by Japonisme – Mayhew was known to imitate the traditional Japanese columnar style. Printing her etchings on vertical paper, Mayhew depicts scenes of nature with high horizon lines– a style exemplary of the Japanese printmaking aesthetic.

As a divorced, single parent working during the Depression, and a woman in an art world established by men, Nell Brooker Mayhew faced numerous difficulties. She somehow overcame such challenges, establishing herself as a remarkable artist of extraordinary character. She did not live the life of most women -- moving across the country to support herself as an artist. She became a faculty member at a prominent university, divorced her husband, and raised two children as a single parent. With her innovative color etching technique and extensive formal training, her work came to symbolize a specific period of artistic evolution in California. Mayhew became a progressive woman artist in the Los Angeles art community.

Mayhew's paintings on paper as they have been called, evoke a distinct luminosity. With her bold use of color and unrefined lines, critics were engaged by the vitality and life of her pieces. Mayhew's monotype etchings infuse the same luminosity revered by color-field painters thirty years later. Although a much more traditional subject matter and process than the Modernists would adopt, Mayhew's light and color achieve a visual effect glowing with color and effervescence. Her art captures the energy and swirling momentum of life.

Mayhew defied the artistic traditions around her -- advocating a new process of printmaking and a new style of painting. She embraced color, freedom of brushstroke, and above all, nature. Nell Brooker Mayhew embodied a bold and innovative approach to art -- challenging artistic practices of those around her.

Heavily influenced by the "art for arts sake" philosophy of John Ruskin and William Morris, Nell Brooker Mayhew is often associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. Printmakers like Arthur Wesley Dow were concentrated on the neccessity of handmade craftsmanship, simplistic decoration, and high quality materials. The movement insisted upon a correlation between beautiful objects and quality of life -- suggesting beauty could bring inspiration to anyone who encountered it.

Mayhew's process of color etchings was firmly rooted in such a philosophy. Each print represented the delicate abundance of beauty in a simple scene of nature. The artist would personally draw each image, hand etch the drawing, and then print and frame the final piece. She would often go so far as to personally install the art work in the collectors home. The Arts and Crafts idealist believed that the artist must be personally involved in every element of art production.

Many women artists of this period were known as printmakers. Artists like Bertha Lum, Lilian May Miller, and Helen Hyde were well known for their neatly rendered figurative images. But, these prints were often conventional reproductions -- lacking the variation or individual nuaces of Mayhew's color etchings. Helen Hyde, bronze medal winner at the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exhibition, was known for her circular prints depicting idyllic scenes. Each rendition remainded much the same in coloration and detail -- following the traditional Japanese woodblock philosophy.

Mayhew was much more experimental in her printmaking style. She embraced individual expression, reflection, and interpretation in each piece -- resisting the element of uniformity.

Mayhew was profoundly influenced by Japanese wood block prints. This influence can be seen in almost all of her color etchings and some of her paintings. In this circa 1925 photograph she wears an oriental dress and places herself in the setting fall sunlight which itself is reminicient of the pictorial school of Japanese photography. The artist was just over 5' tall and it is said that the wheel of her press would tower over her and that it took all her strength to make the impressions for her monotypes.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC
Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles
Ambassador Hotel, New York
Architectural Club of Illinois, Chicago, IL
California State Library, Sacramento, CA
Galerie Bremen, Basel, Switzerland
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Los Angeles, CA
Memorial Library, Ashton, IL (Mural)
Mr. & Mrs. Robert Duffy, Los Angeles, CA
National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC
Oregon State Museum, Salem, OR
Pasadena Public Library, Pasadena, CA (11 color etchings)
Roger Genser, Santa Monica, CA
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA (7 color etchings)
Sullivan Goss Private Collection, Santa Barbara, CA

1892 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
1908 Blanchard Gallery, Solo Exhibition, LA, CA
1909 Medal Winner, Alaska-Yukon Expositon, Seattle, WA
1910 University of Southern California, Solo Exh., LA, CA
1911 University of Southern California, Solo Exh., LA, CA
1912 College of Fine Arts, USC, Los Angeles, California
1912 Blanchard Gallery, Solo Exhibition, LA, CA
1912 Daniell Gallery, Solo Exhibition, LA, CA
1915 Blanchard Gallery, Solo Exhibition, LA, CA
1916 Long Beach Memorial Library, Solo Exhibition, LB, CA
1919 Chicago Society of Etchers, Art Institute of Chicago
1920 Pasadena Public Library, Solo Exhibition, Pasadena, CA
1921 94 color etchings - Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles
1921 108 color etchings - Ambassador Hotel, New York
1924 Donaldson Studio, Solo Exhibition, LA, CA
1924 Barker Brothers, Solo Exhibition LA, CA
1926 The National Arts Club, Exhibition of Living American Etchers, New York
1928 Pacific Southwest Exposition, Long Beach, California
1930 California Art Club, Group Exhibition, LA, CA
1931 Pasadena Art Institute, Pasadena, California
1934 Women Painters of the West, Los Angeles
1935 National Gallery of Art (Smithsonian American Art Museum), Washington DC
2003 "Mission Paintings: By Nell Brooker Mahew", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2007 "Nell Brooker Mayhew: Selections from the Back Room", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara
2009 "Nell Brooker Mayhew: In Quiet Communion", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2011 "Nell Brooker Mayhew: Delicate Resilience", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA

Northwestern University, Bachelor of Science degree
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign , student
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, student
College of Fine Arts, USC, instructor
Los Angeles Art Association, Vice Chairman of Water Color Committee
California Art Club, Vice President
Society of Print Makers of California, Treasurer
West Coast Art Club, member
Laguna Beach Art Association, member
Highland Park Ebell Club, member
Ruskin Art Club of Los Angeles, member
Southern California Society of Arts and Crafts, member
Women Painters of the West, member

Biography from Crocker Art Museum Store:
Landscape painter, etcher, muralist, Nell Mayhew was born in Astoria, IL on April 17, 1875. Nell Danely studied art at the University of Illinois, AIC, with John Johansen and Newton A. Wells. Her marriage to Albert Brooker in 1902 was short-lived. A widow, she arrived in Los Angeles in 1908 and married Leonard Mayhew in 1911.

She taught at the College of Fine Arts at USC and Chouinard School of Art for many years. She remained in Los Angeles with a studio in the Blanchard Bldg except for the year 1925 when she was in Oakland. Mrs. Mayhew died in Highland Park, CA on Sept. 24, 1940.

Her oeuvre includes a complete set of color etchings of the California missions.

Member: Laguna Beach AA; Calif. Art Club; PM of LA. Exh: Blanchard Gallery (LA), 1908, 1912, 1915; Alaska-Yukon Expo (Seattle), 1909 (medal); Barker Bros (LA); MacDowell Club (LA); USC, 1910, 1911; Daniell Gallery (LA), 1912; Long Beach Public Library, 1916; Pasadena Public Library, 1920; Donaldson Studio (LA), 1924; Barker Bros (LA), 1924.

Collection: NMAA; CSL; Oregon State Museum (Salem); Ambassador Hotel (LA); Ashton (IL) Library (mural). SCA; KOV; AAW; FId; CSL; AAA 1919-31; AAW; Western Arts, Feb. 1926; WWAA 1936-41; LA Times, 9-26-1940 (obit).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
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.

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