JOANE CROMWELL (1895-1969)
Catherine Strode, whose pseudonym is Joane Cromwell, was born November 22, 1895, to Dr. William Smith Strode and Julia Brown Strode. The birth took place in the small village of Bernadotte, Illinois, which is located near the county seat of Lewistown, Illinois.
Her grandparents were Thomas Strode and Catherine Smith Strode and Samuel Brown, Jr. and Julia Yarnell Brown.
She grew up in Lewistown, studying nature from her father, who was a noted naturalist and medical doctor.
At the early age of six, Catherine had shown an interest in sketching and drawing. She graduated from school at the age of sixteen and began her art studies at the Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from the Art Institute three years later with honors.
Catherine Strode moved to California and took the pseudonym, Joane Cromwell. Cromwell was a family name dating back to Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England.
Joane continued her studies at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, California. Through the years she furthered her studies under the direction of art notables such as Anna A. Hills, Loren Holmwood, George Demont Otis, Edgar Payne, Jack Wilkinson Smith and in 1937 signed for a year’s study with Hanson Puthuff.
Early on, she established herself as a painter of marine, landscape and portraiture. She actively participated in the organization and growth of the annual “Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Association.” From 1922-1956, she was a regular exhibitor at the Laguna Beach Art Gallery. She served on the Board of Directors as well as a Juror of the Laguna Beach Art Association. Through the years, she maintained studios at Glendale, Laguna Beach, Palm Springs and Hollywood.
She was involved in the struggle “Modern” versus “Traditional” Art, that took place in Southern California in the 1930’s. A Cromwell painting, Autumn Gold was pitted against an abstract by Seymour Paul, in a public contest. It was noted that the Cromwell won by a wide margin. Joane declared that this particular painting was never to be sold. Her wish was honored even after her death, the painting was given as a gift by her husband to another artist.
Joane Cromwell’s paintings were noted for their faithful rendition of color and atmosphere. She was so concerned about perfecting the permanence of the colors in her paintings, that with the assistance of her husband, Joe Skidmore, they conducted a technical study of color chemistry. They tested certain color combinations for their reactions, in order to develop better color harmony, blends, strengths and lasting quality.
Joane was also known as a “Super-Salesman” and a “Horsetrader,” as she traded paintings for goods and services. Among her most famous exchanges was for a new car from a Laguna Beach Ford car dealer, Earle M. Hatheway, in 1937. Mr. Hatheway needed five large paintings for his showroom and Joane needed a new car. Other exchanges were for a divorce from her third husband for services from B.Z. McKinney, Attorney at Law, in 1949 and chiropractor services from Dr. H.J. Lyon of Hollywood, California in 1933.
Joane Cromwell was an active painter for forty years and up until two months before her death at age 74. All of her paintings were finished except the last one that she was working on, which was sold to an artist who planned to complete it. Her works of art were purchased by art patrons in almost every state in the United States, as well as Canada, Sweden, Scotland, Finland, England, Australia, Denmark, Lebanon and the Mariana Islands.
Several Cromwell paintings hung in the California Governor’s Mansion during the tenure of Governor Merrian.
At least two Cromwell paintings hung in Washington, D.C. During one of Joane’s exhibits, F.B.I.’s Director, J. Edgar Hoover, so admired a painting that it was later purchased by his staff as a gift to commemorate his 25th Anniversary of service with the F.B.I, on July 27, 1942, when he was recognized by President Roosevelt.
The California Association for Childhood Education, purchased Joane’s painting, The Angel of Mount San Jacento to hang in the office of the Executive Secretary, Miss Leeper, of the National Association for Childhood Education in Washington, D.C. Believing that children appreciated good art, Joane Cromwell exhibited widely at various schools as well as creating beautiful stage sets for their productions. Art Patrons purchased Cromwell paintings for donations to schools and hospitals. Joane deliberately kept her prices low in order for more people to be able to afford good works of art.
Exhibitions of Joane Cromwell paintings include:
Academy of Fine Arts, Chicago, Illinois
State Capital, Springfield, Illinois
Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego and Balboa Park of San Diego, California
Exposition Park Museum; Los Angeles Art Gallery; Library Art Gallery; Craftsman
Studios; Golden Gate International Exposition, Treasure Island; American Association of
University Women, University Gallery; Bullock’s; Barker Brothers; The Charles W.
Bowers Memorial Museum; Schwabacher-Frey Company; Los Angeles, California
Art Center, LaJolla California
Pasadena Art Institute; Swarthout Studios; Vista del Arroyo Hotel, Strelecke Galleries;
Vista del Arroyo Hotel, Pasadena, California
The Desert Inn Galleries; Palm Springs, California
Fine Arts Gallery of Tucson; Tucson Arts Association; Tucson, Arizona
Laguna Beach Art Gallery; Laguna Beach, California
Dixie Junior College, St. George, Utah
The San Francisco Branch of the Society for Sanity in Art, Inc. Gallery, Sacramento,
Palos Verdes Art Gallery, San Fernando, California
Listings of Joane Cromwell Include:
Leading Women of America published by Authors International Publishing Co., 142-54 East 3nd Street, New York, New York, 1938
Who’s Who on the Pacific Coast, Larkin, Roosevelt, & Larkin, Ltd., 38 Newbury Street, Boston, Massachusetts 1940
Gems From American Studios, publisher, Harold F. Gilbert Co. of Boston, Massachusetts 1941
International Blue Book – New York, International Biography of Facts, London, England
Chris Petteys’ Dictionary of Women Artist, an International Dictionary of Women Artists, Born Before 1900 American Art Annual, Volumes 1-30, Washington D.C. and New York, American Federation of Arts, 1898-1933
Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California 1786-1940, San Francisco, California, Hughes Publishing Company, 1986
The Western Woman, Number 10, Page 22, Los Angeles, California; Widening Horizons, Volume 14, Los Angeles, California
Mallett, Daniel T. Mallett’s Index of Artists. New York: Peter Smith, 1948
Moure, Nancy, Dustin Wall. Southern California Art. Glendale: Dustin Publications, 1984
California Art and Architecture List, 1932
Who’s Who in American Art. Dorothy B. Gilbert (ed.), American Federation of Arts. New York R.R. Bowker Co., Vols. 1936-1970
American Art Annual. New York and Washington D.C.; The American Federation of Arts, 1898
Fielding, Mantle. Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers. Enlarged Edition Edited by Genevieve C. Doran. Green Farms, Connecticut: Modern Books and Crafts, 1974
Women Artists in America
Guide to the Baird Archives of California Art. Davis: University of California, 1979. Prepared by Ellen Schwartz
Moure, Nancy D. Dictionary of Artists in Southern California Before 1950. Los Angeles: Dustin Publications, 1975
The National Museum of Women in the Arts: 1250 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005-3920
In 1937 Joane Cromwell wrote a series of weekly art articles, entitled, “Brushtips,” for the South Coast News. A complete short story by Joane Cromwell was published in the Woman’s World, Vol. 12, No. 140, August 1932, issue. The story entitled, “The Writing on the Sky” was about a flyer. Joane’s first husband was a pilot during World War I.
Known memberships held by Miss Cromwell were in the Laguna Beach Art Association, The Illinois Academy of Fine Arts of Chicago, and the Art Guild of the Fine Arts Society of San Diego.
Joane Cromwell’s first marriage was to a World War I pilot, Leslie Blakley, by whom she had a son. Leslie Cromwell Blakley was born on January 14, 1918 in Los Angeles California. The child known as “Crom,” died at an early age. Other marriages were to Joseph Skidmore, who died on January 10, 1938. A marriage to Andrew Christian in June of 1942, ended in divorce in 1948. On June 2, 1957 Joane Cromwell married Morris D. Liddle, her husband at the time of her death.
Joane Cromwell suffered a heart attack in October of 1969 and died two months later on December 23, 1969 at the Santa Ana Community Hospital in Santa Ana, California. She was 74 years old. Her cremation remains were scattered over the ocean in front of the “Victor Hugo” at Laguna Beach, California; a place where she had painted many beautiful seascapes.
To quote her husband, Morris Liddle, as he remembered Joane Cromwell, ‘the love of his life,’ “ I was her second love, ‘art’ was always her first love. She was one of a kind! Joane always said a prayer before she began a painting. She was a good person, you would have loved her.”
Compiled from information in the personal scrapbook of Joane Cromwell and recollections of childhood friend, Jessie Hughes and husband, Morris Liddle.