|Biography from Erie Art Museum:|
|Born in 1852, Clara Gunnison Force was one of five children born to
Jonas and Charlotte A. Spafford Gunnison. The Gunnison family
ancestors had emigrated from Sweden in 1631. Her father, educated
as an attorney and admitted to the bar in 1849, practiced law in Erie,
Pennsylvania for a time. He was active in local political
circles, serving on the Mayor’s Select Council and also as a
representative to the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He later held
state committee posts for the Republican Party. Clara’s brother
Frank went on to become a judge of the Erie County Courts.|
Completing her schooling locally, she enrolled at Vassar College.
Following her father’s death in 1872, she and her mother traveled to
Europe, and in 1873 and 1874, she studied art in Paris and Rome.
Upon return, she took additional instruction with William Merritt Chase
in New York City, and locally in Erie under Lovisa O. Card. She
was also known to attend summer sessions at Woodstock, New York, and in
Provincetown, Cape Cod.
Clara Gunnison was acknowledged as a painter by the time of the 1884
Exposition of Amateur Art in Erie, Pennsylvania. She submitted
four works to the show. In May of 1885 she married Joseph M.
Force, son of an attorney and descendant of a pioneer family that
originally settled in North East Township in Erie County. Admitted to
the bar in 1879, Force entered private law practice in Erie.
In 1898 Mrs. Force attended an organizational meeting for the Art Club
of Erie and became its founding vice president. She held other
offices in later years.
Although the artist completed numerous works of flower and nature
studies, her strength seemed to be in miniatures. The Women’s
Club of Erie, of which she was a member, has a collection of six, all
portraits of local women.
Around 1922, the couple decided to relocate to California.
Shortly thereafter Joseph Force died of unknown causes in Monrovia,
California. Clara, then living with her sister, built a home and
lived in Pasadena. There she belonged to the Pasadena Art
Institute and the Society of Miniature Painters of California. In
1923, the Art Club mounted a one-woman show featuring 52 works by the
artist that included miniatures plus florals and landscapes.
Well into her 80’s, Clara Gunnison Force painted, exhibited and knew
demand for her work. In the spring of 1939 she fell while at home
and broke her hip. As a result of the shock she died on Easter
Sunday, April 8, 1939 at the age of 86. She was buried in the
family plot at Erie Cemetery.
Submitted by Edward P. Bentley, Art Researcher from Lansing, Michigan
Biography excerpted from the unpublished manuscript by Dr. Kirk W.
Steehler, Erie Artists – A History of Heroes. Courtesy of Erie
|Biography from Crocker Art Museum Store:|
|A miniature painter, Clara Gunnison Force was born in Erie, PA on Nov.
30, 1852. Force was a pupil of Lucia Fuller, Alice Beckington, John
Carlson, Frank V. DuMond, Leopold Seyffert and Charles Hawthorne. |
She moved from Erie to Pasadena about 1925, and was active there until her death on April 8, 1939.
California Society of Miniature Painters; Pasadena Society of Art; California Art Club; Erie Women's Club.
Pasadena Art Institute, 1928, 1931; EbelI Club (LA), 1928; Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939.
Erie Public Library; Erie Women's Club.
AAA 1907-33; WWAA 1936-39; AAW; SCA; CA&A; Ben.
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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