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 Patricia Tobacco Forrester  (1940 - 2011)

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Lived/Active: District Of Columbia/Massachusetts      Known for: large-scale landscape, mod botanic

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Ad Code: 3
Patricia Tobacco Forrester
from Auction House Records.
Bald Eagle off Cannery Point
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Obituary. T. Rees Shapiro, The Washington Post, March 23, 2011

Patricia Tobacco Forrester, 70, a watercolorist whose vibrant and intricate paintings of nature brought her nationwide critical acclaim, died March 16 at her home in the District.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. medical examiner said the cause of death had not been determined.

Ms. Forrester's art ? brilliantly colored flowers and lush vegetation on gargantuan sheets of paper sometimes six feet tall ? has been exhibited in museums around the world.

A number of her works are part of the permanent collections at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago and the British Museum in London.

Ms. Forrester, who studied art with Chuck Close and Janet Fish at Yale University, spent much of her youth tending to the asparagus, cucumbers and tobacco on her family's Massachusetts farm.  With an imbued appreciation for plant life, she once said her goal as an artist was to capture nature's vitality on paper.

"The subject of my work is always growth," Ms. Forrester told Watercolor magazine in 2009.  "How trees and plants bulge and stretch and open."

She traveled the world with her brushes.  A plein air artist, she hiked deep into the jungles of Costa Rica, Vietnam and Singapore to paint her landscapes.

The results of her often sweat-logged efforts helped her earn broad critical recognition.  In 1981, New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer said Ms. Forrester "brought a fresh eye and an accomplished technique" to watercolor and a "vein of lyric feeling that is obviously felt as a personal imperative."

Kramer also noted that Ms. Forrester possessed a "certain tender feeling that lives on easy terms with her rigorous sense of pictorial form."

Washington Post critic Benjamin Forgey wrote in 1984 that Ms. Forrester's "images of trees, flowers and grasses, so strong in color, hold the wall like bold abstract paintings."

"At the same time," Forgey said, "her composition sense is very strong, so that the complexity of pattern and color is held in tight, muscular check. The results please both mind and senses."

Patricia Ann Tobacco was born Sept. 17, 1940, in Northampton, Mass.  She grew up in nearby Hatfield.  When her grandfather arrived at Ellis Island, the clerk changed his last name from Tobczynski to Tobacco.

Ms. Forrester was an art student under Leonard Baskin at Smith College and, after graduating in 1962, enrolled at Yale University, where she received a bachelor of fine arts in 1963 and master of fine arts in 1965.  Two years later, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Her marriages to Alex Forrester and Paul Ekman ended in divorce.  Survivors include a brother.

Early in her career, Ms. Forrester spent several years in the San Francisco area.  After marrying Ekman, a renowned psychologist, she accompanied him on trips to Hawaii and Micronesia.

While he did field research on the facial expressions of emotions across cultures, she took her easel and paints into the wilderness.

She moved to the Washington area in the early 1980s and frequently painted landscapes around the District, including at the National Arboretum.

"I think I know almost every tree and flower there," she said in 2009.

While Ms. Forrester began her career in etchings and oils, she preferred the spontaneity of watercolor.

"It can be finely controlled yet also allowed to explode in swifts and rivulets," she told Watercolor magazine. "The accidental nature of watercolor ? the fact that paint moves across the paper ? is my partner in the work."

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Watercolorist and printmaker Patricia Tobacco Forrester, born in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1940, paints large-scale works, up to five feet wide, directly from nature. This is a difficult feat given the logistics of handling materials out-of-doors. She is also an artist countering prevalent attitudes of contemporary artists to avoid direct response to nature and instead focus on theoretical aesthetics in the confines of the studio.

Forrester studied with Leonard Baskin at Smith College in her hometown, earning her B.A. degree, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1962. She then studied in New Haven, Connecticut at Yale University with Philip Pearlstein, Alex Katz and Neil Welliver. It may have been the latter painter of large landscapes with whom Forrester's creative instincts were most in tune. She received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Yale in 1963 and 1965.

Forrester has traveled widely to find her floral and landscape subjects, including France and the Mediterranean, Central and South America, the Chavon River Valley of Santo Domingo, Hawaii, the rain forests of Jamaica, and Napa Valley vineyards and coastal Santa Barbara which she previously painted when living in San Francisco from the mid-1960s until 1981.

She has exhibited just as extensively at Addison Ripley Fine Arts, Washington, DC; Braunstein/Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, New York; Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Fischbach Gallery, New York. Philbrook Museum of Art, Oklahoma; and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

Her work may be found in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Library of Congress, the National Collection of Fine Arts, and the White House, Executive Office Building, all in Washington, D.C.; Achenbach Foundation, San Francisco, California; Citibank, New York City; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; Fine Museum of San Francisco; Oakland Museum, California; Yale University Art Gallery; and the British Museum, London, England.

Patricia Forrester has an extensive teaching background as well, including Chabot Junior College, Hayward, California in 1971; California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California, 1972-1981; Kent State University, Ohio, and University of Iowa, Iowa City, both in 1981; Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, 1982; and the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art, Louisiana, 1984.

She is a member of the National Academy of Design, elected Associate in 1992, Academician in 1994. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967, and received residencies from the McDowell Colony, Djerrassi Foundation and Yaddo Foundation. Patricia Forrester has lived in Washington, D.C. since 1982.

Jules and Nancy Heller, "North American Women Artists of the 20th Century"

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