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 Adelaide Lawson Gaylor  (1889 - 1986)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: mod figure, genre

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Ad Code: 3
Adelaide Lawson Gaylor
from Auction House Records.
Ice Skating in the City
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Adelaide Lawson Gaylor was active as an artist in New York during the Harlem Renaissance and is listed in The Bio-Bibliographical Dictionary of Afro-American Artists.  She studied at the Art Students League and began to exhibit her work (which leaned heavily towards radical-modernist art) in the early 1910s and 1920s, culminating in her participation in the inaugural Tanner Art League exhibition organized by African-American artists in Washington D.C. in 1922.

Gaylor's family and descendants were not  black, as often assumed, but of Armenian heritage.  She and her husband, artist Wood Gaylor, counted among their group of friends Josephine Baker, William and Marguerite Zorach, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Walt Kuhn and John Dos Passos.

She was a member of the New York Society of Women Artists, Society of American Independent Artists and the Salons of America.

Frederic Heringes, August 2005
Additional information courtesy of  Marion Williams, who spent a lot of time in Adelaide and Wood Gaylor's studio modeling, and as the daughter of one of their good friends. Mrs. Williams states that Adelaide was white and never identified herself as otherwise.

Biography from Roger King Fine Art, A - G:
Modernist painter Adelaide Jaffrey Lawson Gaylor was born in New York City and studied at the Art Students League with Kenneth Hayes Miller.  Gaylor was a member of the Society of Independent Artists and the Salons of America, where she exhibited, as well as a member of the New York Society of Women Artists.  She had solo shows at Gallery 134 on West 4th Street, New York and Lakewood Gallery in Glen Cove, New York, and her works appeared at the Downtown and Midtown Galleries (New York), Gallery Odin (Port Washington), the Whitney Studio Club and the Whitney Museum.

In 1926 Adelaide Lawson married artist Wood Gaylor, who studied with Walt Kuhn at the National Academy of Design and exhibited with him in the 1913 Armory Show.  Both Gaylors were active in the New York art world, with friends and associates from New York's artistic, performing and intellectual circles.  Archival records reveal their relationships with Marsden Hartley, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Peggy Bacon, Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, Betty and John Dos Passos (with whom Adelaide painted), Fiorello La Guardia, and Josephine Baker, among many others. 

Adelaide appears to have been raised in an affluent and well-educated family. Her brother John Howard Lawson was a successful screenwriter and playwright until his career was derailed during the "Red Scare" of the 1950s, when he was named, along with Dalton Trumbo, as one of the "Hollywood Ten." 

Gaylor was a participant in the inaugural Tanner Art League exhibition of 1922. Her choice of subject matter indicates a strong interest in people of varying backgrounds and ethnicities.  Her work is rendered in a flat, naive style.  Her subjects often gaze directly at the viewer, and often seem disassociated from their surroundings and activities.  Proportion, scale, and physical plane are jumbled or even irrelevant.  People of varying colors and sizes congregate in intimate groups. Gaylor's compositional playfulness is counteracted by the puzzled or thoughtful expressions on the faces of her subjects, and though her work appears deceptively simple, it embraces layers of moods and contradiction.

c Roger King Fine Art

Biography from Julie Heller Gallery:
Adelaide Lawson Gaylor
b. NYC 1889 d. Huntington NY 1986

Adelaide Lawson Gaylor painted primarily landscapes and figures, mostly in New York City and in Glenwood Landing, Long Island.  She came from a talented and accomplished family; her brother was the screenwriter, John Howard Lawson, one of the Hollywood Ten.  Her work is a result of her early exposure and acceptance of radical modernist art and her varied European experiences in Spain, Venice and the mountain villages of Italy.

She studied at the Arts Students League with Kenneth Hayes Miller and later worked in Maine.  She began to exhibit in the late teens and early 1920's with other modernist artists at the J. Wannamaker Gallery of Modern Decorative Art and Gallery 134 and later she showed at the Midtown Gallery and the Whitney Studio Club.  Lawson was a member, not only of the New York Society of Women Artists, but the Society of Independant Artists, the Salons of America and an early group of painters known as the Dialis.

Lawson and her husband, the painter Wood Gaylor, were very active in the New York art world in the early part of the century and their friends included artists William and Marguerite Zorach, Jules Pascin, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Stefan Hrisch, Pop Hart and Walt Kuhn, art collector Hamilton Easter Field and writer John Dos Passos.  Lawson and Gaylor moved to Glenwood Landing, Long Island in 1932 where they gave art classes and mounted exhibitions in their barn.

Text from a catalogue produced by the New York Society of Women Artists.

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