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 Augusta Isabella Corson Metcalfe  (1881 - 1971)



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Lived/Active: Oklahoma/Kansas      Known for: landscape, Indian life, illustrator

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Ad Code: 4
Augusta Isabella Corson Metcalfe
An example of work by Augusta Isabella Corson Metcalfe
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known as the Sage Brush Artist, Augusta Metcalfe became an oil painter of pioneer life, horses and animals of rural Oklahoma.  She was the daughter of Edward and Mary Corson and came from Vermillion, Kansas with them to Oklahoma Territory in 1886. Seven years later, they moved to a homestead on the Washita River near Durham.  She lived the rest of her life there, and married and farmed and raised a son by herself as her husband left her in 1908 when the boy was two-years old.

She had natural art talent and began drawing on rocks and slate when she was four-years old.  Years later she began mailing examples of her work to eastern publications and also ran an ad in the Sportsman's Review with a picture of a bucking horse.  She enclosed the promo: "I paint everything but portraits".

Her work was discovered by Roger D. Williams, author of outdoor books, and he advertised for her as well.

She exhibited her work as early as 1911, and won prizes at state fairs in Oklahoma and Texas, and she also exhibited at the Grand Central Galleries in New York City, the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City and the Philbrook Art Center in Oklahoma City.  In July 1950, Life magazine had a feature article on her with color reproductions. In 1968, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, "An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West"

The following literature references are courtesy of Kathy Rippel:

Kelley, Suzzanne. Augusts I. C. Metcalfe: "Prairie Painter of Memory Art". Thesis (M.A.)--University of Central Oklahoma, 2003.

"Cowhand and the Lady". Life magazine v. 29, July 17, 1950, p. 70-72. [Brief
article on both Augusta Metcalfe and H. O. Kelly, artists]
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
Solo exhibit Oklahoma Art Center, 1949; Grand Central Galleries, New York City, NY, 1958.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Vermillion, Nov. 10, 1881; died Sayre, OK, May 9, 1971. Painter. Illustrator. Moved to the Oklahoma panhandle in 1886 and then, in 1893, relocated to a homestead inside the newly opened Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation. A self-taught artist, Metcalfe’s work often depicted the farm and ranch scenes of her daily life. She became known as the “Sagebrush Artist” and the “Grandma Moses of the West” exhibiting her work as early as 1911 and winning prizes at state fairs in Oklahoma and Texas. In 1968 she was elected to Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame. The Metcalfe Museum in Durham, OK is the repository for the work of this artist.
Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, OK.

Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Dawdy 2: Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Volume 2. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1981.; Harrel, Melvin. “My life in Indian Territory Oklahoma: The Story of Augusta Corson Metcalf,” Chronicles of Oklahoma (Spring 1955); Oklahoma Today (Summer 1970); Life Magazine (July 17, 1950); AskArt,, accessed Dec. 21, 2005; Kovinick, Phil and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick. An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998..; Kelley, Suzzanne. Augusta I.C. Metcalfe : "Prairie Painter" of Memory Art. (MA Thesis, University of Central Oklahoma, 2003).
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from The Metcalfe Museum:
Augusta Isabella Corson Metcalfe was born in Marshall County, Kansas, in 1881. In 1886, her father, Edward Corson, moved his wife and four children to "No Man's Land," now known as the Oklahoma panhandle. It was during this time that Augusta's mother, Mary Corson, recognized her youngest daughter's artistic talent and began to cultivate it. Her abilities as an artist developed even more once the family homesteaded in 1993 inside the newly-opened Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation in western Oklahoma.

Daily life in the rugged Washita River valley had a great influence on the young artist. Augusta rode horses, roped and branded calves, and also performed household chores. In the evenings, she drew pictures of the day's activities. She especially enjoyed sketching horses, dogs, cattle, and other farm and ranch scenes.

Death and marriage eventually left Augusta and her mother alone to work the homestead. In 1906, however, Augusta married Jim Metcalf and the couple produced a son, Howard. Jim, unfortunately, abandoned the family a few years later, leaving Augusta to care for her young son, as well as her elderly mother and the farm. Soon afterwards, Augusta added a "e" to the name Metcalf to "make it her own."

Although Augusta had little time for art, she began a tradition during this period which would make her recognized as an artist across the nation. She illustrated the letters and envelopes that she sent to friends with watercolors, drawings, and oil paintings.

Before long, Augusta's art began to be noticed locally and regionally and her works became the subject of several articles in magazines. In July 1950, Augusta's photograph appeared on the cover of Life magazine, along with an article about her.

Although she had always supplemented the family income by selling paintings to fans and neighbors, the number of paintings that Metcalfe produced and sold increased dramatically. Eventually, Metcalfe became known as the "Sagebrush Artist" and the "Grandma Moses of the West." She ultimately received several honors, including induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Metcalfe died in 1971. Although she had no formal training, she produced many critically-recognized works, many of which recorded the pioneer history of western Oklahoma. The Metcalfe Museum, located on the original homestead in Roger Mills County, is the repository for much of Metcalfe's art, art which remains a treasure to the state of Oklahoma, western art enthusiasts, and students of women's history.

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