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 Grace Helen McArthur  (1899 - 1985)

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Lived/Active: Michigan      Known for: genre, landscape

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was submitted in November of 2006 by her granddaughter Gloria Detore Mackie:

Grace Helen McArthur was born 1899 in Detroit, Michigan.  She lived in Detroit and married Dr. S.C. McArthur, had two children, and then moved to the Mt. Pleasant Michigan area, residing in Rosebush.  There she  had to give up her hobby of ceramics because she developed an  allergy, and started oil painting.

She began painting at the age of 50 years old and wsa an instant success. She had taken a class in Mt. Pleasant with an instructor by the name of Virginia Seites.  The first painting she did won an award at the Saginaw Art Show.  Ms. Seites saw the specific talent and style that Grace had, and sent her home from class to develop her own style further.  Ms. Seites felt that Grace had a style all her own and that she didn't want to spoil it.

Quote from the Wednesday, December 6, 1978 Mount Pleasant newspaper, article by Viv Charmichian:

" Why is Grace's work so popular?"

"It's interesting. So much goes on in every one of her paintings that the viewer can study one endlessly.  Her work is always full-full of people, buildings, animals, trees, life.  The first look at a painting by Grace is never the last."

"It's cheerful.  There's nothing sad or depressing  in any of Grace's paintings.  The colors are warm and vivid; the scenes depicted are happy, fond reminiscences of slower, more innocent days gone by."

"It's fun.  A viewer is sure to get a smile, if not a laugh, from some element of a Grace painting.  She always tried to include a touch of what she calls comedy, what others might consider mischievousness; a man slipping on a banana peel.  (See the woman standing nearby holding her hands over her ears?  You can imagine the language that man must be using!")

"Grace's style is described as primitive, nostalgic, or folk art.  She paints her memories of life decades ago, a life she makes look extremely appealing with tranquility underlying the buzz of daily activity.  Over the years she has done hundreds of paintings, many by request.  No two paintings are identical; and Grace wouldn't copy, not even on request."

Grace painted until she was about 75 years old, then decided to retire.  In one of her last paintings, one she named "My World",  she chose a very large canvas, and put everything that had happened in her life  (including the children and grandchildren she had) in the picture.  I often would stare at it wondering about the different people and what their associations to her were.  Once while I visited my grandmother, she took me over to the painting which was hung on the wall in the elegant "parlor" as she called it, and said, "See, everyone in my life is in this painting and there (as she pointed to a little girl with long dark pigtails, in a red dress, playing next to her parents) is you, your mom and dad."  I felt profoundly honored.

Grace died in 1985 at the age of 86, leaving a depiction of the simple life of the early 1900's, and a legacy of beauty, humor, joy and love of every phase of life through art.

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