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 Ruth Appeldoorn Mead  (1894 - 1994)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/Massachusetts      Known for: coastal scene and floral still-life painting

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Ad Code: 4
Ruth Appledoorn Mead
An example of work by Ruth Appeldoorn Mead
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for Coastal Scenes, Flower Arrangements

Without Ruth Mead there would be no Martha’s Vineyard Art Association or Old Sculpin Gallery today!  Ruth and her family began summering on the Vineyard in 1927 as part of a family tradition.  In 1933 Ruth and several friends began painting together in front of a rented shack on the Edgartown harbor, across from the boat-building shop of Manuel Swartz Roberts. In 1934 they founded the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association.  They had no thoughts of selling their work; they just wanted to paint together and learn from each other.

"If you can paint in watercolor, you can paint," she would say.  Ruth painted in a semi-abstract style in watercolors and oils.  Her favorite themes were sail-filled harbors, scenes of Gay Head, and arrangements of flowers grown in her own garden.   She did her first painting at 12, graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago, and earned her Masters Degree at the University of Chicago.

During her long career, she taught for 36 years in the Illinois public schools, conducted children’s classes at the Martha's Vineyard Art Association from its beginning, and studied with Joseph Albers and Hans Hofmann.   As part of the early years of abstraction in America she also painted with Vaclav Vytlacil and Francis Chapin.   She often said contemporary and realistic art belong together. "Learning to appreciate distortion is like learning to appreciate olives and clams."

In 1953, Manuel Swartz decided he had had enough of boat building and offered to sell his distinctive building to the Art Association.  By this time Ruth and her group had outgrown another studio on North Water Street, and she and her friends raised several thousand dollars to buy the building.  Manuel kindly lowered his price so the Association could afford it. In 1954, the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association incorporated and bought the building we know as the Old Sculpin Gallery.  It was named after Manuel, the "old sculpin" whose endearing nickname was that of a worthless fish caught in the waters off the Vineyard.

Ruth Mead’s teaching, lively paintings, and her vision and leadership set a high standard for the arts on the Vineyard that continues with the work of the Martha's Vineyard Art Association today.

Art Institute of Chicago
University of Chicago
Studied with Joseph Albers and Hans Hofmann

Illinois public schools (36 years!)
Martha’s Vineyard Art Association

- From the Old Scuplin Gallery, Edgertown Mass.

Submitted January 2006 by Scott Wilder, Art Collector and Researcher, specializing in Midwestern artists

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