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 Betsy Graves Reyneau  (1889 - 1964)

About: Betsy Graves Reyneau
 

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey/Michigan      Known for: Portrait painting

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Ad Code: 3
Betsy Graves
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of Edward Lee
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Betsy Graves Reyneau was born June 6, 1889.  Reyneau, who lived in Detroit, MI from 1889 to 1925, studied painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and with Frank Duveneck in
Cincinnati.  Following additional study in Paris and Rome, she returned to Detroit as a portrait painter. 

While living in Europe in the 1930s, Reyneau and her daughter opened their home to numerous Jews seeking refuge from the reign of Nazi terror.  Upon returning to the United States, she was shocked by the terrible injustices endured by African-Americans. The immense racial tension prompted Reyneau to devote the rest of her life to painting portraits of distinguished Americans of African descent. 

In the 1960s, thirty of her portraits of Black Americans were displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. in an exhibit sponsored by the Harmon Foundation. The exhibit stimulated such intense interest that the Smithsonian sent it on a national tour. The prominent figures who posed for Reyneau's portraits included Mary McLeod Bethune, George Washington Carver, Joe Louis, Aaron Douglas, Charles Drew, Paul Robeson, and Thurgood Marshall.

Collections: National Portrait Gallery.
Source:
SOURCES:
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Topeka Capital (Sept. 13, 1953); http://hall.michiganwomenshalloffame.org/, accessed Mar. 12, 2009.
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.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A politically liberal white illustrator, Betsy Graves lived in Europe in the 1920s and 30s but returned to this country in 1939 with the advent of Hitler's regime. In the 1940s, the Harmon Foundation, which supported black arts and crafts, hired her to do portraits of notable black Americans for a traveling show intended to counter segregation.

The exhibition titled "Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origin" attracted much attention, and sometimes Graves traveled with her show as did her partner, Laura Wheeler Waring, a black painter.

After the exhibition, most of the portraits went to the Smithsonian Museum.

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