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 Coy Avon (C.A.) Seward  (1884 - 1939)

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Lived/Active: Kansas/New Mexico      Known for: prints, town-landscape lithography

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Ad Code: 3
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Adobe Village, New Mexico, lithograph. Gift Print for the Prairie Print Makers - 1936
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An artist, art educator and author of books on printmaking* such as Metal Plate Lithography in 1937, Coy Avon Seward, from Wichita, was devoted to promoting the arts in Kansas.  As a painter, he did more than 30 canvases of New Mexico and Kansas landscapes, but primarily he was a printmaker, especially depicting that subject matter in lithographs* but also blockprints*, etchings*, and drypoints*.  His images were usually a synthesis from his sketches rather than an on-site realistic depiction.  Occasionally he did his own printmaking, but Western Lithography Company was the source of most of his lithographs, made from metal plates.

To further his interest in print making, he was closely associated in the Prairie Print Makers* with Birger Sandzen, Lloyd Foltz, Charles Capps, Clarence Hotvedt.   The group worked to encourage others who, like them, were interested in the graphic arts, and Seward wrote many articles about it for various professional journals including a pamphlet, Enjoy Your Museum.  His colleagues were especially impressed with his willingness to promote other artists, which included operating a print gallery and art school.

He was active in the formation of the Wichita Artists' Guild, the Wichita Art Association, the Kansas Federation of Arts, and the art acquisition program for the public schools.  For the Prairie Print Makers, he served as Secretary-Treasurer for the last eight years of his life.  Beyond Kansas, he was a member of the Chicago Society of Etchers*, Brooklyn Society of Etchers, Northwestern Printmakers, Honolulu Printmakers and Rocky Mountain Printmakers.

Seward, who was often called C.A., was born on a farm near Chase, Kansas.  His family encouraged his apparent art talent, but he first went into a lumbering business after graduation from high school.  Then he attended the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904* in St. Louis, and this experience changed his life's direction to art.  He would have loved to have traveled extensively, but ill health from rheumatic fever and an automobile accident inhibited that activity.  However, he took sketching trips to New Mexico, Chicago and Philadelphia, the latter two locations as a member of the building committee of the Wichita Art Museum.  Throughout his life, he corresponded with many artists beyond Wichita such as Joseph Hempstead from Chicago, Maynard Dixon on San Francisco, and John Taylor Arms from New York.

Seward's education beyond Chase High School was a five-year correspondence course in commercial design, attendance at Washburn University in Topeka, and classes with Birger Sandzen while teaching drawing classes for one semester at Bethany College in Lindsborg.   Seward later credited Sandzen as being the major influence in stirring his pursuit of lithography.  Of this he said:  "I have always liked to draw with a pencil.  It was, however, some of Sandzen's lithographs, which gave me the idea.  You see the lithograph is the medium for the man who wants to draw.  It permits him to draw a thing not once but a hundred times---and that without the difficulties that attend an etching or a drypoint."

The first of many awards he received for his prints was a silver medal at the Midwest Artists' Exhibition at the Kansas City Art Institute* in 1926.  He was encouraged by Joseph Pennell, nationally-known printmaker, and exhibited in New York at the National Academy of Design.

Seward moved to Wichita in 1908 with his wife Mabel Drew Seward, and the couple had four daughters.  He was a leading promoter of quality commercial art for businesses in their advertising materials, and in this capacity worked for several companies:  Southwest Advertising Company where he headed the Art Department, Southwest Advertising Company and Western Lithograph Company.   In 1909, he began working as also staff artist for the Kansas Magazine, which was edited by William Allen White.   During World War I, Seward was a poster designer for the Food and Drug Administration, and was part of the Federal Art Project for the WPA* during the Depression in the 1930s.

Seward died at age fifty-four, and of him it was written: "he filled his every moment."

Barbara Thompson O'Neill and George C. Foreman, "C.A. Seward", The Prairie Print Makers, pp. 12-19.  Courtesy Denise Morris

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1924; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1925; 1st Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition, 1925; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1926; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1927; 17th McPherson Exhibition (Catalogue of the Annual Art Exhibit. McPherson: McPherson High School Press, 1911-35) 1927; 4th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1928; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1928; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1929, 6th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1930; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1930; 7th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition, 1931; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1931; 8th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition, 1932; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1932; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1933, 9th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1933; Midwestern Artists’ 193 Exhibition1934; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1935;12th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition, 1936; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1937; 14th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition, 1938; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1938.
Wichita Art Association; Wichita Artists Guild; California Printmakers; Charter Member of the Prairie Print Makers; Kansas State Federation of Art.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Coy Avon Seward, known to his friends as C.A. or Seward, left behind a broad legacy: that of a skilled illustrator and commercial designer, an inexhaustible mentor and promoter of the arts, and as an author.  The effects of these endeavors have endured.  Of equal importance was his career as a fine artist and innovative printmaker.  During his lifetime his work as a printmaker received national and international acclaim and it continues to be sought after today.

 By 1906, at the age of 22, C.A. Seward had begun his career as a commercial artist in his home town of Chase, Kansas.  His portfolio and reputation grew quickly.  By 1907, he opened his commercial art studio in Wichita, Kansas.   Among his first clients were some of Wichita’s earliest entrepreneurs like A.A. Hyde and his Mentholatum Company and W.C. Coleman with his lighting company.  In 1909 Seward was hired as the Art Editor for Kansas Magazine.  In this capacity he not only designed all the cover art but also began what became another one of his lifelong endeavors, writing about art.  By 1910 Seward expanded his design studio to include an art school and renamed it the Southwestern School of Art.  A job opportunity and the needs of his growing family soon inspired him to close this studio and art school to become the Manager of the Art Department for Capper Engraving.  He remained with the Capper  Company for about 14 years. Then another chance arose for him to once again open his own freelance commercial art studio combined with an art school as well as an exhibition and sales gallery. His new Seward Studio was acclaimed by the Wichita newspaper as something one might experience in Greenwich Village in New York.  During this time Seward also became very involved with others in founding the Wichita Art Association.  As the first Secretary-Treasurer he worked to develop the exhibition and art class programs. After these programs became established Seward then closed his own school and studio in 1923 to become the Director of Art for the Western Lithograph Company.  He held this position for 16 years until his death in 1939 at the age of 54. 

Throughout his life Seward worked as a commercial artist and illustrator by day and pursued his own personal fine art in the evenings and during weekend or vacation sketching trips.  He was a life-long student; he never stopped assimilating new ideas and techniques.  He amassed an extensive and varied collection of both American and Japanese prints as well as books.  He also maintained a vast correspondence with artist friends from coast to coast.  In a letter to the curator at the Smithsonian a Seward thus  aptly noted that he was “mostly self taught.”  He did briefly study with painter, George Melville Stone and cartoonist, Albert Turner Reid at Washburn College.  Then for a short time he taught drawing classes to pay expenses while working with Swedish painter, Birger Sandzen at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas.  Influenced by these early mentors, Seward's pursuit of  art began with paintings. In these first endeavors he did meet with success. In 1921 he created a large oil painting, Wichita In 1869 which was exhibited at the annual Wichita “Wheat Show” exposition and he also received a commission to paint a large oil, The Acropolis, for the Grand Masonic Lodge at Topeka, Kansas. 

By 1919, Seward began to combine his commercially-honed technical printing knowledge and his skill as a draftsman into the creation of his own print images. It was with this medium that he was able to achieve his goals as an artist.  “The lithograph is the medium for the man who wants to draw,” were Seward’s own words.  He quickly developed a strong, deceptively fluid and easy appearing personal style.  For 20 years, until his death in 1939, Seward focused on capturing his observations of the nuances of the landscape around him. As early as 1923, his prints were receiving national and international recognition. His reputation as a fine artist was built on his widely recognized skill as a printmaker, especially in the medium of lithography.  By the end of his life his prints had been exhibited  in solo and juried group shows throughout the United States.

Prints allowed Seward to expand his other goal of making good art available to everyone despite their income beyond his home in Kansas.  In 1930, he became the leading spirit and catalytic founding member of the Prairie Print Makers. This group had a clearly stated goal:  “to further the interests of both artists and laymen in printmaking and collecting.” It quickly became nationally prominent with its’ gift print and exhibition program.  Then in 1931 Seward’s seminal book, Metal Plate Lithography for Artists and Draftsmen, was published.  Three years later, in 1934 he authored  a guide book on lithography as part of the "Enjoy Your Museum" series.

Through all these years,  Seward continually broadened his work as an arts advocate not just as a founding member of both the Wichita Art Association and the Wichita Art Museum but also the Wichita Artists’ Guild and then by 1932 as the Director and then President of the Kansas Federation of the Arts.  Somehow he also found time to mentor countless up-and-coming artists, providing instruction, encouragement, and supplies during what many later fondly described as “Saturdays at Seward’s studio.” 

The years of the 1920s - 1940s were a zenith period of printmaking in America, and Seward was very much a part of this movement. And in just 54 brief years Seward somehow succeeded so well in his many  endeavors that with his life he influenced  the lives of many generations to come.

Referred to AskART by Barbara Thompson

The Prairie Print Makers

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Chase County, Mar. 4, 1884 and died Wichita, Feb. 1939, Coy Avon Seward was a painter, specifically of landscape and an etcher.   He studied in Kansas at Reid-Stone Art School in Topeka.  He was a pupil of Birger Sandzen, George M. Stone, David L. Stewart and Albert T. Reid. 

Seward grew up in Kansas on a prairie farm between Lyons and Great Bend, and attended high school in Great Bend.  He entered the lumber business at Ellinwood and spent time drawing and creating advertising for local businesses.  He attended the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, and the art he saw there sent him to Topeka where he studied with the aforementioned men.

He then moved to Wichita and spent 10 years as a manager of the Cappers Branch Office and worked in his own studio for two years before becoming the Art Director of Western Lithograph Co. from 1923-39.

Through Seward and the company for which he worked, cheap prints of famous paintings were placed within the price range of smaller Kansas schools.  He also served as art editor for Kansas Magazine from 1909-12, and as director and president of Kansas Federation of Art.   He was author of Metal Plate Lithography for Artists and Draughtsman (1931) and Enjoy Your Museum series.  His decorative borders are included in Everett Scrogin’s 1928 book, Other Days in Pictures and Verse.
Awarded at International Exhibition of Prints, Florence, Italy, 1927; Honorable mention for Lithography, Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1924; Gold medal for Lithography, Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1928.

Sandzén Memorial Art Gallery; Kansas Masonic Grand Lodge; Sedgwick Co. Historical Society; Los Angeles Museum of Art; Springfield, MA Public Library; Smoky Valley Art Club; Library of Congress; Art Institute of Chicago; Cleveland Museum of Art; Bibliotheque Nationale; Rhode Island School of Design.

Wichita Art Association; Wichita Artists Guild; California Printmakers; Charter Member of the Prairie Print Makers; Kansas State Federation of Art.

Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
The Harp (May–June 1927); Kansas Teacher (Jan. 1928),; Print Connoisseur (Aug. 1925); Newlin, Gertrude Dix (Development of Art in Kansas. Typed Manuscript, 1951); Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47.1- 2; Sain, Lydia. Kansas Artists, compiled by Lydia Sain from 1932 to 1948. Typed Manuscript, 1948.; American Art Annual. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1898-194727; Reinbach, Edna, comp. “Kansas Art and Artists”, in Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society. v. 17, 1928. p. 571-585.; Festival of Kansas Arts and Crafts. Catalog: Arts and Crafts of Kansas: an Exhibition held in Lawrence, Feb. 18-22, 1948 in the Community Building. Lawrence: World Co., 1948 il; Dunbier, Paul. The Dunbier Value Guide; Over 1200 Painters in the Western U.S. Before 1920. Scottsdale: Altamira Press, 1981.; Cone, Mary Ellen. The Status of Kansas Literature and Art. Typed manuscript, 1939.; Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1974. Samuels, Peggy. Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1976.; Snow, Florence. “Kansas Art and Artists”, in Kansas Teacher Aug-Sept. 1927, p.18-19; Oct. 1927, p.10, 12; Nov. 1927, p.11-12; Dec. 1927, p.7-8; Jan. 1928, p. 14-15; Feb. 1928, p.20-21; Mar. 1928, p.10-12; Apr. 1928, p. 16-17; May 1928, p.14, 16; June-July 1928, p.13-14.; Kansas State Gazetteer and Business Directory. Detroit: R.L. Polk & Co. (v.1= 1878-9 v.5= 1886 v.9= 1900) (v.2= 1880 v.6= 1888-89 v.10= 1904) (v.3= 1882-83 v.7= 1891 v.11= 1908) (v.4= 1884-85 v.8= 1894 v.12= 1912) 08; Wichita City Directory (1877; 1878; 1881; 1883; 1885; 1886; 1887; 1888; 1889; 1890; 1891; 1892; 1894; 1896; 1898-99; 1900; 1902; 1903-04; 1904-05; 1906; 1907; 1908; 1909; 1910; 1911; 1912; 1913; 1914; 1915; 1916; 1917; 1918; 1919; 1920; 1922; 1923; 1924; 1925; 1926; 1927; 1928; 1929; 1930; 1931; 1932; 1933; 1934) 09, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 28; American Art Annual. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1898-194722/24; Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47.1; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition (Kansas City: Kansas City Art Institute, 1920-1942 Mines, Cynthia. For the Sake of Art: The Story of an Art Movement in Kansas. s.l. Mines, 1979.) 1924-35, 1937-38; Being a collection of Wood Cuts, Drawings and Paintings of C.A. Seward (Wichita: Capper Engraving Co., 1923); AskArt,, accessed Dec. 27, 2005
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 Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery:
C. A. Seward
(Coy Avon Seward)

C. A. Seward was a charter member of the Prairie Print Maker Society. He was the secretary of the organization. He was born on a farm near Chase, Kansas, on March 4, 1884. His urge to put on paper what he saw about him drew Seward to a career in art. His desire led him to study with George M. Stone, David L. Stewart, and Albert T. Reid.

It was from Birger Sandzén that he learned much of painting and lithography. The lithograph appealed to him immediately. The directness of the medium and the full range of gray to thunderous black all suited his vigorous style. In this medium he experimented endlessly.

His work is found in many collections in the United States and Europe. He was a member of several prestigious printmaking societies. He also was always ready to lavish help and encouragement on younger artists. He was a leading spirit for the founding of the Wichita Center of the Arts. He also helped to organize the Artists Guild of Wichita. All of his accomplishments are even more remarkable because he was in frail health throughout his life.

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