Ethel Zabriskie Banta (1897-1987)
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 11, 1897, Ethel Zabriskie Banta was the daughter of Albert and Lula (Daggett) Banta. She received her early artistic education at Cornell University. In 1935 she was appointed to the office of Special Instructor of Art for the New York City public schools, a position she held until 1945. In continuing her studies, she enrolled at the Art Student’s League of New York City in 1943; her various courses taking her through March, 1945. Her instructors included William McNulty, Ivan Olinsky and Howard Trafton. She maintained her membership in the League for a number of years, at least into the mid 1950’s. She also pursued further study privately under McNulty and Umberto Romano.
By 1946 she was exhibiting with the Rockport Art Association, maintaining that as a regular venue through 1971. She also exhibited with the Society of Independent Artists; the Art Club of St. Petersburg and the Florida Federation of Arts where she won a gold medal in 1952; the Florida Gulf Coast Art Club; the Tarpon Springs Art Association, where she was a founder and first President from 1958 to 1965; the Philadelphia Water Color Club; the Sarasota Art Association; and the Dunedin Art Society. The artist was also a member of the Federation of Women Painters, and the National League of American Pen Women, being elected vice-president in 1970.
She was the second wife of Oliver Smith, a noted artist and designer, whose specialty was stained glass work. The couple traveled extensively, and it was while on a trip to the south-west in 1980 that he was stricken and died in Green Valley, Arizona. Although the couple had lived in Ozona Shores, Florida for a number of years, soon after the passing of her husband she retired to the St. Mark Village Health Care Center in Palm Harbor where she died on July 21, 1987.
Opening the Dunedin Art and Cultural Center in September of 1977, the couple was pictured in the St. Petersburg Times. Noted as a retrospective of each of the artist's work, a critic remarked of Banta’s oils: “Miss Banta’s strong and brash strokes combine a fine sense of color and composition. Her style cannot be pinpointed. It varies according to her mood and environment. ‘Some people tell me they can’t believe the same person created the paintings.’ She commented. Her mediums are as varied as her style. She works as easily with wood block prints, enamels, ceramics and stone as she does with watercolors and oils.”
Falk, Peter Hastings (editor), Who Was Who in American Art, 1998. Additional information from the Archives of the Art Students League, the artist’s obituary and death certificate.
Submitted by Edward P. Bentley, researcher of Lansing, Michigan.