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 Clara McDonald Williamson  (1875 - 1976)

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Lived/Active: Texas      Known for: naive views and rural western genre painting

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Clara McDonald Williamson
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Primitive artist Clara McDonald Williamson, born November 20, 1875, in Iredell, Texas, lived to be one hundred years of age, dying in Dallas, Texas, February 17, 1976. It was a good thing she was so long-lived, because it wasn't until 1943 that she took up painting at the age of sixty-eight. Until that time, she appears to have been a household drudge, spending her life with chores both before and after her marriage in 1903, when her work included child-rearing. It was only after her husband died, that she was able to study art.

But her problems hadn't ended. She was discouraged from studying art by the faculty at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, so she audited a class there while taking night classes at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Though her attendance was sporadic, by 1945 she won prizes in local competitions while still a student. In quite a coup, she exhibited a painting in 1946 at the National Academy of Design, in New York City. She remained a resident of Dallas, and would paint approximately one hundred sixty pictures.

Williamson painted her memories of people, places, and events from her early life in Iredell, as well as early Waxahachie, Dallas, and places she had visited like Baton Rouge, Louisiana; New York City; and Los Angeles, California. She also painted pictures from her imagination and religious subjects. Some examples of her work include My Birth-place; Chicken for Dinner; Sunday Train; Main Street, Iredell; Texas Barn Dance; The Old Chisholm Trail; The Day the Basque Froze Over; and The Harvest. Her work is in the collections of the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art; Dallas Museum of Art; and Wichita Art Museum, Kansas.

She had one-person shows in 1948 at the Dallas Museum of Art, and Elisabet Ney Museum, Austin; 1954 at the Alan Gallery, New York; in 1962 at the Fifth Avenue Gallery, Fort Worth; and in 1966 at the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth. Williamson's group exhibitions included the Dallas Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Terry Art Institute, Miami; University of Illinois, Urbana; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Philbrook Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Southern Methodist University.

References to the life and work of Clara Williamson include: Who's who in American Art 1973-1976; Petteys; Trenton; Dawdy 2; Vogel & Vogel; Hendricks; Colliers, 1 Oct 1954; Art in America, Winter 1956-1957; Texas Parade, May 1964; American Heritage, Aug 1970; Austin American, 24 Sep 1948, 1 Oct 1948; Dallas Morning News, 19 Feb 1976; Valley House Gallery papers, AAA, reels 1685, 1686; death certificate.


Source:
Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, "An Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"



Biography from Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden:
Born: 1875
Died: 1976

Education: Self-Taught

Exhibitions:

1945 Sixteenth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibit, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1946 Seventeenth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibit, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1946 Pepsi Cola Painting of the Year, Invitational Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, New York
1946 The Eighth General Exhibition, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas; Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas
1947 Eighteenth Annual Dallas Allies Arts Exhibit, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts
1948 One Person Show, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1948 Nineteenth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibit, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1948 One Person Show, Elisabeth Ney Museum, Austin, Texas
1949 Twentieth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibit, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1950 American Painting of Today, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
1950 Twenty-First Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibit, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1951 Texas Wildcat Show, Fort Worth Art Association, Fort Worth
1951 Thirteenth Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition, Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1952 Texas Watercolor Society Exhibition, San Antonio, Texas
1952 Terry National Art Exhibition, Terry Art Institute, Miami, Florida
1952 Texas Fine Arts Association Membership Exhibition, Austin, Texas
1952 Texas Contemporary Artists, M. Knoeldler & Company, Inc., New York, New York
1952 Fourteenth Annual Exhibition of Texas Painting and Sculpture, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas
1953 University of Illinois Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings and Sculpture, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
1953 One Person Show, The Betty McLean Gallery, Dallas, Texas
1953 Fourteenth Annual Artists West of the Mississippi Invitational, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado
1953 Group Exhibition: Artists from Betty McClean Gallery, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California; Frank Pearls Gallery, Beverly Hills, California
1953 State Fair of Texas Exhibition (Fifteenth Texas Annual,) Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas
1953-54 American Contemporary Natural Painters Invitational, traveling exhibition through Europe and Scandinavia, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
1954 Twenty-Fifth Annual Dallas Allies Arts Exhibit, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1954 Guest Exhibition, The Alan Gallery, New York, New York
1954 Man and His Years Exhibition, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
1954-55 American Primitive Paintings, Assembled by the Smithsonian Institution for travel in Europe and Scandinavia
1954-55 American Natural Painters Invitational, traveling exhibition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
1955 Altrusa Club of Dallas, Mature Woman’s Award
1955 Pittsburgh International Invitation Exhibition, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1955 Seventeenth Annual Texas General Exhibition, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas; Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Texas Fine Arts Association, Austin, Texas; Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas
1956 Twenty-Seventh Annual Dallas Allies Arts Exhibit, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1956 One Person Show, First National Bank Building, San Antonio
1956 Executive View: Art in the Office, Assembles by the American Federation of Arts, Exhibited at the Time-Life Building, New York, New York
1956 Eighteenth Annual Texas Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas; Texas Fine Arts, Austin, Texas; The Museum, Lubbock, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas
1957 D.D. Feldman Exhibition of Texas Art, Dallas, Texas
1957 A Survey of Texas Painting, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1957 University of Illinois Biennial Invitation Exhibition, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois
1957 State Fair of Texas Exhibition (Nineteenth Texas General), Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Beaumont Museum, Beaumont, Texas
1958 Exhibition of Naïve Painters, Madison Square Garden Antique Show, Galerie St, Etienne, New York, New York
1958 Natural Painters Exhibition, Southampton, New York
1958 Religious Arts of the Western World, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1958 The Iron Horse in Art, Fort Worth Art Center,, Fort Worth, Texas
1958 Texas Oil 1958, Dallas Public Library, Dallas, Texas
1958 D.D. Feldman Exhibition of Texas Painting, Dallas Public Library, Dallas, Texas
1958-59 American Primitive Painting Exhibition Invitational, traveling exhibition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
1959 One Person Show, First National Bank, Dallas, Texas
1959 Made in Texas by Texans, Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, Dallas, Texas
1959 State Fair of Texas Exhibition (Twenty-First Texas General), Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Witte Memorial Museum, San Antonio, Texas
1960 Southwestern Art: Painters of Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas; Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1961 Young Collections Exhibition, Philbrook Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma
1961 Ex-Students Exhibition, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
1961 A Century of Art and if in Texas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
1961 Paintings by Grandma Moses, Clara Williamson, and H.O. Kelly, Fort Worth Art Center, Fort Worth, Texas
1962 One Person Show, Fifth Avenue Gallery, Fort Worth, Texas
1962 One Person Show, Stewart Rickard Gallery, San Antonio, Texas
1962 One Person Show, Junior Service League of Longview, Longview, Texas
1963 American Primitive Paintings Today, Bianhini Gallery, New York, New York
1964 One Person Show, Valley House Gallery, Dallas, Texas
1965 Owen Fine Arts Center, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
1966 The American Woman as Artist, 1820-1965, Pollack Galleries, Owens Fine Arts Center, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
1966 International Naïve Art , La Boetie, Inc., New York, New York
1966 International Exhibition of Primitive Art, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia
1966-67 Retrospective Exhibition; 1943-1966, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, TX, The Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, OK., Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, TX., Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Dallas, TX.
1981 The Folk Art Tradition: Naïve Painting in Europe and the United States, Galerie St. Etienne, New York, New York
1992 Twentieth-Century Texas Folk Art, Sewell Art Gallery, Rice University, Houston, Texas
1996 The Wind in My Hair, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
1997 Spirited Journeys, Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery, The University of Texas at Austin
1998 Spirited Journeys, McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas; Texas Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas; Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Houston, Texas
2001 Folk Fest 2001, art fair, North Atlanta Trade Center, Atlanta, GA (Valley House Gallery)
2001 Texas International Fine Art Fair, NorthPark East, Dallas, Texas (Valley House Gallery)
2002 Dreams and Memories of Things Past, 3 person show, Valley House Gallery, Dallas, Texas (with Velox Ward and Scooter Orsburn)
2003 Memory Painters, The Michelson Museum of Art, Marshall, Texas
2003 Golden Blessings of Old Age & out of the mouths of babes, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland (Chicken for Dinner)
2008 CASETA 6th Annual Symposium on Early Texas Art, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas
2010 Drawing on the Past: Selections from the Bobbie and John Nau Collection of Texas Art, curated by Judy Tedford Deaton, Chief Curator, The Grace Museum, Abilene, Texas
2011 Fresh & Salty (a Valley House Gallery group exhibition), Fort Worth Community Arts Center, Fort Worth, Texas

Video:

Clara McDonald Williamson, aired on ABC for Directions 67, produced by Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1967

Selected Literature:

Sey Chassler, “A Rich Find in Texas Oils,” Collier’s, October 1, 1954, p. 90.

Urban Texas Tomorrow, Institute of Urban Studies, University of Texas at Arlington, 1965, p. 12.

Donald and Margaret Vogel, Aunt Clara: The Paintings of Clara McDonald Williamson, Published by The Amon Carter Museum and The University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, 1966.

Herbert W. Hemphill, Jr. and Julia Weissman, Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists, E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1974, pp.158-159, illus.

Cecilia Steinfeldt, Texas Folk Art: One Hundred Years of the Southwestern Tradition, Texas Monthly Press, Austin, Texas, 1981, pp. 96 – 103, illus.

Jane Kallir, The Folk Art Tradition: Naïve Painting in Europe and the United States, The Viking Press, New York, and Galerie St. Etienne, New York, 1981, pp. 52-55.

Seldon Rodman, Artists in Tune With Their World: Masters of Popular Art in the Americas & Their Relation to the Folk Tradition, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982, pp.64-67, illus.

World Encyclopedia of Naïve Art, Chatwell Books Inc., 1984, p. 612.

Jan and Chuck Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art: Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists, Abbeville Press, New York, New York, 1990, pp. 332-333, illus.

Lynne Adele, Spirited Journey: Self-taught Artists of the Twentieth Century, University of Texas at Austin, 1997, pp.183-187, illus.

Celebrating Texas: Honoring the Past, Building the Future, McDougal Littell, Dallas, Texas, 2003, ISBN 0-618-15512-0, p. 380, Chicken for Dinner illus.

50th Anniversary Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Valley House Gallery, Dallas, Texas, March 5 – 27, 2004, color illustration.

Satish Kumar, editor, “Welcome: Education for Sustainability,” Resurgence (magazine), No. 226, Devon, United Kingdom, September/October 2004, p. 3, Chicken for Dinner illus.

Drawing on the Past: Selections from the Bobbie and John Nau Collection of Texas Art, exhibition catalogue with essay by Judy Tedford Deaton, Chief Curator, The Grace Museum, Abilene, Texas, 2010.

Museum Collections:

Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas
Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, Kansas

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