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 Jean Wolverton Petite  (1892 - 1974)

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Lived/Active: United States      Known for: Painting, illustration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jean Wolverton Petite (1892-1974)

She was born in a farmhouse near Tacoma, Washington on February 20th, 1892.  She grew up in Portland, Oregon, where she showed an early interest  in flowers and birds, and her mother encouraged her natural talent for drawing them.  She graduated from Lincoln High School and from Reed College.  After teaching for two years, she married J. Edward Petite, who was then principal of the Harney School in Vancouver, Washington.  The couple had three sons, Irving, Marvin and Paul.

Later they moved to Seattle, where Mrs. Petite began a series of art courses with some of the leading art teachers of Seattle at that time, including Helen Everett, Paul Emil, Jane Given of the Cornish School and numerous other visiting and local artists.  She completed the art course with a Federal School of rt and she took two courses in art at the Central Washington College.

Mrs. Petite held numerous art shows in Seattle, Bremerton, Portland, Monmouth, Oregon and at the Art Museum of Santa Ana, California, and two shows at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.

Mrs. Petite was one of the Washington Artists whose work was selected to hang in the International Fine Arts Exhibit at the Expo 70 World's Fair held in Osaka, Japan.  She sold numerous covers for magazines, including two covers for Nature Magazine, edited at that time by Bruce Horsfall.  She illustrated two books, The Elderberry Tree and The Best Time of Year, by one of the Petites three sons, Irving Petite.

One of Mrs. Petite's outstanding art achievements was the painting of sets of bird pictures, which were made into slides and which with Teachers' Guides were sold to public schools and colleges from Washington through California.  Mrs. Petite and her husband spent five months in Mexico while she was making an especially interesting set of pictures of the Birds of Mexico.  Each bird picture was accompanied  by a spray of flowers or plants that the particular bird frequented.   She first studied the birds of an area in the field, doing preliminary sketches there.  Later, refinements in plumage and details were obtained from close-up observations of the live birds in zoos, especially the Balboa Zoo in San Diego, and from skins in museums.

The State of California, Division of Parks and Recreation, commissioned Mrs. Petite to do a set of 48 shore and sea birds, and land birds of Point Lobos State Reserve. These illustrations, with script by Milton Frincke and Harold Terry, were printed by the state in a booklet titled Birds of Point Lobos.  It came out in 1972 and enjoyed wide circulation.

In May, 1971, Mrs. Petite was given a "Citation by the Seattle Music and Art Foundation for her enrichment of the cultural life of the community through art".

Jean Wolverton Petite was a member of the Seattle Audubon Society from 1928, when she and her husband and their three sons moved to Seattle, until the time of her death on November 20th, 1974.

Information provided by the artist's great-granddaughter Tonya Morris.

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