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 Mary Cecilia Wheeler  (1859 - 1934)

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Lived/Active: Montana/California/Ohio      Known for: landscape, portrait and Indian figure painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Montana artist Mary Cecilia Wheeler was born January 6, 1859, in Columbus, Ohio. S he eventually became more interested in painting Western landscapes and mountains than her earlier portraits and figure studies.  She was enterprising and courageous in seeking out precarious painting spots.  Once, when she wanted to paint the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone at Artist's Point, she had someone tie her to a pine tree over-looking the canyon.  Some subjects of her paintings include Wolf Creek; Great Falls of the Yellowstone; Old Baldy Elkhorn Mountains; The Three Quadrants, Yellowstone Park; and Tide at La Jolla.  Wheeler also worked in leather, metals, and clay, carved in wood, and made block prints.  Her work is in the collection of the Montana Historical Society, Helena.

As a child, Wheeler lived in Columbus and St. Paul, Minnesota, while her father was absent, fighting in the Civil War with the Union Army.  Later moving to Montana, she was one of three members of Helena High School's first graduating class of 1879.  For several years, she taught in the elementary school there.  Helena would be her permanent residence, where she would continue her work as part-time instructor, then as art supervisor for forty years, beginning in 1892.  But, in the interim, in 1885-1887, Wheeler attended the New England Conservatory, in Boston.  She then went to Europe in 1887-1891 with Beulah Strong, a classmate at the Conservatory, studying at the Academie Colarossi* and Academie Julian*, as well as with Charles Lazar.  She also studied several summers with Pasadena, California artist Ernest Batchelder over the years.

She exhibited at the National Academy of Design*, New York City; Woman's Art Club, New York; Denver Artists' Club; and numerous Montana events.  In 1945, the teachers' sorority, Delta Kappa Gamma, gave a posthumous exhibition of Wheeler's work in Helena.

Mary Cecilia Wheeler died February 13, 1934, in La Jolla, California.

References to her life and work include: Dawdy 3; Keil; Heidenreich; Woman Voter and the Western Woman, 25 Apr 1895; Helena Journal, 4 Feb 1891; New York World, 23 Feb 1892; Daily Independent (Helena), 6 Mar 1892, 1 Apr 1894; Denver Republican, 15 Apr 1894; Helena Daily Independent, 14 Feb 1934; US Census1870, Lewis & Clark County, MT, pg 172; US Census 1880, Lewis & Clark County, MT, ED 18, pg 22; US Census 1920, Lewis & Clark Co, MT, ED 102, pg 5; death record; E. Arguimbau (Montana Historical Society), 1987.

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

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born on Jan. 6, 1859 in Columbus, OH. Wheeler was raised in Helena, MT and spent her life there. After studying art in Paris at Académies Julian and Colarossi, she taught art in the public schools of Helena for 40 years. Summers were often spent in Pasadena where she studied with Ernest Batchelder and others. Never married, she died in La Jolla, CA on Feb. 13, 1934.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Women Artists of the American West; Helena Daily Independent, 2-14-1934 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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