Marion Huse (1896-1967)

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Spanierman Gallery, NYC

Marion Huse was a prolific artist who, over a period of almost five decades, explored a variety of twentieth century styles, ranging from Impressionism and Depression-era Realism to Abstraction. A regionalist who derived inspiration from the varied scenery of western Massachusetts, Vermont and Boston’s South Shore, Huse was not only a talented painter but a pioneering figure in the field of serigraphy as well. She was also a popular and charismatic teacher and a respected arts administrator whose career set an important example for a younger generation of New England artists, women in particular.

Huse was born on December 1st 1896 in Lynn, Massachusetts, the only daughter of Frank G. and Maria L. (Preble) Huse. She became interested in drawing at an early age, encouraged in this endeavor by several family members with an interest in the arts. As a teenager she attended Cushing Academy, a private school in neighboring Ashburnham, where she excelled as a draftsman and became known as the school’s “Premiere Artist.”

Intent on pursuing a professional career, Huse enrolled at the New School of Design in Boston in 1915, where her teachers included the painter Douglas John Connah, who played a key role in nurturing the careers of such notables as George Bellows, Rockwell Kent and Charles Hawthorne. Following her graduation in the spring of 1919 she enrolled in the fine arts course at the Carnegie Institute of Art and Technology in Pittsburgh, working under the tutelage of Henry Salem Hubbell and Eugene Savage. Impressed with her abilities, the faculty elevated Huse’s status to that of a special student, allowing her to give instruction to her fellow students.

Confident about her prospects, Huse left the Carnegie Institute in 1921 without receiving her degree. During the early 1920s she attended Hawthorne’s outdoor summer classes at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts, evolving a broad technique and a penchant for bright color that would remain with her for the rest of her career. Throughout this period, Huse also made three trips to Europe, where she familiarized herself with recent developments in contemporary art. In 1924 she exhibited her work at the Annual Exhibition in Munich.

Huse spent the academic year of 1923-24 teaching at the New School of Design. Early in 1924 she settled in Springfield, Massachusetts, where her brother was working as a veterinarian. Establishing her studio on Harrison Avenue, she initially divided her time between painting miniature portraits and working as a commercial artist. However, her experience as an art instructor in Pittsburgh had left an indelible mark: in the autumn of 1925 she established the Springfield Art School, where she taught painting and drawing and served as chief administrator until 1940. A lively figure in the town’s art life, Huse became a regular participant in the annuals of the Springfield Art League, where she exhibited views of local scenery.

In 1934 Huse painted a portrait of Springfield’s mayor in conjunction with the governments Public Works of Art Project. Two years later--while continuing to run her art school--she worked as an artist for the WPA Federal Art Project, executing paintings, watercolors and drawings which graced the walls of public buildings in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Huse was eventually appointed a district supervisor, a further testament to her administrative skills. As a WPA artist, Huse began to take a greater interest in portraying the American Scene; working in a vigorous realist style she produced many depictions of ordinary New Englanders going about their day-to-day activities.

During the early 1930s Huse acquired a summer studio in Pownal, Vermont, a tiny village nestled in the Green Mountain foothills. Inspired by her surroundings she painted numerous landscapes, which she exhibited at the Southern Vermont Artists Association in Manchester. During these years, Huse was also active in eastern Canada and New Mexico. Around 1940 she made Pownal her permanent home.

In 1944, at the age of forty-nine, Huse married Robert Barstow, a considerably younger man who owned a farm in Pownal. The couple subsequently spent several years in Albany, New York while Barstow attended medical school. Independent-minded as ever, and with the support of her husband, she continued to pursue her career as an artist. Having produced wood and linoleum cuts during the thirties, she decided to experiment with serigraphy (silk screen printing), going on to make inventive prints characterized by painterly and textured effects.

In 1946 Huse returned to Europe, joining her husband, who was stationed with the Army Medical Corps. While abroad, she familiarized herself with the work of School of Paris and began incorporating modernist precepts, including the bold hues of Fauvism and Expressionism, into her paintings. She also made many monotypes, which she exhibited, along with her serigraphs, in numerous European group exhibitions and in her one-man shows, held in Liege, Belgium (1948) and Haarlem, Holland (1948). In 1948, the Paris-based journal, Publimondial, published an important article on her work in serigraphy and in March of that same year, the National Serigraph Society gave her a solo exhibition in New York.

Huse returned to Pownal in the summer of 1948. She and her husband lived in Albany, New York during the early 1950s and in 1954 they spent a year in Paris, at which time the artist was honored with a one-man show of her paintings at the Galerie l’Odéon. Huse’s later years were spent in Boston and Scituate, Massachusetts, with frequent trips to locales throughout New England and the Caribbean. Her late work became increasingly abstract, with expressionistic overtones, although her subject matter continued to be inspired by the New England scene and by her extensive travels. Around 1960, Huse turned her attention to collage, executing highly personal designs in which she conjoined elements of Cubism and Dadism with the vivid colors and dynamic forms that typified her late paintings.

Huse died in 1967 at the age of seventy. Her work is represented in many public collections, including the Bennington Museum of History and Art, Vermont; the Museum of fine Arts, Boston; the Wood Art Gallery, Montpelier, Vermont; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York; the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; the U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C.; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Tel-Aviv Museum. An important exhibition of her work--Marion Huse: An Artist’s Evolution--was held at the Brockton Art Museum/Fuller Memorial in Brockton, Massachusetts in 1985.


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