Elizabeth Olds Biography

Elizabeth Olds




Best known for her lithographs addressing social issues, Elizabeth Olds was committed to the idea that art is democratic and should be within the intellectual and physical reach of all the people. She was also an artist in residence at the Yaddo and McDowell artist's colonies, lived on Long Island and moved to Florida in 1971.

She lived to the age of ninety-five and was born in Minneapolis in 1896 and attended the School of Art there. Then she won a scholarship to the Art Students League in New York City, where she stayed three years and was much under the influence of her teacher, George Luks, and other Social Realists.

In 1925, she went to Europe and the next year became the first woman to win a Guggenheim Fellowship, which she used to study in Europe and stayed four years. In 1929, she returned to the United States and found her primary subject matter in Depression Era Omaha, Nebraska. In her lithographs of this subject, she depicted the ugly side of the stockyards--the slaughtering and the burdens of the laborers.

In 1934 she won a silver medal at the Kansas City Art Institute for her lithograph, "The Dying Gangster." In 1935, she returned to New York City and worked for the Federal Art Project's graphic division and In 1936, she became a member of the Artists Union, the Artists Congress, and the Graphic Division of the FAP/WPA. In 1939, she established the FAP's Silk Screen Unit to make art available for many people.

She focused on mass producing her art, which expressed deep sympathy for working people, and she also did political illustrations for a magazine called "The New Masses," and later for "The New Republic" and "Fortune" magazines. In addition, she wrote and illustrated children's books.

Source: "American Women Artists" by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein