Barbara Olmsted Biography

Barbara Olmsted




Barbara Olmsted was born Barbara Leslie Greene in Spirit Lake, Iowa on May 7, 1915. While just a child, her family moved to Williams, Arizona where they operated a farm. She attended University of California Berkeley for two years and the California School of Fine Arts, where she met and married fellow student Frederick Olmsted. The couple traveled to Paris to visit another CSFA student, Helen Phillips, who had received a scholarship to study abroad. While in Paris, they met Phillips’s future husband, Stanley William Hayter. Barbara and Fred worked at Atelier 17 for three months before departing with Phillips and Hayter to tour Germany and Vienna to study frescos. They returned to San Francisco in late 1937.

A collateral relative of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Frederick (Rick) Olmsted studied science at Stanford University and art at the California School of Fine Arts. Fred Olmsted worked in the California WPA, assisting John Langley Howard and George Harris in the mural project at Coit Tower in San Francisco, creating his own mural on a three-foot panel above the main entrance. He also assisted Diego Rivera with his mural at the Art Institute in San Francisco. Fred created numerous murals and sculptures for public works in San Francisco, including the surreal Theory & Science mural at San Francisco City College.

Barbara Olmsted's work was included in the important 1944 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Hayter and Studio 17, which featured sixty prints by thirty-two artists from twelve nations. Her prints are few and very rare but she exhibited them in the San Francisco Bay Area for a few years and was an active member of the San Francisco Art Association.

After divorcing Fred Olmsted in 1944, Barbara married Winston Petty in 1945. They operated a walnut orchard and ran a landscaping business in Danville, California. In 1954, they moved to a seventy-acre farm near Mt. Angel, Oregon to continue organic farming. Winston was a cellist with the San Francisco and Oregon Symphones. After her divorce from Winton, Barbara relocated to Silverton, Oregon in 1959.

Barbara married Al Phillips and began a long and successful career in real estate. She was a member of the Oregon State Grange, Redland Chapter, and was an offical pianist for fifty years. She was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Oregon Trail Chapter. Barbara was an active Democrat and the highlight of her service was to play piano with Harry Truman. Family and friends feted her for her 98th birthday and Barbara passed away peacefully at home two weeks later on May 21, 2013.