Frances Gearhart Biography

Frances Gearhart

American

1869-1958

Biography

Watercolorist, printmaker, and teacher, Frances Hammell Gearhart was born in Sagetown, Illinois on January 4, 1869 but was raised in Pasadena, California. She joined her sisters, May and Edna, in the field of education, teaching English History in the Los Angeles School System. As a woodblock printmaker, Gearhart is considered to be self-taught but she spent summers in the East, studying art with Charles H. Woodbury and Henry R. Poore. In 1911, she held her first exhibition of her watercolors depicting the California landscape and it would be another five to eight years before she tried her hand at block printing. The two artists who would have been the most influential to her budding interest in woodcut are Pedro de Lemos and Frank Morley Fletcher.

Gearhart joined the newly founded Print Makers Society of California in 1919 and became a driving force in shaping the future of that organization. She opened her Pasadena studio as a meeting and exhibition space for the society, helped organize shows, co-chaired the selection committee, and, by championing the color woodcut, she attracted European and British printmakers to exhibit and join the society. In 1920, Gearhart produced a color linocut for the Print Makers Society of California that became the first of their gift prints to members.

In 1924, she and her sister, May, had a two-person exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gearhart was also a member of the Prairie Print Makers and the American Federation of the Arts which organized a circulating exhibition of her block prints in 1930. There was a solo exhibition of her prints in 1933 at the Grand Central Galleries in New York and she was included in survey exhibitions of American color woodcut at the Brooklyn Museum and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Her work is represented in the collections of the Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, Art Institute of Chicago, Library of Congress, Los Angeles Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Smithsonian Institute, Toronto Museum, and the Worcester Art Museum.

Frances Hammell Gearhart died in Pasadena, California on April 4, 1958.