Barbara Olmsted Biography

Barbara Olmsted




Barbara Olmsted, nee Barbara Leslie Greene, was born in Spirit Lake, Iowa on May 7, 1915 to Harold Green and Jessie Estella Atkins. She was raised on her family's ranch in Williams, Arizona where she discovered her love of horses, music, and art. She attended the University of California, Berkeley for two years and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, where she met her future husband, 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. The Olmsteds 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.

Despite working in engraving, etching, and lithography for several years, her prints are quite rare. Olmsted was an active member of the San Francisco Art Association and her prints were included in the Annual Exhibition of Drawings and Prints in 1938, 1941, 1942, and 1943 held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 1938, her etching Le Sacre sans Merci was awarded a prize for etching. Olmsted's lithograph Memory of the Dark illustrated the cover for the 1942 catalog and was awarded the San Francisco Art Association Purchase Prize. Her 1937 engraving and softground etching Le Negre et les Arbres 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. Olmsted's work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art.

After divorcing Fred Olmsted in 1944, Barbara married Winston Petty in 1945. They operated a walnut orchard and a landscaping business in Danville, California. In 1954, they moved to a seventy-acre farm near Mt. Angel, Oregon to continue organic farming. 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 official pianist for fifty years. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Oregon Trail Chapter, and was an active Democrat. The highlight of her music career 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.