Dorr Bothwell Biography

Dorr Bothwell




Dorr Bothwell (née Dorris Hodgson Bothwell), painter, printmaker, and educator, was born in San Francisco on 3 May 1902. Her family moved to San Diego in 1911 and Bothwell began her art studies five years later with Anna Valentien. She returned to San Francisco in 1921 and enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts where she was greatly influenced by Gottardo Piazzoni and Rudolph Schaeffer.

In May of 1928, at the age of twenty-five years old, Bothwell sailed for American Samoa. Much to her disappointment, she discovered that Pago Pago was a U.S. Naval Station and the navy controlled the movement of the islanders. Bothwell established herself on the island of Tau and became friends with chief Sotoa and his wife. When the United States Navy decreed that she had to leave, chief Sotoa made her a Samoan by having his pattern tattooed on her legs. On her own will, Bothwell left Samoa for Sydney, Australia in December 1929. From Sydney, she sent a selection of her paintings to Mr. Poland, the director of the San Diego Fine Arts Museum. He gave her an exhibition and many of the pieces sold. On the proceeds from sale of her artwork, Bothwell sailed to Europe where she spent time both in Paris and Berlin returning to San Diego, California in July 1931.

Upon her return, Bothwell worked for the Public Works of Art Project but the program only lasted a year. In 1934, she moved to La Jolla, California and shortly after worked for Gladding, McBean, one of the California’s oldest companies, which began manufacturing Franciscan Pottery in 1934. Bothwell worked briefly for the company and designed at least seventeen different pieces plus variants. She was accepted into the WPA Art Project and completed two murals, created drawings for the De Anza Monument and completed one painting.

In 1940, Bothwell moved to San Francisco with the promise of a studio and a mural job. During the war years, she struggled to find jobs as she had no official birth certificate. In the spring of 1941 she saw an exhibition of the latest printmaking technique, serigraphy, and wanted to learn the process. Bothwell eventually learned it by reading Harry Sternberg's book on the technique as the one local artist, Marion Cunningham, who had mastered the technique would not allow people in her studio. In 1944, Bothwell was hired to teach design and color at the California School of Fine Arts and she taught there off and on from 1944 to 1961. In the “off” times, she traveled.

In 1968, Bothwell and Marlys Mayfield co-wrote the book Notan: On the Interaction of Positive and Negative Spaces, which encompassed the principles developed in her teaching. She received the Abraham Rosenberg Fellowship in 1949, the San Francisco Women in the Arts award in 1979, and was twice awarded Pollock-Krasner grants. Bothwell was a member of and exhibited with the San Francisco Art Association.

Dorr Bothwell is represented in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge; the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; the Hunterian Galleries, Glasgow; the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; the Laguna Art Museum, California; the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Logan, Utah; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Long Beach Museum of Art, California; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California; and the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington.

Dorr Bothwell died in Fort Bragg, California on 24 September 2000 at the age of ninety-eight.