Frances Gearhart Biography

Frances Gearhart




Frances Hammell Gearhart, painter, printmaker, and teacher, was born on 4 January 1869 in Sagetown, Illinois and her family moved to Pasadena, California in 1888. She graduated from the State Normal School in Los Angeles in 1891 and began teaching the following year. In 1896, Frances moved north to attend the State University in Berkeley [now the University of California Berkeley] where she earned her BA degree in philosophy in 1900. Frances joined her sisters, May and Edna, in the field of education, teaching English History in the Los Angeles School System.

Gearhart spent summers in the east, studying art with Charles H. Woodbury in Boston and Henry R. Poore in New York. As a woodblock printmaker, she is considered to be self-taught and created her first print in 1918. She joined the Print Makers Society of California in 1919 and opened her Pasadena studio for use by the society. Gearhart worked tirelessly in the organization of the society and co-chaired the selection committee. In 1920, she produced a color linocut, On the Salinas River, that was the first gift print of the Print Makers Society of California. In July 1923, Gearhart studied block print techniques in Santa Barbara with the British printmaker, Frank Morley Fletcher.

Gearhart was also a member of and exhibited with the Prairie Print Makers and the American Federation of Arts. Her work was included in survey exhibitions of American color woodcut at the Brooklyn Museum and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Frances Hammell Gearhart is represented in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois;  the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota; the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California; the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and the Worcester Art Museum.

In 2009, the Pasadena Museum of California Art published the catalog Behold the Day: The Color Block Prints of Frances Gearhart for an exhibition of Gearhart’s work. Susan Futterman, Nancy E. Green, and Victoria Dailey wrote essays and the catalog was edited by Futterman. The catalog is richly illustrated and a must for the library of print collectors.

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