Born in Saint Louis, Lucretia Le Bourgeois was privately educated and spent a good deal of her childhood at her family's plantation in Louisiana. When Lucretia was about 14, she was orphaned and sent to live in New York and Washington D.C. with the family of her mother's sister. The Wadworths were a well-educated, sophisticated family who continued Lucretia's private education and introduced her to artists. Van Horn began to seriously study art in 1897 when she enrolled at the Art Students League and took classes from John Henry Twachtman and George Bridgeman. In 1902 her studies took her to Paris and the Academie Julian. There she was the first woman to be awarded the Concours Julian-Smith prize (1904).

Early in her artistic career Van Horn aspired to be an illustrator. Her academy training had provided her with a strong background in drawing the figure and in still life. Her style was accomplished and meticulous, earning her work doing book illustrations including Helen Hay Whitney's Herbs and Apples (1908). In 1907 she met Robert Van Horn, a military aide to President Theodore Roosevelt. The following year they married and Lucretia moved with her husband from military base to military base. During the early part of the century they lived in Cuba, Georgia, Kansas, Washington D.C., New York, and Boston. In 1909 a daughter, Margaret, was born. After the 1916 birth of their second daughter, Lucretia, Van Horn stayed east while her husband worked in Texas and then France during WWI. After the war, the family moved to San Antonio where Lucretia helped found the Conservation Society and was responsible for helping preserve the city's river and its Spanish heritage. She also became an active member of the San Antonio Art League.

While living in the American Southwest (1922-27), Van Horn traveled to Mexico where she spent time with Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. A friendship of some significance was established and Rivera included Van Horn in a mural he did for a government building in Mexico. While there, Van Horn helped in the production of Rivera's murals and acquired a number of his paintings. Exposure to a modern, streamlined approach helped Van Horn flatten and simplify her illustrative, academic style. Two Women with a Squash clearly shows Rivera's influence-rounded, simplified figures are pressed up against the flattened picture plane. At this time Van Horn frequently chose women outdoors as her subject matter. Exposure to Rivera's revolutionary politics more than likely contributed to Van Horn's sympathetic treatment of these peasant women nestled in the land.

The 1920s and early 1930s were Van Horn's most productive years. Like many of her peers, she was intrigued by the work of the European modernists and experimented with varying styles and approaches from cubism to surrealism. She worked in a variety of media from charcoal to ink to watercolor and oil. In Leaves, the swirling, morphing organic forms that make up this mysterious landscape show influences of both symbolism as well as surrealism. The dark umbers, greens and browns add to the sense that this is a forest full of wonder, more fantastical than threatening.

In 1927 the family moved to Berkeley, California where Van Horn became a prominent member of the Bay Area art community. She served on the Board of the Oakland Art League. From 1928 to 1932 she exhibited often with galleries in the Bay Area and New York and was included in exhibitions at the Oakland Art Gallery (now the Oakland Museum), the Berkeley Art Museum as well as in San Francisco Art Association shows in 1930, 1931, and 1932.

In 1932 Lucretia's daughter Margaret died. There are very few works that exist after this date and no record of exhibitions until 1943 when she again participates in the San Francisco Art Association exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art.

After her daughter's death, Van Horn continues to move with her husband, residing for a time in Georgia. In 1940 General Van Horn retires and in 1941 they return to California. General Robert Van Horn died in June of that year. Lucretia Van Horn spent the remainder of her life in an historic adobe home in Palo Alto. Posthumously, she is receiving growing attention and has been the subject of a number of one person exhibitions in California.


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Lucretia Van Horn (1882 - 1970) United States

LUCRETIA VAN HORN

Leaves

c. 1930, oil on canvas, 26” x 22”

LUCRETIA VAN HORN

Two Women with a Squash

c. 1930, oil on canvas, 24” x 26”