Margaret Jordan Patterson began her formal art studies at Pratt Institute with Arthur Wesley Dow in 1895. As was the case for many artists working at the turn of the century, her interests eventually took her to Europe. Throughout her lifetime Patterson returned to Europe for extended stays in Italy and France.

It was in Paris that she learned to make color woodcuts from American artist Ethel Mars. Creating her first prints in 1911, Patterson originally used color woodcuts as a way to reproduce her paintings. Eventually the tables turned and her watercolors served as preliminary studies for her prints. She made very exacting studies in which color and composition were worked out before transferring the work to woodblock.

The effects of atmosphere and light attained in Coast Cedars illustrate Patterson's acute skill in manipulating the inking and printing of woodblock. In making the sky lighter at the horizon line and the water deep blue, Patterson achieves the effect of spatial depth. As was true for Frances Gearhart, Patterson frequently printed with a lavender blue key block (or major color element) instead of the more traditional black. The muted tones soften the outlines between colors, achieving a more harmonious color scheme. Her skillful use of color gives the viewer the very real sensation of warm sun on a beach. The coastal subject matter is particularly interesting given Patterson's history. She was the daughter and granddaughter of sea captains and was in fact born at sea, off the coast of Indonesia.

During World War I Patterson served as the director of the art department at a girls' school in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She also taught art in public schools in Boston, Massachusetts and PortSmouth, New Hampshire. In the 1930s floral stilllifes began to supplant landscapes as her main subject. In the stilllifes, Patterson explored further the relationship between color and form. While the pieces were by no means abstract, they relied less on subject matter and more on the formal elements of composition.

Patterson had a number of exhibitions in Paris in the teens. Later in her life she exhibited in both Boston and New York. Among her awards was an honorable mention at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and a medal from the Philadelphia Watercolor Club in 1939. Today Patterson's work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Cleveland Art Museum and the Oakland Art Museum.

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Margaret Jordan Patterson (1867 - 1950) United States


Coast Cedars

c. 1920’s, woodblock, 8” x 10.5”