Gertrude Horsford Fiske was an amazing American artist. She was born in 1879 and passed away in 1961. She was famous for painting people, still life, and landscapes. During the early 20th century, she was part of the Boston School of painters, which was a big deal in the art world. What’s really cool is that in 1929, she became the first woman to be appointed to the Massachusetts State Art Commission.
She grew up in Boston, and her dad was a famous lawyer there. But before she became an artist, she was a pro golfer. Around 1904, she decided to become an artist and went to the Boston Museum School. There, she learned from great artists like Edmund C. Tarbell, Frank Benson, and Philip Hale. She also got advice from Charles H. Woodbury in Ogunquit, Maine, who told her to “paint in verbs, not in nouns.” It was a big influence on her early work, but her art took her in different directions later on.
Fiske didn’t just make art for herself; she also helped others. In 1914, she helped create the Guild of Boston Artists. Then, in 1917, she was part of setting up the Boston Society of Etchers. By the mid-1920s, she was a respected painter.
What made Fiske special was her unique way of doing art. She painted women in traditional settings, but she made them look strong and powerful. This was different from how most artists portrayed women back then. Fiske’s art often had both men and women, and she used bold colors to make her paintings interesting. She was also really good at painting male artists. Fiske also painted landscapes, and each painting told a story. She painted places like Revere Beach, a stone quarry in Weston, Massachusetts, and the Navy Yard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As she got older, she started adding modern things like phones and cars to her art.
Some of her best-known works are “The Window” (1916), “The Carpenter” (around 1922), “Sunday Afternoon” (around 1925), and “Jade” (around 1930). People loved how she put things together in her art, and “The Carpenter” won a big prize from the National Academy of Design.
Fiske’s art was shown in important exhibitions at places like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design, and more. She got awards, too, like the Shaw Prize (twice) for women artists and the Proctor Prize for portraiture from the National Academy of Design.
In 2018, an exhibition called “Gertrude Fiske: American Master” was held at Discover Portsmouth in New Hampshire. It was organized by the Portsmouth Historical Society and curated by Lainey McCartney. McCartney said that Fiske’s amazing talent, dignity, and hard work went against the usual gender roles and expectations of her time. She was a trailblazer for female artists, especially when things were more old-fashioned.
In 1961, Gertrude Fiske passed away in Weston, Massachusetts. She left behind a legacy of great art that still inspires people who love art today.