Margaret Jordan Patterson (1867-1950)

Margaret Jordan Patterson (1867-1950)

Daughter of a Maine sea captain, Margaret Patterson was born in Soerabaija, Java, while her parents were on a voyage, and grew up in Maine, before moving with her family to Massachusetts and attending high school in Boston. Patterson began her artistic studies at the Pratt Institute in New York under Arthur Wesley Dow, whose principles of design and craftsmanship both can be seen in Patterson’s work, particularly in her color woodcuts. 

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In 1898, Patterson began her own teaching career in the Boston School system, staying on until 1915, when she joined the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Massachusetts, as head of the art department. She continued working at Dana Hall through 1940 and while keeping to her teaching career, Patterson continued her own artistic education. She studied with Charles Woodbury, perhaps the second most important influence on her work after Dow, while he was in Boston and in Ogunquit, and stayed with the artist and his family in Holland for several weeks while traveling through Europe. Charles confided to his mother, “Miss Patterson has arrived at Antwerp and will join us next week but she is a good sort and I don’t think she will be in the way.”[1] 

Patterson made her first trip to Europe in 1899, traveling through France, Belgium and Holland. She returned to Europe every year between 1900 and 1930 and visited Italy frequently where she made many watercolors of the Italian countryside.  In 1910, while studying in Paris under Ethel Mars, Patterson was introduced to the art of woodblock printing, the medium for which she would be best remembered. In addition to her accomplishments as a fine painter of still life and landscapes, she became remarkably proficient in this art and in 1915 her woodblock prints were featured in a solo show at the Louis Katz Gallery in New York City. Reviews of her woodblock exhibitions were positive for years to come: “[Patterson’s] prints not only have individuality of treatment and style but are all examples of effects obtained with the right use of the medium…[she] recognizes its limitations as well as its possibilities, and it is because she works within these bounds, using her artistic judgment and feeling for design and color, that her results are so pleasing and distinctive.”[2]

Patterson had a successful career as an artist and exhibited frequently at the Copley Society, the Guild of Boston Artists and the Boston Art Club, and between 1903 and 1930 her work was included in fifteen of the Annual Exhibitions of Watercolors at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Additionally, she exhibited at the 1902 Annual Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, and was a member of the National Association of Women Artists, the Copley Society, the Guild of Boston Artists and the Boston Society of Watercolor Painters. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York are two of several museums that count Margaret Jordan Patterson’s woodblocks as part of their permanent collections.

References: See Who Was Who In American Art (1999); Art By American Women, The Louise and Alan Sellars Collection, Brenau College, Gainesville, GA, exhibition catalogue, 1991; Margaret J. Patterson 1867-1950, Retrospective Exhibition (Boston: James R. Bakker Antiques, Inc., 1988); “Margaret Patterson, Noted Boston Artist and Teacher,” Boston Sunday Globe (February 19, 1950): 3.   

[1] Charles Woodbury to his mother, September 17, 1903. Charles H. Woodbury Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

[2] Boston Evening Transcript, March 1920 (Clipping from Vose Galleries Artist Files)

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