Theme/Style – Modernism, figurative art, portraits, landscape, genre
Media – Oils, gouache, watercolor, charcoal, lithographs
Artistic Focus – An exhibiting artist for almost 50 years, Katharine Skeele was a highly-regarded portraitist, but was primarily known for her rich, respectful depictions of people and scenes of the American Southwest. Critic Arthur Millier’s appreciation for the “satisfying feeling of weight and texture” in Skeele’s artworks, and their sophisticated simplicity, speaks to her commitment to the Modernist aesthetic she shared with many of the foremost progressive Southern California artists of her day.
Career Highlights –
- Anna Katharine Skeele was born on in 1896 in Wellington, Ohio, and grew up in Ohio and in Michigan, where she took art lessons privately and in youth classes at Olivet College. She later moved to Monrovia, California, and studied at Pomona College in Claremont from 1914 to 1917.
- In 1922 Skeele attended the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and then became a pupil of Stanton Macdonald Wright in Los Angeles. She continued her studies through the early 1920s in Monterey, California, with Armin Hansen; at the Art Students League in New York; and with George Bridgman. Skeele went on to study in Europe through the late 1920s, in Paris at l’Académie Julian and l’Académie de la Grande Chaumière, and with André Lhôte; and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, with Felice Carena.
- Upon returning to Monrovia, Skeele had a solo show at the Grace Nicholson Galleries in Pasadena in 1927. Around 1928, after traveling to Taos, New Mexico with a friend, Skeele developed a strong interest in and connection to the Southwest U.S., and she would return often to sketch the residents and their environs.
- Skeele exhibited frequently from the 1930s through the 1950s, in southern California at the Los Angeles Museum annual Painters’ and Sculptors’ Exhibition, the Foundation of Western Art’s annual “Trends in California Art” exhibitions, the Los Angeles Art Association, the Hollywood Gallery of Modern Art, the Woman’s Club of Hollywood, the Pasadena Art Institute annual, the Pasadena Society of Artists, the Laguna Beach Art Association, La Fiesta de Los Angeles, and the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego (now the San Diego Museum of Art); in northern California at the Oakland Art Gallery and Santa Cruz Art League annuals; and with the California Watercolor Society in a nationwide traveling exhibition in 1946 that included New York’s Riverside Museum.
- Skeele was included in an “All-Modern” show at Los Angeles’s California Art Club in 1929, along with other Modernists such as Mabel Alvarez, Boris Deutsch, Helena Dunlap, Peter Krasnow and Edouard Vysekal; and in 1931 Skeele was in another show of Modernist artworks at the city’s Central Library, along with Robert Gilbert, Everett Gee Jackson, Ward Montague and others.
- Skeele’s painting Eagle Dance won a prize in the Los Angeles Museum annual in 1931, and in 1933 the painting won the Leisser-Farnham prize at the annual exhibition at the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. Skeele also won a prize at the Santa Cruz Art League annual in 1934, for her portrait of fellow artist Edith Hamlin, whom she worked with in Taos.
- Skeele had a solo show at the Dudensing Gallery, New York, in 1931; and her solo exhibitions in California during the early 1930s included the Little Studio-Gallery, Monrovia; University of Southern California, Los Angeles; and the Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Santa Barbara.
- In 1934, Skeele was included in the exhibition “Progressive Painters of Southern California” at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Led by Tom E. Lewis, the group also comprised such Modernists as Dorr Bothwell, Phil Dike, Arthur Durston, Lorser Feitelson, Helen Lundeberg and Paul Sample.
- As part of the Public Works of Art project, Skeele executed a 7-by-33-foot-long mural depicting daily life in Taos for Torrance High School, California, completed in 1936; and also in 1936, other work by Skeele done under the auspices of the Federal Art Project was exhibited in Fresno, CA.
- Skeele’s painting Taos Woman was included in the San Francisco Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939, where Skeele set up her easel at the Palace of Fine Arts and made over 400 crayon portraits of visitors. Her work was also in the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas.
- During World War II, Skeele participated in U.S.O. sketching parties, where artists drew portraits of servicemen to keep and send to their families. The artists’ group in Los Angeles was led by painter Frode Dann and included Skeele, Dan Lutz and Edward Biberman, among others. Frode Dann and Katharine Skeele were married in 1946, and after her marriage she used the name Katharine Skeele Dann (or the initials KSD) on her artwork.
- In 1951 Skeele and Dann founded the Pasadena School of Fine Arts, with Dann as its director, and Skeele and Dann as instructors, along with Ejnar Hansen and Milford Zornes. Skeele continued to devote much of her time to painting, and she and Dann exhibited together in local shows including the Chaffey College Gallery, Ontario, and the Whittier Art Galleries.
- Skeele’s works are in the collections of California museums including the Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach; the San Diego Museum of Art; the Long Beach Museum of Art; and the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, Los Angeles. Besides those mentioned above, she received honors and awards from the Sacramento State Fair; Los Angeles County Fair, Pomona; and the Women Painters of the West, among others.
- Skeele continued to travel throughout her life, including trips to Mexico, Guatemala and Europe in the late 1950s. On a trip to Europe with Dann in 1962 she spent most of her time in Morocco sketching the people, whose lifestyle reminded her of the Native Americans of the Southwest.
- Anna Katharine Skeele Dann passed away shortly after returning home from her European trip in 1963, in Pasadena, California. A “Katharine Skeele Dann Memorial Exhibition” was held at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1964; and there was a Katharine Skeele and Frode Dann retrospective at the Jack Carr Gallery in Pasadena in 1972.
Bibliographic references are available upon request.