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Elizabeth Okie Paxton (American painter) 1877 - 1971

Elizabeth Okie Paxton was an American painter, married to another artist William McGregor Paxton (1869–1941). The Paxtons were part of the Boston School, a prominent group of artists known for works of beautiful interiors, landscapes, and portraits of their wealthy patrons. Her paintings were widely exhibited and sold well. Elizabeth Vaughan Okie was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the daughter of Dr. Howard Okie (1846–1902) and Elizabeth Vaughn and had one sister Adele. Okie Paxton studied painting at the Cowles Art School, with Joseph DeCamp and Ernest Major. She also took instruction from William McGregor Paxton, who had been a student at Cowles, during his brief tenure teaching at the school. She was engaged in 1896 to William McGregor Paxton, one of her art instructors, and married him on January 3, 1899. Beginning in 1901, they traveled to Europe together. They often spent their summers on Cape Cod and Cape Ann, and lived in Newton, Massachusetts. As a great beauty, she served as his muse before and during their marriage, modeling for many of his works, like the painting in which she was dressed for the ball. The couple had no children, instead focusing their creative energy on their work. Okie Paxton put her emphasis on her husband's career, managing it before and after his death at the expense of her career. She moved to Boston's Fenway Studios after her husband died. William McGregor Paxton's papers—including sketches, correspondence, and photographs—are held at the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The papers include Okie Paxton's correspondence about her paintings, exhibitions, and sales of her husband's works. It also contains sketches of her by Paxton. Of the Bostonian women artists born in the 19th century, most came from families that provided sufficient financial means to open their own studios and pay for their education. Fortunately, Boston was a city that had a number of great teachers who would teach women, including her husband, William Gregor Paxton; Edmund C. Tarbell; Philip Hale; and William Morris Hunt. Education for women occurred in separate classes and at a higher cost than that for men. Women often went on to study in Europe. Generally women stuck to domestic and still life scenes. Many women married late, regardless of when they married, they often struggled with managing the traditional roles of wife and mother with their career as an artist. Okie Paxton, considered by one art critic to be a better painter than her husband, "painted ravishing still lifes of moments in time". But like Lilian Westcott Hale, who was also a talented artist married to an artist, her career was less important than that of her husband. Okie Paxton utilized light, texture, and color like that of other artists of the Boston School. Her painting, Continental Breakfast, was shown at Rowland's in Boston and described on May 17, 1907, ...she has set forth a dainty little breakfast, daintily arranged on a crisp, clean white tablecloth; there is a silver coffee-pot, a coffee-cup and a saucer of thin white porcelain, with a light green rim, a brown breakfast roll, a dish of fruit containing a half of a grapefruit and a bunch of grapes, and a covered dish of blue and white hawthorn ware. All these things are painted with so much delicacy and loving care, they are so pretty in themselves, and they are so well related together, that it is a pleasure to look at them. It is a long time since we have seen a better piece of still life work. The Breakfast Tray is a provocative bedroom scene. Rather than show pristine interiors typical of the Boston School, however, Okie Paxton depicted a sensual, messy environment, indicating a modern sensibility and sexuality of the occupants. Her work resembled Modernism, rather than the more traditional Boston School. Another modern bedroom scene was used in a Wamsutta sheet advertisement.Her work provided insight into a new emerging woman in the intimate details revealed in the painting: The protagonist of The Breakfast Tray is a New Woman. She is educated and the beneficiary of improved health care. She advocates for women’s right to vote, to work outside the home, to go to the theater on her own, and to buy objects she uses to create an intimate space all her own, just as we see in The Breakfast Tray. But hers is not a world without men. She is finding new sexual freedom. By shifting from interior scenes to still life works, Okie Paxton avoided competing with her husband's subjects. Copper Jug with Apples is a still life of a table dressed with a white tablecloth upon which a copper-handled jug, three apples and a green cup and saucer. The painting was priced at $4,600 in 2011. Okie Paxton exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia in 1916 and 1917. She showed in six Corcoran Gallery of Art biennials between 1912 and 1941 and ten exhibitions at the National Academy Museum and School. In 1913, she exhibited The Breakfast Tray, which was called a "dainty yet sound canvas", at the National Academy. She also exhibited at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 and won a silver medal for In the Morning. Okie Paxton exhibited at the 1939 New York World's Fair. She was awarded the Ann Vaughan Hyatt (later Anna Hyatt Huntington) gold medal at the American Artists Professional League, New York, and the National Gold Medal at the Council of American Artists' Societies, New York, 1964. Her works are held in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Maryhill Museum of Art, Goldendale, WA; and the Concord Art Association, Concord, MA. Because her works sold quickly to private collectors when exhibited, she is not well represented in public collections. Source: Wikipedia * * * William McGregor Paxton (American painter) 1869 - 1941 William McGregor Paxton was an American Impressionist painter. He was born in Baltimore. In the mid-1870s his family moved to Newton Corner, where William's father James established himself as a caterer. At 18, William won a scholarship to attend the Cowles Art School, where he began his art studies with Dennis Miller Bunker. Later he studied with Jean-Léon Gérôme in Paris and, on his return to Boston, with Joseph DeCamp at Cowles. There he met his future wife Elizabeth Okie, who also was studying with DeCamp. After their marriage, William and Elizabeth lived with his parents at 43 Elmwood Street, and later bought a house at 19 Montvale Road in Newton Centre. Paxton, who is best known as a portrait painter, taught at the Museum School from 1906 to 1913. Along with other well-known artists of the era, including Edmund Charles Tarbell and Frank Weston Benson, he co-founded The Guild of Boston Artists and he is identified with the Boston School. He was well known for his extraordinary attention to the effects of light and detail in flesh and fabric. Paxton's compositions were most often idealized young women in beautiful interiors. Paxton gained fame for his portraiture and painted both Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. He taught at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School from 1906 to 1913. Paxton was made a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1928. Like many of his Boston colleagues, Paxton found inspiration in the work of the seventeenth-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Paxton was fascinated not only with Vermeer's imagery, but also with the system of optics he employed. He studied Vermeer's works closely, and discovered that only one area in his compositions was entirely in focus, while the rest were somewhat blurred. Paxton ascribed this peculiarity to "binocular vision," crediting Vermeer with recording the slightly different point of view of each individual eye that combine in human sight. He began to employ this system in his own work, including The New Necklace, where only the gold beads are sharply defined while the rest of the objects in the composition have softer, blurrier edges. This effect is even more noticeable in Paxton's 1915 painting entitled Nude, which shows a young woman seated on a blue dress that is spread across the seat of a backless divan. The woman is shown leaning slightly to the right, reaching for a pink undergarment. The figure is viewed from an angle that is midway between a back view and a right side view. All objects in the painting are slightly blurred with the exception of the woman's one visible breast (the right one) and parts of her right arm. Paxton crafted his elaborate compositions with models in his studio, and the props he used, appear in several different paintings. Paxton was working on his last painting, a view of his living room at 19 Montvale Road, with his wife posing for him, when he was stricken with a heart attack and died at the age of 72.


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