Beatrice Wood


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(1893–1998). Painter, collage artist, draftswoman, printmaker, and ceramist. Leading lady of New York dada, she remained active almost to the end of her 105 years, working in later years primarily with ceramics. Born in San Francisco, she spent much of her childhood in New York and was educated at a private boarding school in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Off to Paris while still in her teens, she studied art and acting until returning to New York in 1914. There, her career in modern art began after a chance meeting in 1916 with Marcel Duchamp, who invited her to share his studio. Through him, she met Walter Arensberg and became a regular guest at the avant-garde gatherings in his apartment. With the French writer Henri-Pierre Roché, she and Duchamp founded the dada magazine The Blind Man in 1917. (In its two issues, it created a stir, then expired.) During these years she began to create whimsical, often autobiographical drawings, watercolors, and collages. In 1918 she moved to Montreal to work in the theater but two years later returned to New York. In 1928 she relocated to the Los Angeles area. There, at the age of forty, she began an intensive involvement with clay, studying with several ceramic masters. She at first focused on humorous figurines, but her true accomplishment as an artist began only after she moved permanently to Ojai, northwest of the city, in 1948. She developed an unparalleled mastery of luster glazes, which she applied to simple, often unrefined bowls, chalices, and other traditional shapes. Attaining her finest artistic expression in her eighties and nineties, Wood continued to work at her potter's wheel every day until two years before her death. She published several books, including I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood (1985) and an account of her travels in India, The Thirty-Third Wife of the Maharajah (1992). Her personality partially inspired the female character at the center of Roché's novel Jules and Jim (later a François Truffaut film), as well as the centenarian who framed the narrative in the 1997 movie Titanic, directed by her Ojai neighbor James Cameron.

From The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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