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Dorr Hodgson Bothwell (1902 – 2000)

Orange Grove Landscape, 1941, gouache on illustration board, 14 inches x 18 inches (image), 22 x 26 inches (framed) signed and dated lower right, newly framed with museum glazing


There is nothing more California than an orange grove and there are few orange groves like Dorr Bothwell’s. Orange Grove Landscape was completed in 1941, several years after Bothwell associated with the Los Angeles post-surrealist artists, Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg. Post-surrealism sought to convey the relationship between the perceptual and conceptual, while at the same time being differentiated from European surrealism which depended heavily on portraying the subconscious mind. Some critics characterized post-surrealism as “American Dream” art, a description which ably fits Bothwell’s painting. Although clearly representational and drawing on California Scene subject matter, Orange Grove Landscape shows post-surrealist influences in its crystalline clarity, the meticulous rows of citrus, striking palette, stark white barn peeking over the horizon and the mysterious flock of blackbirds in the skeletal, but pristine trees to the right. Bothwell’s world was a clearly designed reality that goes beyond our normal perception of the typical rural landscape, placing her work in a dialog with other female artists of the period, such as Chicago’s Gertrude Abercrombie.

Together with Ruth Armer, Helen Lundeberg, Henrietta Shore and Agnes Pelton, Dorr Bothwell was among California’s most important female modernists. Born in San Francisco, Bothwell trained at the California School of Fine Arts, the University of Oregon, and the Rudolf Shaeffer School of Design (San Francisco). During the late 1920s and 1930s, she traveled and painted in Samoa, England, France, and Germany. After her return to the United States, she lived in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. While in Los Angeles, she joined the post-surrealist circle of artists which included Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg. Bothwell worked on the mural section of the WPA’s Federal Art Project and completed several projects. In the 1940s and 1950s, she was an instructor at San Francisco’s California School of Fine Arts. During her long career, she exhibited widely, including at the San Francisco Art Association, the Modern Art Gallery (San Francisco), the Oakland Art Gallery, the San Diego Art Guild, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and the Golden Gate International Exposition. She was honored with a solo exhibition at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. Bothwell’s works are represented in the permanent collections of many of America’s most important museums, including the Whitney, Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is listed in Who was Who in American Art and all other standard references.


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