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Ruth Armer (American 1896 – 1977)

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

Landscape with Cows, c. 1930s, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches, signed lower middle


About the Painting

Landscape with Cows is a fine example of California Scene painting, the West Coast version of the American Scene genre practiced during the 1930s and 1940sby the likes of Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry. Armer stands out as one of the rare female oil painters working in this style in California, as most of her contemporaries were men whose fame largely depended on watercolor as a medium. Like many Regionalist painters, Armer heeded the call to paint the local scene during the 1930s and even in the depths of the Great Depression, she captured the natural beauty and abundance of the California ranch lands. For many migrants from the Dust Bowl and the southern parts of the United States, California was a golden land of opportunity. In Landscape with Cows, Armer plays on this theme by portraying the fields and distant foothills in a variety of golden hues. This work is a celebration of California’s unique geography, and it fits nicely into the grand tradition of American landscape painting. Armer’s spare treatment of the distant hills and buildings presages the abstract forms she later began to explore in earnest. Like many other artists working during the 1930s, Armer moved strongly towards abstraction by the 1940s, making her critically celebrated California Scene landscapes rare.

About the Artist

Ruth Armer was born and spent most of her career in San Francisco. She attended the California School of Fine Arts from 1914-1915 and 1918-1919 and studied in New York at the Art Students League with George Bellows, Robert Henri, and John Sloan. She later continued her studies in Europe. Armer taught at the California School of Fine Arts from 1933 to 1940 and was an instructor and served on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Art Institute. Armer had solo exhibitions at a number of institutions, including Vickery, Atkins & Torrey Gallery (1922), Brownell-Lamberston Galleries (1933), the Cleveland Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art (1936 and 1939), the Oakland Art Gallery (1932) and the Quay Gallery (1972 and 1975). Public collections holding her work include the Oakland Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Armer is listed in Who was Who in American Art, Mallet’s Index of Artists and other standard references.


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