GWENDOLYN DUFILL MEUX
"White Church, Ward, Colorado", ca. 1928 | 23"x20" Oil painting on board
The daughter of Arthur Mews, Deputy Secretary of Newfoundland from 1898 to 1935, and Mabel Mews, she attended the Mount Ladies’ College, now Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, on a four-year Canadian government scholarship. While an instructor at the college from 1920 to 1922 she showed in the Spring Exhibition of the Art Association of Montreal in 1920 and the following year in its Thirty-Eighth Annual Exhibition. In the United States, she studied with Charles Hawthorne in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and with Kimon Nicholaides (author of The Natural Way to Draw) at the Art Students League in New York.
In 1922-1925 Meux was an assistant professor of fine arts at the University of Oklahoma at Norman during which time she studied with Santa Fe artists Józef Bakoś and Frank Applegate in the summer of 1923. The following year she attended the University Camp summer painting workshop in Boulder, Colorado, where she met A. Gayle Waldrop, then an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Colorado (CU). In 1925 they were married in an outdoor wedding at the University Camp to which guests received invitations on aspen bark which she had beautifully lettered. Thereafter the university hired her as an art instructor, and she spent the balance of her life in Boulder.
Meux quickly became involved in the Boulder art scene. She was a charter member and later one-time president of the Boulder Artists Guild. Established in 1926 by the Art Association of Boulder, the CU Art Department and local artists, the Guild was limited to active artists. It included most of the city’s professional artists before disbanding half a century later. The Art Association of Boulder was founded in 1923 by Jean Sherwood who relocated from Chicago to teach at the Boulder Chautauqua and helped convince Dean Fred B.R. Hellems at CU to set up the first art gallery on campus in the 1920s. The Association, lasting until 1939 and reconstituted in 1958, was open to individuals interested in promoting the arts through lecture programs, art classes, and exhibits.
In 1931 Meux joined fellow CU Fine Arts faculty members Muriel Sibell Wolle, Frances Hoar (Trucksess), Frederick Clement Trucksess and Virginia True in The Prospectors, a Regionalist art collaborative stressing a strong sense of place and community. They formed the group in connection with a traveling exhibition of their work assembled for display at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, University of Kansas and the John Herron Institute (now the Indianapolis Museum of Art). Regional modernists influenced by the Western landscape, The Prospectors’ manifesto “claimed inspiration from the natural beauty of the mountains and plains of Boulder, as well as the ghosts of Indians, mountain men, and pioneers.” Attempting to gain critical recognition for themselves and for Boulder, The Prospectors aggressively promoted their work through 1942, exhibiting at universities, museums, and galleries in twenty-four states and participating in various shows throughout the country such as the Prairie Watercolor Painters annuals in Kansas.
In addition to The Prospectors, Meux was a long-time member of the Fortnightly Club of Boulder. The oldest women’s literary club in Colorado, the group was organized in 1884 by Mary Rippon, a “founding mother” of CU and its first female professor. Meeting to share information on a variety of topics, the Fortnightly Club limits its membership to thirty-five and is a mixture of “town and gown” – community members and women associated with CU. Meux was also active for many years in the University Faculty Women’s Club, serving as its president in 1941. She likewise belonged to the then-local chapter of the Artists Equity Association in Boulder. Its president in 1969, she became an honorary member in 1973.
Inspired by the Colorado landscape, she worked in a variety of media: oil painting, watercolor, ink, crayon, lithography, and dry brush. An oil from the 1940s, White Church, Ward, depicts the central hillside portion of the former mining settlement founded eighty years earlier during the nineteenth-century Colorado Gold Rush. However, by the time she painted Ward the town was largely deserted with only 10-20 year-round residents. She constructed the scene with the modernists’ technique of juxtaposed angles, distorted shapes, and position. Of the structures highlighted with bright colors. For some resident Colorado artists of Meux’s generation, the state’s old mining towns offered an alternative to the overworked cowboy-and-Indian subject matter of the previous generation. Easily accessible and visible vestiges of Western mining history, those semi-ghost towns also provided a welcome break from the nineteenth-century panoramic landscape tradition.
In a watercolor from the 1940s entitled Clean Up, Meux used a similarly strong palette to depict a genre scene. Probably based on her participation in a winter outing, it shows a group of hikers or skiers entering a mountain cabin to shake off the snow from their clothes. The subject .stylistically belongs to American Regionalism that became ascendant during the Depression era in the 1930s and early 1940s, focusing on subjects close to home. Her Colorado work exemplifies the opinion of American modernist artist Albert Bloch, the only American artist to be affiliated with Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a group of early twentieth-century European modernists. “Her work,” he wrote, “is marked by a vigorous and direct manner, the color is joyous and vibrant…[possessing] a keen sense of humor, and sometimes a biting irony.
She also did portraits of some of her colleagues, including Muriel Sibell Wolle. She enjoyed hiking, climbing, cross-country skiing and camping as an active member of the Front Rangers, the Boulder chapter of the Colorado Mountain Club. She wrote and illustrated articles for its publication, Trail and Timberline, and for the Christian Science Monitor. Around 1940 she did an artistic rendering of the recreational opportunities in Boulder area of Colorado entitled, Mountain Playground of the University of Colorado: A Fantastical Map. She also accompanied her husband on his journalist trips to Finland and Iraq where she did sketches, and crayon drawings exhibited respectively in Denver and at the American Library in Bagdad.
She died at her home at 1520 Baseline Road in the lower Chautauqua neighborhood where she and her husband spent most of their Boulder years. Twelve years after her death her husband gave $10,000 to CU in her memory to help preserve its two million dollar art collection
Awards: Silver Medal for painting, Kansas City Art Institute (1923); Honorable Mention, Denver Art Museum exhibition (1928); Silver Medal, Kansas City Art Institute (1929), Third Honorable Mention, Mid-West Art Exhibition, Kansas City (1935).
Solo Exhibitions: Dallas Museum of Art (1933-34); Teachers College (now the University of North Texas), Denton (1934); University of Oklahoma at Norman (1940); University of Colorado Art Museum, Boulder (1945); International House, Denver (1969); “Retrospective,” Boulder Public Library (1971).
Group Exhibitions: Kansas City Art Institute (1923); Denver Art Museum (1928); Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1930); Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe (1931-32); Colorado State Teachers College (now University of Northern Colorado), Greeley (1933); “Twenty-Fourth Annual Exhibition,” McPherson City Schools,
Kansas (1934); ”Group of Twenty Contemporary American Paintings,” Traveling Show-Kansas Federation of Art (1934-35); Mid-West Art Exhibition, Kansas City (1935); West Texas Museum,
Lubbock (1935); Martha Van Rensselear Gallery, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (1943); Prairie Water Color Painters, Lindsborg, Kansas (1946-48); “Colorado Women Artists, 1859-1950,” Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, Arvada, Colorado (1989); “The Mount Allison Ladies’ College 1854-1937,” Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada (1993-94); “Colorado Face to Face,” Denver Public Library (2011); “Colorado and the West,” David Cook Galleries, Denver, Colorado (2012); “Pushing Boundaries: Early Women Artists of Colorado,” Vicki Myhren Gallery, University of Denver (2016)’ “Pioneers: Women Artists in Boulder, 1898-1950,” University of Colorado Art Museum, Boulder (2016-17).
Collections: Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma at Norman; Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas; Greenough Collection-Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery, Lindsborg, Kansas; History Colorado, Denver; Western History Art Collection, Denver Public Library; Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Denver.