Kathleen Blackshear (1897-1988) was an American Modernist painter who was born near the Texas Cotton Belt in Navasota, Texas. She grew up on various cotton plantations owned by members of her extended family. Her friends were often the children of the African American field workers. These relationships influenced the subjects of the painter later in her art career.
Ms. Blackshear attended Baylor University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in modern languages. She then moved to New York City where she attended the Art Students League. Kathleen left her studies in New York to explore the world. During this period of her life, Kathleen spent time in California where she hand-colored films and designed film posters. After six years of travel, Kathleen moved to Chicago to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she received her master’s degree. She went on to teach art and to paint.
During the height of Kathleen’s career, African Americans were frequently the subjects of her work inspired by her summer trips to Texas, her childhood memories and her Chicago experiences. Her paintings are known as warm depictions of her African American subjects without stereotypical sentimentality.
The subject of our painting is Florence Arquin, known for her expertise in Latin American Studies. She was also a painter, documentary photographer, educator, writer, critic and art collector. Arquin was a good friend of Frieda Kahlo who gifted a self-portrait to her. Florence and Kathleen knew in other from teaching art together in Chicago.
Kathleen Blackshear’s work is in the collection of the Modern Art Museum (Fort Worth, Texas), the Houston Museum of The Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, Witte Memorial Museum (San Antonio, Texas) and in the Bennett Collection of Women Realists.
Portrait of Florence Arquin, c. 1932
Oil on Canvas, 30 1/4” x 24”