Edith Park Truesdell was born in Derby, CT in 1888 and lived for nearly a century as a noted painter, teacher, writer and poet. Her long life ran parallel to that of the first female American artist to achieve real fame; Georgia O’Keeffe. She was also the aunt, mentor and ally behind the seminal Bay Area Figurative painter, David Park (1911-1960), and her work profoundly influenced her nephew’s creative development. Truesdell was trained at the Boston Museum School under American Impressionists, Frank Weston Benson and Edmund C. Tarbell. Her deep engagement with figurative and landscape painting brought her solo shows at the Boston Museum, UCLA, the Copley Gallery in Boston, the Denver Public Library, the Monterey Peninsula Museum, the Carmel Art League, and a 1979 one-woman exhibition at the Pat Carey Gallery in San Francisco. She was an important member of The California Art Club and exhibited with members of L.A.’s progressive “Group of Eight.”
Outliving her nephew by 26 years, Truesdell had to constantly educate the public that she was the influence behind David Park, and not his “follower,” according to Nathalie Park Schutz, Truesdell’s great-niece, and Park’s eldest daughter, “It was very much the other way around.” At 17, Truesdell suggested that David be taken out of school, go out to California with her and attend Otis Art Institute. So in 1928, David had the opportunity of living with his aunt, a mature artist completely involved in making and exhibiting art. In 2020, David Park was the subject of a major retrospective at SFMOMA.
For many years Edith Truesdell lived on a ranch high in the Rockies, a place her husband Jack owned before they married. It may have been there that she fell in love with painting the landscape. The Truesdells were often on the road, spending several months at a time in Arizona and Colorado. Later in her life, Edith painted many desert and mountain scenes inspired by her memories of those trips.
A born teacher, Edith returned periodically to the Boston Museum School as a lecturer. She also taught children at The Park School in Brookline. After her husband’s death in 1953, she decided to fully concentrate on her painting and moved to California. She initially lived in Berkeley, then she purchased land in Marin and built a home at the foot of Mount Tamalpais. In 1963 Truesdell moved to Carmel, California and continued to paint and teach until shortly before her death at age 98. She painted using acrylic on Masonite (or sometimes sheetrock) often laid flat across her bed. The paintings in The Lost Art Collection come from this late period of her career.
Slope shouldered, with blue eyes and curly brown hair, Edith stood less than 5 foot 4 inches tall. She was known for her abundant energy and forthright manner. Edith had a huge sense of humor, a great big laugh-out-loud whoop. All her life she was fiercely engaged with painting and remained so until she was 97. Despite all the exposure, her reputation remained regional. “She always hoped to be discovered,” said Natalie Park Schutz, Truesdell’s great-niece. We hope this show at Lost Art Salon will help to further Truesdell’s richly-deserved legacy and bring her paintings to the wider audience she had hoped for.
Much of this biography comes directly from this Huffington Post article published in 2011 and written by art historian, John Seed. Our thanks to Mr. Seed for all his research.
You can purchase the book “Edith Park Truesdell, Her Life and Art”written by John Seed here.
You can watch a conversation with Helen Park Bigelow discussing the life and work of her great-aunt, Edith Park Truesdell, and her father, David Park on YouTube here.
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