Prominent Artist/Printmaker Beth Van Hoesen, 84, Dies in San Francisco

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A prominent artist and acknowledged master of drawing and printmaking, Beth Van Hoesen died peacefully in San Francisco on Tuesday, November 16, 2010.

For Van Hoesen, drawing has been akin to breathing. It is something she has always done, what all her looking has led to, and her body of drawings alone would be more than sufficient to give her prominence in her period and among her peers.-Joseph Goldyne

A prominent artist and acknowledged master of drawing and printmaking, Beth Van Hoesen died peacefully in San Francisco on Tuesday, November 16, 2010. She was predeceased in 2006 by her husband of 52 years, Mark Adams.

Born in 1926 in Boise, Idaho, to Enderse and Freda Van Hoesen, Beth Van Hoesen moved with her family to California. In 1944 she enrolled at Stanford University to study fine arts, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. She also attended painting classes at the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura de la Escuela Esmeralda, Mexico City, in 1945-46; and in 1946-47 studied at California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (CSFA, now San Francisco Art Institute). After graduating from Stanford, she traveled to France and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts de Fontainbleau in 1948, and at the Académie Julian and Académie de la Grand Chaumière in Paris from 1948 to 1950. In 1951 she again enrolled at CSFA, where David Park and Clyfford Still were among her influential teachers.

At CSFA she met artist and designer Mark Adams, and they married in 1953. In 1955, she traveled with Adams to St. Céré-Aubusson, France, where Adams had an apprenticeship with tapestry artist Jean Lurçat. After a year of study and travel in France, they returned to San Francisco, and in 1957-58 she attended classes at San Francisco State College. She began to receive recognition for her drawings and intaglio prints, including a solo exhibition of drypoints at Stanford Art Gallery, Stanford University in 1957.

In 1959, Van Hoesen and Adams purchased a 1910 firehouse in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, where they established their studios and lived for the next 46 years. For many years, they hosted a weekly figure drawing group at the Firehouse studio, joined by artists Wayne Thiebaud, Gordon Cook, Theophilus Brown, and others. In 2005, they moved from the Firehouse to the Sequoias in San Francisco, where she was living at the time of her death.

Throughout her career, Beth Van Hoesen distinguished herself as a major figure in 20th century printmaking. Her work was featured in solo exhibitions at museums that included the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Boise Art Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; The Oakland Museum; Portland Art Museum, Oregon, and other institutions. A traveling exhibition organized by The Art Museum Association toured for three years to museums throughout the U.S. in the early 1980s. She was widely honored for her artistic achievements, including a 1981 Award of Honor in Graphics from San Francisco Arts Commission, and 1993 Distinguished Artist Award from California Society of Printmakers.

Museums with works by Beth Van Hoesen in their collections include the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Art Institute of Chicago; Boise Art Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Cincinnati Art Museum; El Paso Museum of Art; Fresno Art Museum; Honolulu Academy of Arts; Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Oakland Museum; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; Racine Art Museum; Rutgers University Printmaking Archives; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Jose Museum of Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Stanford University Libraries; State University of New York, Syracuse; University of California, Berkeley Art Museum; University of California, Davis; University of Idaho, Moscow; University of Tennessee, Chattanooga; University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and other institutions.

The Portland Art Museum, Oregon, is the repository for Beth Van Hoesen's print archive, and during the summer of 2009 presented the exhibition Sensitive Vision: The Prints of Beth Van Hoesen. An exhibition of Van Hoesen’s paintings, drawings, and prints is currently touring U.S. museums.

Beth Van Hoesen's work has been the subject of books that include A Collection of Wonderful Things: Intaglio Prints by Beth Van Hoesen (Scrimshaw Press, San Francisco, 1972); Beth Van Hoesen: Creatures, The Art of Seeing Animals (Yolla Bolly Press with Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1987; French edition Flammarion, 1988); Beth Van Hoesen: Works on Paper (John Berggruen Gallery and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1995); and Beth Van Hoesen: The Observant Eye, published in 2009 for exhibitions at the Fresno Art Museum, California, and University Art Museums, Iowa State University, Ames. A comprehensive catalogue raisonne of Beth Van Hoesen's edition prints will be issued in 2011.

Beth Van Hoesen Adams is survived by many cousins, including Mary Jo Hossfeld, David Van Hoesen, Karen Olson, Phil Soulen, and predeceased by Norma Rich. She is also survived by nieces Judy Bailey and Barbara Nalli, by Mary N. Connors, devoted caregiver for 14 years, and numerous friends, colleagues, and admirers.

Services were held November 19, 2010, at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, which features stained glass windows designed by her late husband Mark Adams. An exhibition at the Sequoias Rotunda Gallery, 1400 Geary Street, San Francisco, concludes with a memorial reception on Sunday, November 21, from 4:30-6pm. Donations may be made in Beth Van Hoesen’s memory to Hospitality House, 290 Turk St., San Francisco CA 94102.

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Diane Roby

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