Ukiah artist Adele Pruitt dies at 99 – The Ukiah Daily Journal
The inland arts community lost a legend on Sunday, February 20 with the passing of longtime Ukiah resident Adele Foster Pruitt. An acquaintance discovered that Pruitt had died when she entered his apartment to help with household chores.
Pruitt was born in Chicago, moving with her family to California as a child. A child of an artist, Pruitt displayed artistic prowess in her youth and was enrolled in an arts program for gifted children. When Pruitt was 8, she was selected to demonstrate figurative painting at a conference for art teachers, which earned her the honor of meeting legendary painter Diego Rivera.
She earned her BA in Art and Education from San Francisco State University during World War II. She began her 70+ years as an instructor, teaching in elementary and later middle schools. In 1961, she received her master’s degree in art education from the University of the Pacific. His thesis became part of the argument that led to the development of arts enrichment classes for California public schools. She was Mendocino College’s first art teacher.
Pruitt moved to Ukiah in 1967 after the unexpected death of her husband, Bob. In 1969, she opened the Renaissance Gallery, offering classes, framing and painting restoration – something usually only found in big cities. She then added teaching conservation and restoration techniques, bringing together students from across the United States.
Pruitt maintained a full schedule of teaching, restoring, painting, and socializing with his friends and students.
“Adele had classes scheduled the week before her death and was working on several restoration projects,” notes Jayed Scotti, a longtime student of Pruitt who helped her restore and conserve paintings and frames. Scotti recently curated a retrospective exhibition of Pruitt’s work which took place in January at the Medium Gallery – a project of the Deep Valley Arts Collective.
“We are very pleased to have been able to facilitate what turned out to be Adele’s last exhibition,” notes Chris Pugh, vice president of the artistic collective. “It was a very well attended show. Adele sold a number of her paintings and unsurprisingly was kind enough to donate to the gallery as we operate on a commission-free basis. It was an honor to host so many members of the public, especially those who had never seen her work and who were amazed at her versatility and skill.
Pruitt’s father, Sydney Hill Foster, was a financier and architect who built his fortune in banking, establishing a trust company that financed public buildings and equipment loans to farmers. Her grandmother and her mother, Florence Jane McNeil Foster, both attended the Hopkins School of Art in San Francisco, the same school Grace Hudson attended. The stock market crash of 1929 drastically changed the family’s life, with Pruitt resorting to cutting out cardboard insoles to repair the soles of his shoes. She described seeing families living in huge pipes along the roads, hanging up chenille curtains for privacy. “It reminds me of the tent cities we see today,” she noted.
To supplement the family income, Pruitt and her sister worked for a gift shop painting scenes on terracotta pots, receiving 15 cents per pot. She credited her future dexterity with a brush for those long hours painting the pots. As a teenager, she received a commission for a mural project, which paid for her first semester’s tuition at San Francisco State. At the age of 17, she bought her first store-bought item of clothing – a woolen raincoat.
“Adele was a quiet revolutionary in her own way,” notes Scotti, who worked with Pruitt for more than 25 years. “It was difficult for women to work as professional artists in the early 1960s. Becoming an art curator and restorer was very unusual – even in today’s world,” he continues.
Pruitt enrolled at the Academy of Professional Art Conservation and Science where she received instruction from Professor William F. Haney. The Academy was the only organization certified by the State of California to train restorers. Professor Haney considered Pruitt to be one of his most skilled and capable restorers and, later, instructor. She has restored everything – from poorly executed sentimental family paintings damaged by time or fire to legitimate “works of art” by professional artists, including Grace Hudson, American Barbizon painter William Keith, 18th-century French painter Jean -Frédéric Schall and the 17th century Dutch painter Melchior d’Hondecoeter. In a field dominated by men and scholars who still jealously guard the restoration process, Pruitt advanced the field by offering public courses.
“Today, if you send a damaged frame to one of the elite restoration houses in the country, they charge $2,000 to inspect the frame and estimate repair costs. It would never have occurred to Adele to do such a thing. It allowed ordinary people to have a precious family portrait repaired without breaking the bank,” says Scotti.
Pruitt described her artistic approach as “versatile” and was known for her artistic inventiveness. As well as being a prolific oil painter, she painted in watercolor on starch, experimented with laminated encaustic paint, and used oil paint on rice paper. or sand. She has created and sold hundreds of works throughout her life while maintaining a full schedule of courses and restoration projects. Despite the desires of the commercial market, Pruitt painted what she liked, not what she thought would sell.
“Adele has taken many artistic risks. She painted bucolic landscapes as well as anyone, but her most stunning works were abstracts, batiks, experimental paintings and portraits, where she captured complete and compelling likenesses,” says Scotti.
His classes included lessons in Old World Painting, Portrait Painting, Figure Painting, Barbizon School, Sunny Sea, Tonalism, Arbitrary Color, and Icons in Tempera and Oil Painting. gold leaf. She was known for her “painting-alongs”, where students worked alongside Pruitt, planning the design of their compositions and mixing their own colors while learning technique.
Some of Pruitt’s students have been loyal followers since the 1970s, attending a weekly character painting class that began in 1969.
“I remember Adele criticizing one of my paintings,” recalls longtime student Jeanette Carson. “She said, ‘Your mountain is too high. You have to lower it a bit. My answer was, “I just can’t bring down a mountain. Her response was, “You are an artist. You can do anything.’ I’ll never forget how that made me feel – terrified and empowered at the same time.
“Adele was a major influence in my life and in the art world,” says Tara Sufiana, a close friend. “Truly my dearest friend, her creativity has inspired me to focus more on my creative expression. Besides being a master painter, she has always been kind and helpful, even with various challenges in my own life. Adele will keep always have a special place in my heart.
“For those of us who were lucky enough to know and study with Adele, she was our local national treasure,” says Scotti. “What Adele would like people to know is that she signed each of her works with an ancient ‘chi rho’ symbol, which signified the blessing of the Creator, to whom she dedicated her work,” he concludes. .
Plans for a memorial service in April are underway. For more information, call (707) 489-5055.