Born in Brooklyn, New York, March 15,1907, Lefranc died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 5,1998. A prodigious artist whose “lifetime of imaging” spanned more than 85 years beginning at age six, Lefranc produced a diverse oeuvre that provides a clarifying window on modernist art and its evolution throughout much of the 20th century. She created portraits and landscapes in a variety of styles, reflecting cubist and other avant-garde influences; her media included oil, watercolor, gouache, pastel, etching, monotype, etc. Lefranc’s circumference also included Europe and New York, where she participated in that artistic vanguard during the 1920s and 1930s (well before her 1939 vacation in Taos where she stayed with Frieda Lawrence and before she settled in Nambe, near Santa Fe, in 1945 and later maintained the family home in Hunter, New York and another in Miami, Florida).
She lived in Berlin with her parents from the age of thirteen (1920-1922), and then moved to Paris (1923-1933), studying art with Andre L’Hote (among others) at the Ecole du Louvre, as well as at the Sorbonne. Notes Amy L. Bondurant, Former Ambassador of the United States to the OECD, Paris, France: “Margaret’s paintings were part of an exhibit, ‘Breaking Boundaries’ (1999-2001), which included "the first American women artists to study and work in France.”
Lefranc returned to the U.S. in 1933; in 1935 she founded the Guild Art Gallery in New York City (1935-1937), promoting a number of important artists (such as Arshile Gorky, whose first New York exhibition of drawings was held there). A noted illustrator and editor, in 1948 she received a “Fifty Best Books of the Year” award (Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the American Institute of Graphic Arts) for her synoptic illustrations of San Ildefonso Native pottery in Maria: The Potter of San Ildefonso, by Alice Marriott. In 1952 her illustrations for Indians of the Four Corners were similarly honored with a “One Hundred Best Books of the Year” award, also from the Library of Congress. Notes Stuart Ashman, Cabinet Secretary for Cultural Affairs, New Mexico, “Margaret and her contemporaries represented an important era for New Mexico.” Lefranc’s exhibition record is extensive; her work was shown in the Salon d’Automne (Paris, 1927-1930), as well as in the Salon des Tuileries (Paris, 1928-1930). She also exhibited at the New York World’s Fair Fine Arts Exhibition (1939-1940), the Corcoran Gallery (Washington, D.C.,1940), and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia,1942) as well as the Oklahoma Art Center (1950), Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma (1949,1951, 2013), the Museum of New Mexico (Santa Fe, 1948,1951,1953), Lowe Gallery, Miami, Florida (1965,1966), Cline Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1997), a retrospective at St. John’s College (Santa Fe, 1993, 1997) as well as an exhibition at the Governor’s Gallery in concert with receiving a New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence and Achievement in the Arts, Painting (1996) and the Gerald Peters Gallery (Santa Fe, 2007-2008). Lefranc’s work is reproduced in the catalog of the national traveling exhibition Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, organized by the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in 1995; Women Artists of the American West, McFarland in 2003, and a book, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc by author Lois Katz, former curator of the Brooklyn Museum and Arthur Sackler Collections, published by Nouveau Ventures Unlimited, Inc., in association with the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation in 2007. Also a film (by the same name as the book) produced and edited by Sandra McKenzie, president of the foundation, accompanies traveling exhibitions along with McKenzie’s introductory remarks prior to the film. Lefranc’s work is in numerous private and public collections including the Philbrook Museum of Art.
Susan Ressler, Professor Emerita, Purdue University
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Selected Education and Studies
1927-28: the Sorbonne, Paris
1926: Académie André Lhote, Paris.
1923-24: Académie des Grand Chaumière, Paris
1920: Art Students League, NYC
Awards & Accolades
1996: New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence and Achievement in the Arts.
1952: One Hundred Best Books of the Year Award. Library of Congress.
1948: Fifty Best Books of the Year Award. Library of Congress.
2017-18: The Artist Revealed: A Closer Look, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, VA.
2013: Sirens of the Southwest, Philbrook Downtown, Tulsa, OK.
2013: Collective Future: Gifts in Honor of Philbrook's 75th Anniversary. Catalogue published in 2016.
2009-2010: An American Original: Margaret Lefranc, 50 Years of Watercolors, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, VA. and St. George Museum, St. George, UT.
2009: The Cubist Impulse in American Art, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.
2007-2008: A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.
2007: Women Artists of New Mexico (1914-1960), Addison Rowe Fine Art Gallery, Santa Fe, NM.
2004-2005: Women Artists of Santa Fe, Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, TX and St. George Art Museum, St. George, UT.
1997: Margaret Lefranc: Figurative Works,
Cline Fine Art, Sante Fe, NM.
1981: New Mexican Skyscapes, Meredith Hunter Galleries Santa Fe, NM.
2014: Andrea Pappas, "In Search of a Jewish Audience: New York's Guild Art Gallery," Journal of American Jewish History.
2013: Elizabeth Cunningham, ed., Remarkable Women of Taos, Nighthawk Press.
2007: Lois Katz, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, Nouveau Ventures Unlimited and the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation. Film of the same name produced by Sandra McKenzie, 2005.
2006: University of Central Oklahoma, Oral History Archives, interview by Kim Penrod. Sandra McKenzie speaking about Margaret Lefranc.
1998: Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, University of TX Press.
1995-1996: R.R. Bowker, Who's Who in American Art, Reed Reference Publishing.
Selected Book Illustrations
1953: Hell on Horses and Women.
1952: Indians of the Four Corners.
1949: The Valley Below.
1948: Indians on Horseback.
1948: Maria: The Potter of San Ildefonso.
For an extensive history of the works and life of Margaret Lefranc, please see A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc by Alex Katz (2007). For Margaret's years as a gallerist, see the Guild Art Gallery papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution,Washington DC.