JULIE HELLER GALLERIES
ADA GILMORE CHAFFEE
Although her subject matter is focused away from the shoreline, Ada Gilmore took full advantage of Provincetown's light. Her watercolor postcards of homey, everyday scenes of women gardening, doing laundry, and resting, as well as portraits of village cottages and streets, have a bright, light-filled quality that appears totally modern, even though the artist completed them in the summer of 1915. Gilmore, who was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1883 and died in Provincetown in 1955, was recognized as both a printmaker and watercolorist. Her first art training took place at the Belfast School of Art in Northern Ireland, where Gilmore lived with an aunt after the death of her father when she was 12 (her mother had died four years earlier). After returning to the United States in 1900, she studied at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Gilmore exhibited drawings in the Independent Artists group show in New York City in 1910, and three years later, traveled to Paris. There, she studied woodblock printing with Ethel Mars, an artist who was part of Gertrude Stein's avant-garde circle. With the outbreak of World War I, Gilmore returned to the United States and settled in Provincetown in 1915.
Many of Gilmore's woodcuts "intentionally replicate the translucent quality of watercolor paintings and were often mistakenly identified as such," according to Barbara Parker, the curator of the 1988 "Ada Gilmore Woodcuts and Watercolors Show," at the Mary Ryan Gallery in New York City. One of the founding members of the Provincetown Printers in 1918, the first woodblock print society in America, Gilmore, writes Parker, "can be appreciated for her role in a grassroots movement which contributed to the flowering of American printmaking in the early 20th century."