Grace Libby was born on September 12, 1884 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts to Ann-Lauri Young and Edgar Libby. At an early age, she insisted that she would be an artist. She persuaded her parents to send her to a private school for girls, Quincy Manse in Providence, Massachusetts, starting in 1899.
Quincy Manse was a finishing school which specialized in instruction in painting. Both Grace and her sister attended. There are several examples of Grace Libby's early work and it is evident that she was a very competent drafter in the expressive style of Tissot.
After the family's 1901 move from Massachusetts to Lewiston, Idaho, Grace's father apparently changed professions from publisher to engineer. In that capacity, he designed at least one bridge. In 1906, Grace met and on April 26th married Ralston Vollmer. It was said of Vollmer that he owned half the state of Idaho. Later that year, she moved with her new husband to Lewiston, Idaho and had two children, John and Ann. For the next nineteen years she devoted herself to her family.
In order to restart her art career, Vollmer convinced her husband to relocate to Los Angeles. In 1925 she resumed her formal art career with two years of study at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles.
Vollmer's teachers include Edward Vysekal, Roscoe Shrader, Alfred Ramos Martinez, and Clarence Hinkle. Immediately after the conclusion of her studies, she joined the artists represented at the famed Cannell & Chaffin art gallery in Los Angeles. In late 1926, she had her first one-person exhibition with Cannell & Chaffin, a show of 142 works. No catalogue of this exhibition survives.
2:46 | Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer | Released for The Declarations of Independents, 2015
6:05 | Jeremy Tessmer | Released for The Art of Santa Barbara: 1875-2016
3:33 | Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer | Released for Celebrating 30 Years of Art, 2014
2:38 | Narrated by Susan Bush | Released for She's the One, 2009
AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK
Vollmer's style was fully mature by the time of the 1936 Olympic exhibition. She had been painting in La Jolla, and had been submitting her work for juried exhibitions for some time. Herman Reuter, in a review which appeared in the March 20, 1937 issue of the Hollywood Citizen News, expounded on a painting he had seen in the Laguna Beach Art Association exhibit that year.
He noted that the painting was "unsigned and incorrectly numbered" but that it "took rank as the most refreshing" in the show. He had previously seen one or two paintings by the same artist in Los Angeles shows, and immediately recognized this painting as the work of Grace Vollmer. He went further to rank Vollmer with "painters of high talent and conviction" who "make their work solely their own." And he added further that
"the spirit of canvases done by such purposeful painters gets into you, so that ever after you can recognize their other work, even if unsigned."
Reuter used his insight even futher when he discussed the specific painting:
The picture has to do with a few cattails and several odds and ends of leaves and grasses in a bowl. Simple as that. And yet, it is real painting, because Mrs. Vollmer had a harmony in her head before she started to paint, and she did not set out to do a mere portrait of cattails and grasses in a bowl, but to suggest these things as they could best be suggested while creating something which stood on its own feet in pigment.
AWARDS & AFFILIATIONS
Art Guild of the Fine Arts Society of San Diego
Laguna Beach Art Association
Society of Western Artists
Santa Barbara Art Association
1926 Honorable Mention, Life Drawing, Otis Art Institute
1927 Honorable Mention, Orange County Fair
1935 Honorable Mention, Laguna Beach Art Assoc., St. Joseph
1936 1st Award, Laguna Beach Art Assoc., Zinnias & Brocade
1951 Premium Award, (purchase prize), California State Fair
1952 Third Prize, California State Fair
1955 Purchase Prize, Santa Paula Art Show
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Sullivan Goss, Permanent Collection, Santa Barbara, Calif.
Museum of Art at Brigham Young University, Provo , UT
Springville Museum of Art, Springville, UT (Still Life with Fruit, 1920)
2000 One-person Exhibit, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, California
1984 One-person Exhibition, Arlington Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
1958 One-person Exhibition, Art & Frame Shop,
1955 One-person Exhibition in Ojai, California
1955 Santa Paula Art Show, painting titled Still Life
1954 Santa Barbara Art Association, Faulkner Memorial Library, Santa Barbara,California 10th Annual Exhibit, painting titled Green Mansion
1953 California State Fair (by invitation), Sacramento, CA
1952 One-person Exhibition, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California
1951 Society of Western Artists, 12th Annual Exhibit, San Francisco, CA
1951 15th Annual Art Exhibit, Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, painting titled Girl and Flowers
1939 Santa Barbara Artists, Faulkner Memorial Art Library, Santa Barbara, California, 9th Summer Exhibition,
painting titled Sombras Pasadoroa, Taos
1938 Fine Arts Society of San Diego, 10th Annual Southern California Art Exhibition
1938 Tuscon Fine Arts Association, Tucson, Arizona, 1938-1939 Season, Temple of Music and Fine Arts Gallery, painting
1937 One-person show of drawings at Manker Studio, Padua Hills, Claremont, California
1937 One-person Exhibition of drawings at Santa Ana Public Library, Santa Barbara, Caliornia
1937 Laguna Beach Art Association, March Exhibition, Laguna Beach, California, painting titled, Autumn
1935 Laguna Beach Art Association, Laguna Beach, California, December-January 1935-1936 Exhibit, painting titled St. Joseph
1934 Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, Balboa Park, San Diego, California, 8th Annual Exhibition of Southern California Art, painting titled Fisherman's Cove
1934 Los Angeles Museum, Exposition Park, Los Angeles, 15th Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, painting titled Chop House
1933 2nd Annual Exhibition, Progressive Painters of Southern California, Laguna Beach, California, painting titled Still Life
1932 Pasadena Art Institute, Pasadena, California, 5th Annual Exhibition of California Artists, painting titled Unemployed
1931 Pasadena Art Institute, Pasadena, California, 4th Annual Exhibition by California Artists, paintings titled Sub-Division and Unemployed
1926 Debut Exhibition at Cannell & Chaffin, Los Angeles