Lyla Harcoff Biography

Five Roses, c. 1930s

28 x 20 inches  |  oil on canvas

Born Lyla Vivian Marshall near Layayette, Indiana on October 6, 1883, she had artistic interests from her earliest years. She attended Purdue University, from which she graduated in 1904, one of eight women in a class of 218. She continued her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and later made three trips to Paris (1905, 1907, 1912), studying a full year at Academie Moderne. Lyla Vivian Marshall married Constantine Harcoff in 1916. She moved from the Midwest to Santa Barbara in 1927. In her later years she recollected that the artists whose work most influenced her were Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne and the German Expressionist Karl Hoffer. In the paperwork in her estate there is correspondence between Hoffer and Harcoff. Harcoff passed away in 1956.

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AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK

The only example of her student studies or other early work are in a sketchbook containing pencil studies. There are reports that her early paintings were primarily focused on floral and fruit still lifes. Although there are no known examples of her early painting, it is said that from her days at the Chicago Art Institute she was seen as a colorist, and that her strength of palette marked these developing years. Two of her paintings completed in 1913 are in existing collections. One, Young Man In Arizona, is a large (34" x 22"), subtle and captivating painting of a simple Hopi youth wrapped in a blue blanket which remains in the family collection; the other is a smaller (12" x 18") nocturne of the primary Hopi dwelling on the Second Mesa, which is in the Sullivan Goss Permanent Collection. The surviving mid-career canvases demonstrate that she was a competent landscape painter, portraitist and figurative artist. Most of the paintings from her middle years are in private collections. A major extant piece is a studio portrait of a Drinking Man dated 1932, painted when she was nearly fifty years old. It demonstrates a robust and mature style, and also shows the influence of the masters of her youth. Harcoff's painting of the Drinking Man (which was exhibited at the Faulkner Gallery in Santa Barbara and the Ilsely Gallery in Los Angeles) is a representational depiction of a character who is strong and heroic. The portrait is reminiscent of the wonderful portraits of the American Scene painting school.

 

FURNITURE, JEWELRY, CHINA, SCREENS

Harcoff was a true Arts & Crafts artist. In addition to her paintings, etchings and drawings she produced many utilitarian objects for purchase. In the 1910s she worked for Marshall Fields painting fine china and decorative screens which served as room dividers. Later, when Harcoff relocated to Santa Barbara, she produced custom pieces of furniture, jewelery, medallions, pottery and additional decorative screens. In one of the announcements for The Little Gallery the artist presented "Paintings and decorated furniture, and small things--not mere things, but useful things made beautiful." She went on to write that "character, color and design are to form the triangle of principles qualifing all work. The modern in style is to be emphasized because the artist believes thoroughly in the modern." The list of extant pieces is small; however, there is a chest of drawers, a jewelry box, several pieces of jewelry and several medallions. (Photos to follow)

 

DRAWINGS

There are no drawings which have survived from her student days or early years. There is a beautiful set of conte crayon drawings. The subject of all of these drawings is a female nude and the work appears to have been done from a sitting model. It is estimated that the drawings were done sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. They show an accomplished figurative hand, and the drafting was done without repetition. There is a complete sense of the female form even though the artist employed only sparing line. Several of the drawings from the estate are available.

EXHIBITIONS

2002  "Lyla Marshall Harcoff: Reductive Modernist", Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA

1954  Geddis-Martin Studio, Santa Barbara - Solo Exhibition

1949  Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara - Solo Exhibition

1946  Rotunda Gallery, San Francisco

1946  Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco

1944  Santa Barbara Museum Of Art, Santa Barbara, CA (Prize)

1943  Thayer Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA - Solo Exhibition

1941  Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara - Solo Exhibition

1939  Casa De La Guerra, Santa Barbara, CA - Solo Exhibition

1939  All California Exhibition - Solo Exhibition

1937  California State Fair, Sacramento, CA

1935  Hoosier Salon, Marshall Field Galleries, Chicago

1935  The Little Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1934  Purdue Memorial Union Bldg., Lafayette, IN - Solo Exhibition

1934  Hoosier Salon, Marshall Field Galleries, Chicago

1934  Balcony Gallery, De La Guerra Studios, Santa Barbara, CA

1934  Public Works of Art Project

1933  Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1933  Hoosier Salon, Indianapolis, IN

1933  Thayer Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1933  Lafayette Art Gallery, Lafeyette, IN

1932  Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1932  Hoosier Salon, Marshall Field Galleries, Chicago

1932  Ballcony Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA - Solo Exhibition

1932  Isley Galleries, Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

1931  Sixth Annual Exhibition of Southern California Art, San Diego, CA

1931  Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Santa Barbara, California

1931  Hoosier Salon Art Exhibit, Lafayette, IN

1931  Hoosier Salon, Marshall Field Galleries, Chicago

1930  Hoosier Salon, Marshall Field Galleries, Chicago

1930  Faulkner Memorial Art Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA

1929  Courvoisier Gallery, San Francisco - Solo Exhibition

1928  Women Artists Exhibit, Santa Barbara Art League, Santa Barbara

1928  Santa Barbara Art League, El Paseo, Santa Barbara, CA

1918  Chicago Art Institute, Alumni Exhibition, Chicago (???)

1917  Independent Society of Artists, Chicago

1916  "The Independents," Chicago

1914  Purdue University Library, Lafayette, Indiana - Solo Exhibition

1913  Chickamina Country Club, Michigan

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