Louise Blair Daura was an accomplished, yet understudied figure whose work and life provide a window into the artistic milieu of her time, especially the challenges faced by women artists. Her work was included in the Paris Salon d'Automne during her short career as an exhibiting artist and portraitist (roughly 1928–1932), but this exhibition is the first attempt by a museum to examine it.
The daughter of banker and manufacturer Lewis Harvie Blair and his second wife, Martha (“Mattie”) Ruffin Feild, Louise was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1905. She attended Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania for college, graduating with an English degree in 1927. The following fall, she and her cousin Ann Blair Matthews set out for Europe, where Louise would study art, taking private lessons and visiting museums and historical sites. In Paris in 1928, she married her art teacher, the Catalan painter Pierre Daura, who co-founded the abstractionist group Cercle et Carré with Joaquín Torres-García and Michel Seuphor in 1929. Louise’s style was not abstract and she did not join the group. Instead, she found success as a portraitist.
Although she did not exhibit her work after the 1930s, she continued to engage in a diverse array of artistic endeavors, from crafts for her daughter Martha, born in 1930, to scholarly research and writing on prehistoric art and other topics. She was also a keen and witty observer of her time, and her diaries and letters home to family offer insights on everything from the daily life of an American in Paris to the studio practice and personalities of many of her husband’s colleagues, such as Piet Mondrian, Jean Arp, Torres-García and many others.
The exhibition will feature all of Louise Blair Daura’s known works of art, including paintings, drawings and prints from the collections of the Georgia Museum of Art, the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, the Daura Gallery at Lynchburg College in Virginia and the Musée d’art Hyacinthe Rigaud in Perpignan, France. The museum will also publish an exhibition catalogue including dozens of Louise’s letters from France home to her family in Virginia between 1928 and 1930 and essays by curator Lynn Boland and Catherine Dossin, associate professor of art history at Purdue University.