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Ada Gilmore

Ada Gilmore (b. 1883, Kalamazoo, MI – d. 1955, Provincetown, MA) is one of the original six artists (along with Blanche Lazzell, Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt, Ethel Mars, Maud Hunt Squire, and Mildred McMillen) credited with the genesis of the Provincetown white-line woodblock print. A painter and printmaker, Gilmore made important contributions to the development of American printmaking in the early 20th century.

Born in Kalamazoo, MI, Gilmore attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1903-1907, where she met friend and fellow artist Mildred McMillen. Together they traveled and studied both in the US and abroad, from 1903 through the end of World War I. Prior to 1912, Gilmore participated in group exhibitions such as the 1910 Independent Artists show in New York City. In 1912-1913, Gilmore traveled to Europe and settled in Paris. There she saw and admired a woodblock show by Ethel Mars, from whom she learned the woodcut process.

When she was 32 years old, Gilmore left Paris and moved to Provincetown with McMillen at the outset of World War I. Shortly after her arrival, Gilmore made watercolors of the village, which captured her enchantment with this picturesque place, far from the war in Europe. The artist was charmed by the seaside town, which quickly became an artistic haven for herself and her peers. She mailed some of these watercolors to friends and artists and later mounted them on large sheets of paper, adding a strip of color as a border for each.

Gilmore’s earliest woodcuts often depict women and are amongst the most modern, patterned, and vividly colored of all the Provincetown prints. Gilmore, along with Mars, Squire, Lazzell and Hopkins, all participated in the famed Salon d’Automne exhibitions in Paris. In the Salon d’Automne exhibition of 1925, a Matisse painting was flanked by two Ada Gilmore woodcuts.

In 1925, Gilmore married fellow Provincetown artist, Oliver Chaffee. From the late 1920s on, Gilmore’s subject matter moved from village life and people to the depiction of exotic and garden floral forms. She made watercolor studies of the indigenous plants and flowers of the various places she visited including many in Ormond, Florida where she spent winters in the 1930s. Gilmore lived with Chaffee in Provincetown and maintained an active dialogue with the local art community until her death in 1955.

Gilmore’s work is in numerous museum collections, including the Amon Carter Museum, TX; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN; Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, AL; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, NY;

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, NH; Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA; National Gallery of Canada, CA and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C..

Mary Ryan Gallery published the catalogue Ada Gilmore: Woodcuts and Watercolors in conjunction with a solo exhibition at the gallery in 1988, which traveled to the Provincetown Art Association and Museum later that year.

Gilmore’s woodcuts were included in the exhibition and accompanying catalog, From Paris to Provincetown: Blanche Lazzell and the Color Woodcut at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The exhibition traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Most recently, Gilmore's work was featured in The Provincetown Printmakers, a landmark survey of Provincetown prints held by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2023.

Mary Ryan Gallery represents the estate of Ada Gilmore.
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