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Mildred McMillen

Mildred McMillen (b. 1884, Chicago, IL – d. 1940) was part of the original group of Provincetown Printers active during the early twentieth century. Unlike most Provincetown printers who worked in color, McMillen’s bold woodcuts were large in scale and executed in black and white. Her sophisticated compositions emphasize the geometric rhythms of the houses, yards, and laborers of Provincetown.

Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1884, McMillen studied art at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1906 to 1913. There she met fellow artist Ada Gilmore and they later moved to Paris together, where they met and became part-time students of Ethel Mars. Mars is credited with teaching them the woodcut process. During this time, McMillen worked at the Académie Colarossi, a contemporary alternative to the official Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

When the first world war broke out in Europe, McMillen and the community of Paris-based, American artists flocked back to the United States, ultimately settling in the seaside town of Provincetown, MA. Provincetown quickly became home to a thriving artist community that developed the landmark Provincetown white-line woodblock print style.

Although fellow artists including Blanche Lazzell, B.J.O. Nordfelt, Ada Gilmore, Maud Hunt Squire and Ethel Mars were known for employing this technique to create colorful composition of life in Provincetown, McMillen’s work distinguishes itself by its scale and absence color. She exhibited a block print in the First Annual Exhibition of the Provincetown Art Association in 1915. McMillen went on to make black-and-white woodcuts in Massachusetts until her death at age 59.

McMillen’s work is in several museum collections, including the Amon Carter Museum, TX; Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; National Gallery of Canada, CA; Provincetown Art Association and Museum, MA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.

Mary Ryan Gallery has included McMillen woodcuts in group exhibitions at the gallery, most recently in 2008. Her 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, curated by Barbara Stern Shapiro. The exhibition traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Most recently, McMillen's work was featured in The Provincetown Printmakers, a landmark survey of Provincetown prints held by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2023.
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