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Beth Van Hoesen. American Artist, 1926-2010

West Coast artist and printmaker, Beth Van Hoesen’s, art is based on line. And line is one of the most difficult ways to convince artistically. Yet, Van Hoesen has always done so in her images of people, creatures, flowers and landscapes.

Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Portrait, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Durer's Can, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Durer's Can, 1982
aquatint, drypoint, etching, ed. 70
15 7/8 x 13 3/4"
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Maharani, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Maharani, 1988
aquatint, drypoint, etching, ed. 50
15 1/4 x 12 7/9"
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Brown Bear, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Brown Bear, 1985
aquatint, drypoint, watercolor, Bon-a-Tirer
14 3/8 x 20 1/4"
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Suffolk Sheep, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Suffolk Sheep, 1982
aquatint, etching and watercolor, ed. 100
13 3/4 x 17"
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Puff, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Puff, 1979
10 1/4 x 10 1/4"
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Rhino, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Rhino, 1985
etching, ed. 20
14 x 19" SOLD
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Dazzle, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
aquatint, etching, and watercolor
13 x 15"
Beth Van Hoesen, Albert's Poppies, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Albert's Poppies, 1991
aquatint, drypoint, etching, ed. 50
16 x 16 1/4"
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Peaches, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Peaches, 1982
aquatint, drypoint, ed. 100
15 3/4 x 12 1/2"
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Fuchsia in Hand, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Fuchsia in Hand, 1988
lithograph, ed. 40
12 5/8 x 11 1/2"
Beth Van Hoesen, Artist, Double Rose, artline
Beth Van Hoesen
Double Rose, 1989
soft ground etching, drypoint, aquatint
ed. 40
13 5/8 x 11 1/4"

Artist Statement

I don’t remember making a decision to become an artist – I just was one.

- Beth Van Hoesen


Beth Van Hoesen: The Art of Observation
taken from: Beth Van Hoesen: Works on paper, essay, Richard Lorenz
Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA & John Berggruen Gallery, 1995

Van Hoesen’s early black and white prints emphasize representation and composition, precision ad clarity. Chiaroscuro is avoided in favor of a flat, oriental light. Perhaps one of her oddest and most engaging etchings of the 1950s is Yearbook (1948,page 13), a prescient example of her synthesis of still life and portraiture. In this instance, she straddled the line between truth and invention by adapting the traditional academic format, full of fresh, smiling faces, to include, among others, San Francisco Chronicle art critic, Alfred Frankenstein, Sanford classmate and author Evan Connell, and husband Mark Adams. A truncated self-portrait etching, Profile is a marvelous example of her occasionally daring cropping. The print becomes a diptych of balanced but opposite minimalist spaces: one shimmering with dense, black vertical strokes, the other a flat box of white interrupted by an assured, linear profile.

Beth Van Hoesen, Profile, artline
Beth Van Hoesen. Profile, 1960. Etching

Years of life drawing have contributed to Van Hoesen’s interest in portraying the nude. In 1965 she published a portfolio, The Nude Man, that included twenty-five prints of men of different shape, age, color, and size. Un-erotic and posed in decidedly non-classical postures, Van Hoesen’s men an air of un-relaxed un-pretension to these candid and extraordinarily detailed etching and aquatints.

The act of observation and the subsequent translation of form and character on to paper have become routine for Van Hoesen. Her original drawings, loose and spontaneous, capture the spirit of the subject. Drawing from reality, she notes, my work became intuitive and interpretive…[It] demands an absorbing concentration and takes you away from a self-conscious, arbitrary style into work that is really your own. Thomas Albright, the late art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, described her renderings neatly: [They] follow the conventions of academic realism but are endowed with an undertone of quirky idiosyncrasy that grows largely out of a lively…line. Drawings are, in a way, often more charged than the prints that might follow. Having been filtered and condensed through a good number of sketches and incarnations, the print is a formal statement, an example of the artists’ distinct, signature style, that has passed through a fastidiously orchestrated production involving printing assistants and quantities of state proofs. Van Hoesen might make a dozen or more successive preparatory drawings to achieve a good one in which a single flowing line expresses the whole form. To her, the most important aspect of the process is to retain the feeling of spontaneity. Because a fraction of an inch within the area of the plate mark can make a noticeable difference, Composition is critical, and Van Hoesen labors to perfect the relationship of object to background.

Van Hoesen periodically referred to the landscape and exterior environments in her earlier art, but since the mid-1960s, portraiture of people and animals, and still lifes of dolls, comestibles and flora have formed the core of her work Her finely wrought impressions of people and what she calls God-made things make us consider the relationship between the portrait image and the nature of the original being. Van Hoesen’s interpretations, as realistic as they seem, actually point beyond reality to those truths that she has felt and captured; we see attitude and posture and try to imagine a voice: Is the person Traci as interesting as the image Traci. We generally cannot know.

Artists have replicated the real world in two and three dimensions, throughout the millennia. Although twentieth-century movements periodically decry realism as anachronistic (indeed, the invention of photography in 1839 first suggested the superfluity of realist painting)a, its validity and an appreciate audience for a its intelligent use will always exist. The keen selection, scrutiny, and interpretation of fragments of our world are richly continued in the art of observation, and with her formidable control of line and color, Beth Van Hoesen steadfastly refines this art. Her assured artworks are sublime accomplishments that seduce us with infinite pleasure, charm, and grace, qualities the word too often has in too little measure.


Creatures. Chronicled Books San Francisco, 1987 Introduction by Beth Van Hoesen

I've always drawn pictures. Before I was seven, I lived on an apple orchard my family owned in Idaho. There were lots of things to draw there, but I drew only people – the children at the one-room schoolhouse or the apple pickers at work – many little people all over the page. After we left Idaho, I lived in many different places. In Greenwich, Connecticut, I drew the chauffeurs waiting for the commuter train, and in New York, I drew shoppers going through the racks of clothes at Macy's. When I lived in a hotel in Walla Walla, Washington, I drew people sitting in the lobby and in Long Beach, California, people strolling and the barkers on the Pike In all the many schools I attended, there were few art classes. When I was recovering from a long illness and had to stay inside, I drew from pictures in books and magazines. My first art lesson using oils was given to me by a California desert painter who lived next door. He had me copy a reproduction of a portrait of Walt Whitman by Thomas Eakins. When I look back, I realize that I learned a great deal fro copying – studying a painter by looking at each brush stroke One of my favorites, Degas, also learned from copying in museums.

I don't remember making a decision to be an artist. I just was one. Since I was mostly self-taught, I felt the need to learn more skills and wanted to go to Black Mountain College to learn of the art of the time. However, my parents wanted me to go to a four-year college, so I went to Stanford.

The art department there was small and quite academic at that time. I finished every art course offered in just two years. I learned more about seeing from Victor Arnautoff -"Look at zee neck, Eet ees not a toob" – and Dan Mendelowitz – "That's swell." Summers I attended the California School of Fine Arts, where I got big doses of the art of my time from Clyfford Still and others. I also spent six months at the Escuela Esmealda in Mexico, where I learned still more ways of seeing – no solamente con sus ojos, pero con su Corazon, ( not only with your eyes, but with your heart.) Returning to Stanford, I worked on independent study, which included building a wall in order to paint a fresco. I also drew cartoons for the Stanford Daily. I didn't learn to type, play bridge or tennis – I needed that time for my work. In one of my art classes, I met a young writer. Evan Connell drew very well, especially in the figure drawing classes, and now after so many years and books and honors, he has written the foreword to this book.


born 1926 Boise, ID
died  2010 San Francisco, CA

1951 California School of Fine Arts
1948-48-50 Academie de la Grands Chaumiere
1948 Ecole des Beaux Arts de Fontainbleau
1948 Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, BA
public collections
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, San Francisco, CA
Art Institute of Chicago IL
Boise Art Museum, ID
Brooklyn Museum, NY
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
Cincinnati Art Museum, OH
De Saisset Museum, Univ. of Santa Clara, CA
El Paso Museum of Art, TX
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA
Fresno Arts Center and Museum, CA
Honolulu Museum of Art, HI
Library of Congress, Washington DC
Mills College, Oakland, CA
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA
Oakland Museum of Art, CA
Portland Museum of Art, OR
Rutgers Univ. Printmaking Studies Archives, New Brunswick, NJ
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA
San Jose Museum of Art, CA
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA
Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington DC
Syracuse University Art Galleries, NY
Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Davis
University of Idaho, Moscow
University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis MN
Williams College, Williamstown, MA


Prominent Art/Printmaker Beth Van Hoesen, 84 Dies in San Francisco
San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) November 20, 2010

A prominent artist and acknowledged master of drawing and printmaking, Beth Van Hoesen died peacefully in San Francisco on Tuesday, November 16, 2010. She was predeceased in 2006 by her husband of 52 years, Mark Adams.

Born in 1926 in Boise, Idaho, to Enderse and Freda Van Hoesen, Beth Van Hoesen moved with her family to California. In 1944 she enrolled at Stanford University to study fine arts, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. She also attended painting classes at the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura de la Escuela Esmeralda, Mexico City, in 1945-46; and in 1946-47 studied at California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (CSFA, now San Francisco Art Institute). After graduating from Stanford, she traveled to France and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts de Fontainbleau in 1948, and at the Académie Julian and Académie de la Grand Chaumière in Paris from 1948 to 1950. In 1951 she again enrolled at CSFA, where David Park and Clyfford Still were among her influential teachers.

At CSFA she met artist and designer Mark Adams, and they married in 1953. In 1955, she traveled with Adams to St. Céré-Aubusson, France, where Adams had an apprenticeship with tapestry artist Jean Lurçat. After a year of study and travel in France, they returned to San Francisco, and in 1957-58 she attended classes at San Francisco State College. She began to receive recognition for her drawings and intaglio prints, including a solo exhibition of drypoints at Stanford Art Gallery, Stanford University in 1957.

In 1959, Van Hoesen and Adams purchased a 1910 firehouse in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, where they established their studios and lived for the next 46 years. For many years, they hosted a weekly figure drawing group at the Firehouse studio, joined by artists Wayne Thiebaud, Gordon Cook, Theophilus Brown, and others. In 2005, they moved from the Firehouse to the Sequoias in San Francisco, where she was living at the time of her death.

Throughout her career, Beth Van Hoesen distinguished herself as a major figure in 20th century printmaking. Her work was featured in solo exhibitions at museums that included the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Boise Art Museum; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; The Oakland Museum; Portland Art Museum, Oregon, and other institutions. A traveling exhibition organized by The Art Museum Association toured for three years to museums throughout the U.S. in the early 1980s. She was widely honored for her artistic achievements, including a 1981 Award of Honor in Graphics from San Francisco Arts Commission, and 1993 Distinguished Artist Award from California Society of Printmakers.

Museums with works by Beth Van Hoesen in their collections include the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Art Institute of Chicago; Boise Art Museum; Brooklyn Museum; Cincinnati Art Museum; El Paso Museum of Art; Fresno Art Museum; Honolulu Academy of Arts; Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Oakland Museum; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; Racine Art Museum; Rutgers University Printmaking Archives; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Jose Museum of Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Stanford University Libraries; State University of New York, Syracuse; University of California, Berkeley Art Museum; University of California, Davis; University of Idaho, Moscow; University of Tennessee, Chattanooga; University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and other institutions.

The Portland Art Museum, Oregon, is the repository for Beth Van Hoesen's print archive, and during the summer of 2009 presented the exhibition Sensitive Vision: The Prints of Beth Van Hoesen. An exhibition of Van Hoesen’s paintings, drawings, and prints is currently touring U.S. museums.

Beth Van Hoesen's work has been the subject of books that include A Collection of Wonderful Things: Intaglio Prints by Beth Van Hoesen (Scrimshaw Press, San Francisco, 1972); Beth Van Hoesen: Creatures, The Art of Seeing Animals (Yolla Bolly Press with Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1987; French edition Flammarion, 1988); Beth Van Hoesen: Works on Paper (John Berggruen Gallery and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1995); and Beth Van Hoesen: The Observant Eye, published in 2009 for exhibitions at the Fresno Art Museum, California, and University Art Museums, Iowa State University, Ames. A comprehensive catalogue raisonne of Beth Van Hoesen's edition prints will be issued in 2011.

Beth Van Hoesen Adams is survived by many cousins, including Mary Jo Hossfeld, David Van Hoesen, Karen Olson, Phil Soulen, and predeceased by Norma Rich. She is also survived by nieces Judy Bailey and Barbara Nalli, by Mary N. Connors, devoted caregiver for 14 years, and numerous friends, colleagues, and admirers.

Services were held November 19, 2010, at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, which features stained glass windows designed by her late husband Mark Adams. An exhibition at the Sequoias Rotunda Gallery, 1400 Geary Street, San Francisco, concludes with a memorial reception on Sunday, November 21, from 4:30-6pm. Donations may be made in Beth Van Hoesen’s memory to Hospitality House, 290 Turk St., San Francisco CA 94102.


A Collection of Wonderful Things: Intaglio Prints by Beth Van Hoesen. Scrimshaw Press, San Francisco, 1972

Beth Van Hoesen: Creatures, The Art of Seeing Animals. Yolla Bolly Press with Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1987, French edition Flammarion, 1988

Beth Van Hoesen: Works on Paper. John Berggruen Gallery and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1995

Beth Van Hoesen: The Observant Eye. published in 2009 for exhibitions at the Fresno Art Museum, California, and University Art Museums, Iowa State University, Ames

Beth Van Hoesen: Catalogue Raisonné of Limited-Edition Prints, Books, and Portfolios. Lori Fogarty, Bruce W. Pepich b Hicks, author with introduction by Joseph Goldyne, Lucia Marquand, Seattle, WA, 2011.


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