Agnes Pelton is a fascinating figure in American art: although her reputation rests on a body of work full of contrasts and experimentation, sometimes imaginative, sometimes abstract, often deeply infused with her interests in spirituality, and always informed by a wide variety of stylistic influences, she never, once she had discovered Taos, ceased to paint representational depictions of the southwest landscape, especially the blooming desert she experienced in New Mexico, eastern California, where she painted in Yosemite, and Arizona, where in 1929, she painted at the Grand Canyon. No matter where else her enthusiasms and transformations as an artist led her, she always returned to this beloved subject.
Agnes Lawrence Pelton (1881–1961) was a modernist painter who was born in Stuttgart, Germany to American parents, William Halsey Pelton and Florence Pelton. She lived in Rotterdam, Holland from 1882 to 1884 and in Basel, Switzerland from 1884 to 1888. She relocated to Brooklyn after her father’s death in 1890. She studied at the Pratt Institute from 1895 to 1900, and privately with Arthur Wesley Dow in 1900. She took summer classes from William Langson Lathrop in 1907. She studied in Italy in 1910 and 1911, taking life drawing lessons at the British Academy in Rome, and also studied with Hamilton Easter Field. Walt Kuhn invited her to participate in the 1913 Armory Show, where two of her paintings were exhibited. In 1919, she visited Pueblo Indians in the American southwest, where she painted portraits and desert landscapes. She painted portraits and still lifes in Hawaii in 1923 and 1924. She settled in Cathedral City, California in 1932, and resided there until her death in 1961.
The Honolulu Museum of Art, the Raymond Jonson Collection at the University of New Mexico Art Museum (Albuquerque) (formerly the UNM Jonson Gallery), the Oakland Museum of California, the Palm Springs Art Museum (Palm Springs, California) (formerly the Palm Springs Desert Museum), the Parrish Art Museum (Southampton, New York), the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art are among the public collections holding paintings by Agnes Lawrence Pelton.