San Francisco artist Beth Van Hoesen (American, 1926–2010) began a remarkable career in printmaking in the mid-1940s. Working alongside other Bay Area artists such as Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, and her teacher David Park, Van Hoesen was an integral figure among a group of Californians at mid-20th century who rebelled against the prevailing New York-based Abstract Expressionism. Although she remains less well known in the general public than her male colleagues, Van Hoesen’s work has long been admired and collected by fine print connoisseurs and important institutions.
Van Hoesen learned intaglio and lithography at Stanford University, while earning a bachelor’s degree in art in 1948. After exploring the expressive possibilities of those print media during her first few years as a practicing artist, she soon settled into a distinctive and intimate personal style, which she continued to refine over the ensuing five decades. Her prints, along with numerous preparatory drawings and watercolors, frequently reflect a close examination of her subjects, recording the minutiae she observed on commonplace objects or in mundane occurrences. Conversely, in other works Van Hoesen strips the subject bare of extraneous details to create a minimalist form of visual poetry. In every instance, however, her subjects are enlivened by the emotive character of her drawn line.
The works on view in this exhibition are part of a larger gift to the museum by the artist’s estate in 2012 and represent the main themes Van Hoesen explored throughout her long career: portraits of friends, still life compositions (often treating unorthodox subjects), landscapes, and portraits of animals and pet companions.