Maud Florance Gatewood (1934-2004)

Memory Syndrome  ,  1964. Oil on canvas. Gift to HMA.

Memory Syndrome, 1964. Oil on canvas. Gift to HMA.

Although Maud Gatewood usually refused to discuss the specific content of her art, in a handwritten note to HMA in 1986 she mused about Memory Syndrome that “It is based on memories – impressions of Vienna. Baroque doors, formal gardens, widows from WWII and WWI – many old women -  steps as at the Gloriette in Schönbrun Gartens etc. Steps are stripes -  & stripes recur in my work since forever. I'm glad you all have the painting.”

A fellow North Carolina painter and former HMA Acquisitions Committee member said of this same work in 2007, "This painting was done shortly after Maud returned from her first European trip. She pictured herself as a bust on the right side of the painting viewing her in other forms. It was a time of discovery - who was she as a person and a painter? During this period in the '60's her compositions and applications of paint were very unrestricted and informal. The story that's told is mysterious and captivating, and the space it envelops holds me and leads me into the canvas and her inner world."

Maud Gatewood (in her studio) was a powerful force in the North Carolina art community. As a painter, teacher, activist and staunch individualist, she delighted viewers, inspired students, supported organizations, and served as a role model for how to participate in a world of images and ideas.

Gatewood was equally adept at landscape and architectural subjects. Like many successful artists, she drew routinely in a variety of media, recording thoughts for new paintings or drawing for its own sake. She never focused on one style, preferring instead to experiment with materials and approaches. Below are three other Gatewood works from HMA's collection, the 1984 Umbrellas (done in oils), the 1988 lithograph Caught, and the undated Near Daniel's Tomb.

Caswell County N.C. sheriff's daughter, Gatewood graduated from Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG) in 1954. (Her senior yearbook picture is on the left below.) She earned a master's degree from Ohio State University in 1955, and in 1963 she won a Fulbright to study art in Austria. She returned to North Carolina and taught at several of its academic institutions even as she continued painting. Throughout her career she had numerous one-person shows and was the recipient of many awards.

She was also active in civic organizations. For one, in 1976 she was elected as the first female member of the Caswell County Board of Commissioners and served as its chair until 1980, advocating for economic development and land use. Many of her paintings have been inspired by the light and shadows and fields and woods of Caswell County.

Gatewood was tough and unrelenting in her views, and was not afraid of explicit honesty. She once said, “[Art] is like people: If you meet a person that's absolutely pleasant, they tend to be innocuous. Nothing's worse than being pleasant.” Another time she said, “I think you learn that life isn't always straightforward. I think it's in the nature of the species to be a little evasive and covered. Ambiguity might be the heart of life as well as art.”

Ten of Gatewood's works were part of the 2017 HMA exhibit Woman Made that showcased works by women artists in HMA's permanent collection.


This post is # 21 of the 75 stories to celebrate HMA's 75 years.

Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since our blog's inception in March 2015