December 16, 2017 Taos, New Mexico

The Harwood Museum of Art

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Elizabeth "Lucy" Case Harwood (1867-1938)

I have always thought of the Harwood as a sort of nest, a safe place, a sweet refuge         

          John Nichols

A nest, a safe place, a sweet refuge: words used to describe the Harwood Museum of Art also seem to capture Lucy Harwood’s benevolent nature. Settling in Taos would not have had any similarity to moving to and making a home in Charles City, Iowa, where Elizabeth (Lucy) Case was born in 1867. In Taos the white picket fence gave way to the kiva ladder, and wide smooth roads and automobiles to wagons and rutted dirt roads. There was a reason that Lucy and her husband Burt, returning from wartime Paris in 1916, chose Taos over Charles City.

The youngest daughter of Almon G. Case and Elizabeth Squires, Lucy was born into a wealthy Iowa family. Her lawyer/banker father was an adventurer and wanted the same for his daughter. Lucy, the ‘apple of her daddy’s eye,’ was taken to Mexico on a self-guided tour. This was rare for many reasons. Mexico was dangerous, unchartered territory. Lucy was a girl and her companion father would have been in his late sixties. The taste for adventure was born.

The young Lucy’s openness to adventure was encouraged by her education at Vassar College. Founded in 1861 as a women’s college (the second of the Seven Sisters colleges), Vassar’s feminist underpinnings in the 1880s were evident, if not overt. Its female students and graduates were introduced to the power that educated women could potentially wield for social and political change. Some graduates played roles in causes which furthered women's rights, while others contributed in less direct ways through careers in social work, education, politics and journalism. As the author of Origins of Vassar College wrote, "Colleges for our own sex…. Are centers of tremendous intellectual and moral power….They train the leading minds of the nation, and form our legislators, statesmen and orators. But all argument in favor of Colleges for young men are equally in favor of similar institutions for young women. Although these are not to be lawyers, legislators, and statesmen, or, if never wives and mothers, thousands of them must be the Teachers of our future public men ( Milo P. Jewett, Origins of Vassar College, unpublished manuscript, Milo Parker Jewett Papers, Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries).

Lucy was encouraged to be an independent and brave woman, yet in keeping with the times, family expectations, and Vassar influences, she was also bred to exemplify the qualities of a late nineteenth century woman: to be a dutiful daughter, prudent wife and ornament to society. Lucy’s next venture took her to Minneapolis, where she studied with a handsome photographer named Burt Harwood at his Academy of Drawing and Painting. They married in late September of 1896. In Lucy, Burt had found a fellow wanderer. Their honeymoon in Paris would extend to a stay of twenty years.

Burt and Lucy spent most of their married life living in Paris and Brittany. During her years in Paris, Lucy’s father drew up a will and testament (1905) in which Lucy and her two siblings were named as major benefactors. Lucy would go on to lead an expatriate lifestyle. She studied with James McNeill Whistler in Paris and spent summers with Burt painting in Brittany. They returned to the United States briefly (1901 – 1903), to Minneapolis, but returned again to Paris. It was their home. When World War I broke out the Harwoods not only stayed in Paris, they set up and maintained a hospital for war victims. They remained in Paris through the First Battle of the Marne (September 1914), when French and British forces confronted the German army deep within the borders of France and southeast of Paris itself. The Harwoods finally left Paris in 1916 with the approaching entry of the United States into the war (April 1917). They moved to New Mexico, and settled in Taos. The area’s inspirational landscape made it an ideal art location, as Joseph Henry Sharp discovered during a stay in Taos in 1893. In Paris the following year (1894) Sharp shared his discovery with Ernest Blumenschein and – at some point during his two-year stay – with Bert Geer Phillips.

Burt, who returned to Paris with Lucy in late 1896, could well have learned of Taos at that time—two decades before the Harwoods’ 1916 decision to move to Taos - either directly from Sharp and/or Blumenschein prior to the return of both artists to the U.S. that year, or indirectly from American students at the Académie Julian, recently attended by both Blumenschein (1894-96) and Phillips (1894). The Académie Julian hosted many expatriate artists who later came to live in Taos.

In Taos, Lucy was known as Elizabeth. The nickname that she adopted with her family was Aunt Dude (pronounced ‘dudie’). Virginia (Ginnie) Couse Leavitt, granddaughter of E. I. Couse, recounts that, “ Elizabeth was my mother’s (Lucille Couse) best friend; she named one of her daughters Elizabeth, after Elizabeth Harwood. She was my mother away from home.” The Harwood home, El Pueblito, became a destination for artists, a focus less famous than the salon of Mabel Dodge Luhan, but equally important.  Georgia O’Keeffe and Rebecca Salsbury James lodged together at the Harwood home on two occasions. The Blumenscheins, Howard Cook and Barbara Latham, Emil Bisttrram - the list of lodgers at the Harwood home is a “Who’s Who of Taos Artists.” The Harwoods welcomed anyone in the arts into their circle of friends. El Pueblito’s guest list includes artist, writers, composers, and poets. Happy Price, Paul Elwood, Vija Celmins, Lynda Benglis, Risk Hazekamp are listed among more contemporary guests.

Like many other women artists of the time, Lucy was not recognized for her artistic gifts. In fact, several of the paintings in the Harwood collection signed "E. Harwood" have recently been determined to be early works by Burt Harwood, painted when he was signing the canvases using his, given name of Elihu.

Elizabeth Harwood died in 1937, shortly before the Carnegie Corporation awarded a $4,000 Survey Grant for Adult Education to the Harwood, giving the Foundation a greater role in the life of the Taos community. The plan developed with these funds was an idealistic venture called “The Taos County Project,” which coordinated the resources of fifty-three public and private agencies to meet the needs of Taos County. Two books were written on the project: Forgotten People, by Dr. George I. Sanchez, and It Happened in Taos, by Dr. J.T. Reid. The Taos County Project also established two craft shops—one for furniture making, and one for textile arts. After World War II, Taos and the Harwood entered a new phase of their shared artistic history with the influx of established artists from the East and West Coasts. These artists were influenced by the European and American avant-garde, and many would eventually be recognized for their roles in the development of American Modernism.

Author-editor Elaine A. Cannon  observed that “There are two important days in a woman's life: the day she was born, and the day she finds out why.” Elizabeth (Lucy) Case Harwood found her answer. She is a vigorous reminder of the remarkable women from an earlier time. Her life was a testament to adventure, education and philanthropy.