Alice Taylor Gafford

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Alice Taylor Gafford
Alice Taylor Gafford.jpg
Born(1886-08-15)August 15, 1886
DiedOctober 27, 1981(1981-10-27) (aged 95)

Alice Taylor Gafford (August 15, 1886 – October 27, 1981) was an American nurse, teacher, and artist, based in Los Angeles.

Early life and education[edit]

Alice Taylor was born in Tecumseh, Kansas, one of ten children. Her parents were Benjamin and Alice Armstead Taylor.[1][2]


Gafford was a nurse for twenty-five years before beginning her career in art. Notable from her first career are a stint with the American Red Cross in Alaska (1915–16), and work with Daniel Hale Williams in Chicago.[3]

She moved to Los Angeles in 1922. She trained at Otis Art Institute (now called Otis College of Art and Design) and earned a teaching certificate at UCLA in 1951, when she was sixty-five years old, and taught art in an adult education program.[4][5]

She was active in the Val Verde community, teaching and holding art exhibitions, and chairing the Val Verde Women's Cultural Society.[6][7] Her works, mostly still life or landscape scenes, were exhibited often in her later years.[8][9][10] At 81, she accepted a commission to paint portraits of twelve notable African Americans, for display at the Family Savings and Loan Association offices in Los Angeles.[11]

Gafford was involved in founding the Los Angeles Negro Art Association in 1937, and the Eleven Associated Artists gallery (later Art West Association) in downtown Los Angeles. The short lived Los Angeles artists co-op included African American contemporaries Beulah Woodard, William Pajaud and Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong.[12] [13]

[14] She was called "the dean of black artists in Los Angeles" in recognition of her community leadership.[15][16] Her oil paintings were part of a Negro History Week exhibit at Doheny Library in 1953.[17]

Personal life and legacy[edit]

Alice Taylor married Louis Sherman Gafford, a World War I veteran, in 1928. She was widowed in 1959, and stopped painting in 1975, after developing cataracts. Alice Taylor Gafford died in 1981, age 95, and her remains were buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery.[18]

The annual Val Verde art show she founded was later named in honor of Gafford.[19] She is remembered as an early African-American woman artist in Los Angeles, and as an artist who became especially productive at an advanced age.[20][21] She is represented by paintings in the collections of Howard University, the Long Beach Museum of Art, and the Bowers Museum, among other institutions.[22]


  1. ^ "One of LA's Finest, Alice Taylor Gafford," African-American Registry.
  2. ^ Catherine Parsons Smith, "California and the West Coast," in Cary D. Wintz and Paul Finkelman, eds., Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (Routledge 2012). ISBN 9781135455361
  3. ^ "Artist Receives Accolades for her Many Achievements," Los Angeles Sentinel (September 5, 1974): C2.
  4. ^ Miriam Matthews, "Gafford, Alice," in Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Black Women in America: Dance, Sports, and Visual Arts, Encyclopedia of Black Women in America (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1997). African-American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. (accessed November 17, 2014).
  5. ^ "Life Begins at 80 for Gracious Artist," Los Angeles Sentinel (July 13, 1967): A5.
  6. ^ Jocelyn Y. Stewart, "Forgotten Oasis of Freedom: Val Verde, the 'black Palm Springs,' provided an escape from racism--if only for a weekend," Los Angeles Times (March 2, 1994).
  7. ^ "Founders' Day and Mother's Day Observed at Val Verde, Sunday," The California Eagle (May 12, 1949): 12.
  8. ^ "Arts League Awards Veteran Artist," Los Angeles Sentinel (February 16, 1967): C2.
  9. ^ "Gafford Exhibit at Security," Los Angeles Sentinel (March 5, 1964): D1.
  10. ^ "Museum Displays Gafford Works," Los Angeles Times (December 5, 1965): OC13.
  11. ^ "Artist Receives Accolades for her Many Achievements," Los Angeles Sentinel (September 5, 1974): C2.
  12. ^ "William Pajaud | Now Dig This! digital archive | Hammer Museum". Hammer Museum. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  13. ^ Jones, Kellie (2017-03-17). South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822374169.
  14. ^ "Artist Receives Accolades for her Many Achievements," Los Angeles Sentinel (September 5, 1974): C2.
  15. ^ "Southwest Students Hear Black Women Achievers," Los Angeles Sentinel (April 5, 1973): C3.
  16. ^ "Artists to Open New Art Gallery Sunday," Los Angeles Sentinel (May 25, 1950): A2.
  17. ^ "Leading Negroes to Talk," Daily Trojan 44(72)(February 11, 1953): 1.
  18. ^ "Memorial Service Held for Artist," Los Angeles Sentinel (November 12, 1981): C15.
  19. ^ "Annual Arts and Hobby Show Set," Los Angeles Sentinel (June 19, 1975): C14.
  20. ^ Karen Anne Mason, "African-American Artists of Los Angeles oral history transcript: Cecil Fergerson," UCLA Oral History Program, Online Archive of California.; in this interview Fergerson mentions Gafford a few times, declaring, "when Beulah Woodward and Alice Gafford were doing art in Los Angeles, nobody else was doing it!" (pp 514-515)
  21. ^ "Life Begins at 80 for Gracious Artist," Los Angeles Sentinel (July 13, 1967): A5.: "Since she celebrated her eightieth birthday on the 15th of August last year Mrs. Gafford has produced more paintings, participated in more one-man and group shows, won more honors, and sold more paintings than in any equivalent period of her career."
  22. ^ Ora Williams, American Black Women in the Arts and Sciences: A Bibliographic Survey (Rowman & Littlefield 1994): 313-314. ISBN 0810846608