Beulah H. Brown

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Beulah H. Brown (1892–1987), a.k.a. Beulah Elizabeth Hazelrigg Brown, was a Hoosier artist and designer who married one of the Midwest's best known and stylistically expansive Impressionist artists, Francis Focer Brown.


Beulah Brown became a student of art in 1915, after graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and then spending two years teaching school in Oolitic, Indiana. She had studied art briefly at the Conservatory, but it was enough to stir her interest, and she enrolled in the Herron School of Art where William Forsyth was her teacher. She married Francis Brown, a fellow student at Herron, three months after meeting him and continued a life of painting with her spouse. Both Beulah and Francis taught art around Indiana before finally settling in Muncie, where Francis had joined the faculty of Ball State University.

Beulah Brown was allegedly allergic to oil paints, which shaped the media in which both she and her husband worked. Beulah Brown was very well known for her winter scenes, still life and design works. Media for Beulah Brown's work consisted principally of various textiles and fabric, as well as crayon drawings and watercolor paintings.

The Browns had four children, and Francis Brown joined the faculty of Ball State Teachers College in Muncie. Beulah was able to continue painting and earned money teaching, because her widowed mother moved in with them and did most of the housework. In 1932, the Browns added a large studio to their home, where Beulah and Francis often worked there together. It was also a family gathering place, with their children and friends playing there as well.

Beulah developed a special interest in fabric design, creating some very bold, colorful, abstract patterns, and she drew upon her flower garden for ideas. Also doing floral still lifes, she preferred working in watercolor because of hr allergies. This circumstance led her husband to paint in watercolor as well. In December 1949, she began to paint snowscenes, which became a very well known signature style among her works. In later years, sales from Beulah's paintings helped the Brown family income because Francis painting career was curtailed because of glaucoma. In order to help him paint, she would often arrange his palette in a certain way with colors.

Francis Brown died in 1971, and Beulah continued painting in the studio she had shared with him. She did a series of decorative naive style paintings that became very well known and led to comparisons her works to that of Grandma Moses, a celebrated American folk artist. Beulah resented the comparison to Moses because of her sophisticated schooling, and the fact that Grandma Moses was self-taught.

Subject matter focus within Beulah Brown's work extended to figure, genre, landscape and snow scenes. In particular, Winter snow scenes and Genre scenes were regarded as Ms. Brown's specialty within her unique signature style. This signature style later earned Ms. Brown the distinction of being included among the Indiana's well regarded "Group of Twelve" contemporary Indiana women artists, whose works were well known to blend physical, intellectual and emotional intensity. The Group of Twelve were well known to have created a range of media and techniques used by women artists in Indiana today. These artists come from all regions of Indiana, and included Beulah Hazelrigg Brown, Betsy Stirratt, Charlene Marsh, Karen Thompson, and Bonnie Sklarski.

Highlights of the Group of Twelve's works were later illustrated within a catalog exhibit known as "Mind, Body and Spirit", that was assembled by Jean Robertson, Adjunct Professor of Women's Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Assistant Professor of Art History at Herron School of Art. Professor Robinson is curator of the "Matter Mind Spirit" exhibit and related catalog.

Source Information
  • Judith Vale Newton and Carol Ann Weiss, Skirting the Issue, pp. 87–93