Beulah Woodard

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Beulah Woodard
Born (1895-11-11)November 11, 1895
Frankfort, Ohio, United States
Died July 13, 1955(1955-07-13) (aged 59)
Nationality American
Education Polytechnic High School
Otis Art Institute
Los Angeles Art School
University of Southern California
Known for Sculpture
Notable work Maudelle
African Woman
Bad Boy
Mother and Child
Fulah Kunda
Awards Purchase award for sculpture at the All City Art Festival
Patron(s) Miriam Matthews
James Rodney Smith

Beulah Ecton Woodard (November 11, 1895 – July 13, 1955) was an African-American sculptor and painter based in California.


Beulah Ecton was born near Frankfort, Ohio, on November 11, 1895. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William P. Ecton. Her father was a Civil War veteran.[1] She developed a lifelong fascination with African culture at the age of 12 when her family was visited by an African national.[2] Her family moved to California where she lived near Los Angeles in what would become Vernon. She attended Los Angeles Polytechnic High School, where she studied architectural drawing. After completing high school, Woodard had to work as a maid for the years after graduation until she was in her thirties.[3]

Woodard started working with clay in her early 30s, but was dissuaded from the pursuit by her family in 1926. In 1928, she married Brady Woodard and took courses at the Otis Art Institute, the Los Angeles Art School, and the University of Southern California. She counted Glen Lukens among her tutors, as well as Peter David Edstrom, one of the founders of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[3] Russian prince Paul Troubetzkoy was also one of Woodard's teachers.[3]

Artistic Career[edit]

Woodard had her first show in February 1935 in the storefront window for the California News weekly.[4] Her work was displayed at the Vernon Branch Library and the Los Angeles Central Library.[5] She was the first African-American artist to exhibit a one-person show at the Los Angeles County Museum with her 1937 solo exhibition.[2] The exhibition was up for eight weeks and consisted of "a series of clay and papier-mâché masks, which were decorated with elaborate beading and feathers and based upon the artist's anthropological research."[1] She was collected by Los Angeles art matron and Los Angeles Head Librarian Miriam Matthews and many pieces were bought by Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company for their corporate art collection.[1] Matthews organized an exhibition of Woodard's work at the Los Angeles Public Library's Vernon Branch.[1] Woodard came to Matthew's attention after California News publisher James R. Smith displayed her sculptures in the window of the weekly newspaper.[1]

Woodard used various media to create her sculptures, including bronze, wood, terracotta, and papier-mâché.[2] In her sculptures, she replicated the braided hairstyles, jewelry and headdresses of Ekoi, Luba, Hemba and Mangbetu peoples.[6] Her terracotta work Maudelle, made ca. 1937–38, is a realistic portrait of African-American concert dancer Maudelle Bass Weston and was created without the use of sculptural models or drawings.[2]

Woodard was active in her community and lectured at various educational institutions. She was a member of Our Authors Study Circle, a women's book club affiliated with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History that persuaded the office of mayor Fletcher Bowron to enact Los Angeles' first Negro History Week.[7] In 1937 she was a key organizer of the Los Angeles Negro Art Association.[1] In 1950 she established the Eleven Associated Artist Gallery. She placed third in the All-City Art Festival in 1953. Woodard died on July 13, 1955, prior to a German exhibition of her work.[5]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Farrington, Lisa (2006). "The Harlem Renaissance and the New Negro" in Creating their own Image: The History of African-American Women Aritsts. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 95. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Maudelle". University of Missouri: Museum of Art and Archaeology. Archived from the original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Women artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Kirschke, Amy Helene,. Jackson [Mississippi]. ISBN 9781628460339. OCLC 874902125. 
  4. ^ Wilson, Judith (2002). "How the Invisible Woman Got Herself on the Cultural Map: Black Women Artists in California". Art, Women, California 1950-2000: Parallels and Intersections. Berkeley [u.a.]: Univ. of California Press. pp. 207–209. ISBN 978-0-520-23066-8. 
  5. ^ a b "Beulah Woodard was an early California artist". African American Registry. Retrieved October 21, 2014. 
  6. ^ Farrington, Lisa E. (2004). Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 92–95. ISBN 978-0-19-516721-4. 
  7. ^ Widener, Daniel (2010). Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0-8223-9262-0.