Sunday, July 26, 2009


Judith Deim was born in St. Louis in 1911 into a large family of artists and musicians. Judith painted as a child, sketching on the banks of the, Mississippi Rivet, achieving an artistic kinship with the American south that has resurfaced in current work.

On a Macmillan Scholarship, Judith attended the St. Louis School of Fine Arts where see met her future husband, painter Ellwood Graham. In the 1930's they moved to the Monterey Peninsula where Deim received Federal Arts Project commissions for murals at the Salinas Children's Hospital, the Ventura Post Office and a Veterans Hospital in Washington DC. Judith befriended John Steinbeck. She painted the acclaimed portrait of Steinbeck writing his first draft of The Sea of Cortez at her studio in 1941. Later, Steinbeck funded a painting expedition that Deim and Graham made to central Mexico.

Until 1950, Judith painted and exhibited under the name Barbara Stevenson. The San Francisco Museum of Art held her first solo exhibition, sparking a string of venues that included the San Francisco Palace of the Legion of Honor and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. In 1945, her solo show in Manhattan earned high praise from New York Times critics, describing her work as "vigorous," and her as "a new and promising talent."

Deim's international career began in 1950. She painted and exhibited in Mexico, Guatemala, Europe and Africa. Later, Judith found her greatest inspiration in the gypsy and flamenco cultures of Spain. In the 1980's and 1990's, Judith focused her travels closer to the U.S. and in Indian villages in Michoacan, Mexico.

For the last 20 years Deim divided her time between Patzcuaro, Mexico, and Northern California. Fiercely prolific, Deim's paintings are featured in the National Biennial of Mexico, "This Side of Eden" in California, and in "The Passage of the Muse," a collaboration with her granddaughter, the Flamenco dancer La Tania at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Deim found mid-century acclaim as a California Modernist. Her work today approaches the subjective milieu of Magic Realism. Of her 50-year retrospective in 1996 in Carmel, a critic wrote, "Deim's paintings breathe with figures and animals captured in the adventure of a moment at once carnal and mythical."
Judith Deim passed away peacefully and in her own home on August 2, 2006.

27 comments:

Kurt said...

I'm curious about her marriage to Ellwood Graham. My great-aunt owns literally dozens of his paintings, and was a very close friend of his in California. Know anything?

dahlia said...

Has anyone ever found a way to get a copy of "Ghost Bird", the documentary about her life? I've tried to find it for years.

Christian said...

Tania Leullieux, I am Christian form Pátzcuaro. I was wondering if you could help me selling one of Judith's painting I bought from her in april 2002. PLease be so kind to caontact me at cchristiankg@hotmail.com

Limner said...

I just learned of her death. I have searched for "Ghost Bird" for years. Is it available for purchase? I first saw it on PBS.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

PLEASE REPLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH JUDITH DEIM.

mexcrintl@gmail.com

Thanks. Mauricio.

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Kristie said...

Kurt - My father was a close friend of Mr. Graham's. Ellwood lived with my father in Oregon. That's where Ellwood died, followed by my dad. I inherited the portrait Mr. Graham did of John Steinbeck. I've made photographic copies to pass onto the children and grandchildren. The original is too large for our small home so now I'm looking to sell the Steinbeck original in the near future - but it has to go to a good home. If you know of someone, kindly pass on the word. -Oliver-

Kristie said...

Kurt - My father was a close friend of Mr. Graham's. Ellwood lived with my father in Oregon. That's where Ellwood died, followed by my dad. I inherited the portrait Mr. Graham did of John Steinbeck. I've made photographic copies to pass onto the children and grandchildren. The original is too large for our small home so now I'm looking to sell the Steinbeck original in the near future - but it has to go to a good home. If you know of someone, kindly pass on the word. -Oliver-