Ada Gilmore is one of the original six artists (along with Blanche Lazzell, B.J.O. Nordfeldt, Ethel Mars, Maud Hunt Squire, and Mildred McMillen) credited with the genesis of the Provincetown white-line woodblock print. A painter and printmaker, she made important contributions to the development of American printmaking in the early 20th century. Born in Kalamazoo, MI, Gilmore attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1903-1907, where she met friend and fellow artist McMillen. Together they traveled and studied both in the US and abroad, from 1903 through the end of World War I. Prior to 1912, Gilmore participated in group exhibitions such as the 1910 Independent Artists show, NYC. In 1912-1913, she along with other woman artists traveled to Europe and settled in Paris. There she saw and admired a woodblock show by renowned artist, Mars, from whom she learned the woodcut process.
When she was 32 years old, Gilmore left Paris and moved to Provincetown with McMillen at the outset of World War I. Shortly after her arrival in Provincetown, Gilmore made watercolors of the village, capturing her exuberance at being in this picturesque village, far from the war in Europe. Gilmore loved the charming architecture and picturesque cottages of the seaside haven. She mailed some of these watercolors to friends and artists and later mounted them on large sheets of paper, adding a strip of color as a border for each.
Gilmore’s earliest Provincetown woodcuts often depict women and are amongst the most modern, patterned and vividly colored of all the Provincetown prints. Gilmore, along with Mars, Squire, Lazzell and Hopkins, all participated in the famed Salon d’Autumne exhibitions in Paris. In the Salon d’Autumne exhibition of 1925, a Matisse painting was flanked by two Ada Gilmore woodcuts. In 1925, Gilmore married fellow Provincetown artist, Oliver Chaffee. From the late 1920s on, Gilmore’s subject matter moved from village life and people to the depiction of exotic and garden floral forms. She made watercolor studies of the indigenous plants and flowers of the various places she visited including many in Ormond, Florida where she spent winters in the 1930s. Gilmore lived with Chaffee in Provincetown and maintained an active dialogue with the local art community until her death in Provincetown in 1955.