Elizabeth Olds

American , 1896 - 1991

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1896, Elizabeth Olds was a founding member of the screen-printing unit of the Graphic Arts Division of the Federal Arts Project. Olds studied at the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis School of Art, the Art Students League, and with George Luks. In 1926, she traveled to Paris, having been the first woman to be awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship to study painting abroad.

During the early 1930s, Olds spent time in the Midwest where she executed a series of prize-winning lithographs depicting the Omaha stockyards. In 1934, she joined the Public Works of Art Project in Omaha and began making lithographs that depicted the activities of the relief agencies. Years later, Olds moved to New York where she worked in the Graphic Arts Division of the Federal Art Project alongside Anthony Velonis, Louis Lozowick, Ruth Chaney, Eugene Morely, Hyman Warsager and Harry Gottlieb.

Elizabeth Olds was pivotal in developing screen- printing as a medium of fine art. In “Prints for Mass Production”, an essay written in 1936, Olds advocated the use of prints produced in large editions and circulated widely as a means of enlightening a culturally illiterate population. The medium was well suited to Olds’ purpose, as screen-printing equipment was light and inexpensive and large editions were possible.
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