"Half Heart"

  • Biography

    Margaret Putnam (1913-1987)

    Margaret Putnam left an artistic legacy rare even in the art world. Revered for her innovative techniques and inimitable style prior to her death in 1987 , her renown continues today. She was a 20th century woman with a Renaissance soul who lavished her work with brilliant color, always breaking and making the rules to achieve the desired effect. An explorer, Putnam was basically self-taught; it could not be otherwise because no one had the vision that she had. She worked in oil, watercolor, wax resist, casein, and pastel, exploring new avenues, developing new techniques, combining mediums, and creating an unique style, instantly recognizable, unlike any other. A background in fashion illustration was evident in the color, texture, and design that adorned both male and female figures. In abstract work, there was always a keen but unique sense of design. She worked over 8 hours a day, 363 days a year. Even after becoming partially paralyzed from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), she continued this schedule, working all day on the day that she passed away. I paint seven days a week because there is nothing else I would rather do. Of Margaret Putnam, Dr. Amy Freeman Lee has said: �The apogee of her achievement was reached as she struggled upstream against the dangerous currents of life without complaint or self-pity. For Margaret, it was always full courage ahead! In my entire life, I have never known anyone with more valor. Deep in the heart of Texas, drowsing placidly in the prairie sun, is that famous symbol of last-stand courage - the Alamo. Nearby, a few blocks up the street, in the little arts and crafts community of La Villita, artist Margaret Putnam paints every day. Although paralyzed from the waist down and stricken with an incurable disease, she continues to produce exquisite, expressive pictures filled with radiant colors and undefined joy, pictures which must be viewed as the triumph of art over life. "I paint seven days a week because there is nothing I'd rather do. It's such a delight. Sometimes, I feel like I'm still a child, playing with colors," she says happily. But at seventy-two, and confined to a wheelchair, Margaret Putnam is neither playing with colors, nor is she a child. She is a remarkable woman, a talented artist, and, in the real spirit of the Alamo, she represents true Texas grit. Margaret had always liked painting a big picture. Her strokes were broad, her colors bold, her paintings powerful and expressive. Her 18-by-7-1/2 foot mural at the top of the San Antonio Hilton Hotel is an example of the size she was comfortable with. An ambitious project, the mural traces epochs and events in Spanish history; then centers of Ferdinand, Isabella, and Columbus; and ends with the launch of Spanish explorers to our continent in search of the Seven Cities of Gold. "It took me a year to finish it," she remembers. "But I liked working on something so grand in scope and big in size." That was twenty-eight years ago. Today, she paints on narrow strips of paper, fractions of the canvases she once managed. Stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease often compared with polio, and one that kills through slow paralysis, Margaret may have been forced to modify the size and style of her paintings, but not her creative enthusiasm. She remains undaunted, and the strength of her artistic vision propels her forward. Awards * River Art Show, San Antonio, TX, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962 * Beaumont Museum, Beaumont, TX, Purchase Award, 1957 * Texas Fine Arts Museum, Purchase Award, 1958, 1962 * Texas Fine Arts Museum, Honorable Mention, 1958, * Texas Watercolor Society, Award, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1981 * Texas Watercolor Society, Purchase Award, 1959, 1963, 1965 * Local Artists Exhibition, San Antonio, TX, Purchase Award, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1972 * Old Testament National Exhibit, Award * One of Ten Outstanding Women in San Antonio, 1964 * San Antonio Art League, San Antonio, TX, Outstanding Artist of the Year * J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award, 1987 * Texas Fine Arts, Three-Time Winner of Top Award for Oils * San Antonio Business Committee for the Arts, Recipient of the Year Award