April 06 1909 - August 20 1970
Photograph of Marion Greenwood, 1936, by Shalat. 8 x 5 1/2 inches (20 x 14 cm). Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection, 1935-1942. Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA. www.aaa.si.edu
Place of Birth:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Graphic Artist, Lithographer, Muralist, Painter, Portraitist, Printmaker, Sketcher
Marion Greenwood was a painter and printmaker noted for being the first American woman to receive a commission from a foreign government—a seven-hundred square foot fresco of Indian life at the University of San Nicolas Hidalgo in Morelia, Mexico. Her artwork reflects her compassion for the less fortunate, particularly laborers and ethnic minorities, and awareness of her changing cultural surroundings.
Raised in Brooklyn by a family of artists, Greenwood received a scholarship at the age of fifteen to attend The Art Students League in New York. Although she later found work making sketches for The New York Times
, she left the city and moved to the Southwest, where she painted portraits of Native Americans.
Greenwood was already an established artist both in the US and Europe when she was inspired by Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco’s murals to travel to Mexico in 1932. With the assistance of American muralist Pablo O’Higgins, Greenwood painted her first mural at Hotel Taxqueno in Mexico City and quickly earned the praise of the major Mexican muralists. She worked with Rivera on several projects and eventually received the University of San Nicolas Hidalgo commission. To gather material for her mural depicting life of the Tarascan Indians, she lived in mines, plantations, and primitive villages among the natives for four years. The figures in her murals glow with dignity and spirit. When she returned to the US in 1936, she was an important figure in Mexican art culture and brought her mural experience to WPA commissions. Greenwood became one of only two women appointed as artist war-correspondents and produced a series of paintings for the Army Medical Corps depicting the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers.
Greenwood effectively abandoned mural work in 1940, returning to it only twice again in her career—Theme of American Music
, 1955, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Tribute to Women
, 1965, at Syracuse University, New York. Preferring instead to depict “real” images of American life, free from government censorship, Greenwood increasingly turned towards smaller figure paintings and lithographs. She spent time in Harlem, the Deep South, and Haiti creating intimate yet powerful portrayals of native people in their own environments. She spent several months in Southern China, the West Indies, North Africa, and India. These travels were Greenwood’s source of inspiration—her works depict people of a variety of ethnic and social backgrounds enlivened by vibrant colors and strong contours.
Académie Colarossi, Paris, France (1929-1930)
The Art Students League of New York, New York, NY, USA (1924-1928)
sister of and collaborated with Grace Greenwood
student of George Bridgman
student of John Sloan
student of Frank Vincent Du Mond
student of Emil Ganso
student of Alexander Archipenko
friend and assistant of Diego Rivera
friend of Pablo O'Higgins
friend of José Clemente Orozco
friend of Alfaro Siqueiros
friend of Leopoldo Mendez
Gumbacher Prize, National Association of Women Artists, New York, NY, USA (1959)
Lippincott Prize, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1951)