Historical Note


Beatrice Wood (1893-1998) was born on March 3, 1893 in San Francisco and raised in New York City. The daughter of affluent socialites, Wood studied painting at the Julian Academy and acting at the Comédie Francaise in Paris at the age of 18. Upon her return to New York, she joined the French Repertory Company and in 1916, befriended the artist Marcel Duchamp and the writer and diplomat Henri Pierre Roché. The three founded and published the short-lived little magazine The Blind Man, one of the earliest manifestations of Dada in America. Through Duchamp, Wood met the art collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg, artists Man Ray, Francis Picabia, and Charles Sheeler, and the poet Mina Loy. Wood became a regular participant in the frequent gatherings of intellectuals, artists, and writers at the Arensbergs' West 67th Street apartment. With Duchamp's encouragement, Wood returned to drawing and painting, submitting a work to the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists.

Wood relocated to Montreal in 1919 to continue her acting career and there she married Paul Renson, a theater manager. She soon annulled the marriage and returned to New York City. Around 1926, Wood moved to Los Angeles and then to Hollywood, California, where she renewed her friendship with the Arensbergs. In 1938, she married Steve Hoag, an engineer. By all accounts the marriage was not a happy one, yet the couple lived together until his death in 1960. In 1948, they relocated to Ojai, California to be near the Indian sage Krishnamurti, the leader of the Theosophical Society, to which Wood had belonged since 1923.

Wood first became interested in ceramics in 1933 after purchasing a set of luster-glaze plates at an antique store. She soon enrolled in a pottery course in the Adult Education Department of Hollywood High School. She later studied briefly with the Austrian ceramists Gertrud and Otto Natzler. For the next sixty years, Wood supported herself creating and selling pottery and in 1956 she opened her own studio. At first, she concentrated on dinner sets, but by the mid-1970s she began to specialize in more elaborate, decorative bowls, vases and chalices with complex luster glazes. Wood continued to work at her potter's wheel until two years before her death in 1998 at the age of 105.

Wood had her first solo exhibition in 1949 at American House in New York City. Other notable solo exhibitions include shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1951; at the Pasadena Museum of Art in 1959; at the Takishamaya Gallery in Tokyo in 1962; and a retrospective at the Phoenix Museum of Art in 1973. Since 1981, Wood's work has been shown regularly by the Garth Clark Gallery at both their Los Angeles and New York locations. In 1994, Wood was declared a "California Living Treasure" by Governor Pete Wilson and was named an "Esteemed American Artist" by the Smithsonian Institution.

Works Consulted

Naumann, Francis M. New York Dada, 1915-23. (New York : Abrams, 1994).

Smith, Roberta, 1947-. "Beatrice Wood, 105, Potter and 'Mama of Dada.'" Obit. New York Times (Mar. 14, 1998).

Wood, Beatrice. I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood. (Ojai, CA : Dillingham Press, c1985).