Evan X. Merz

musician/technologist/human being

A Sophisticated Provincial by Margo Alexander

There is very little information available online about the California artist Margo Alexander, and that is a shame. I was recently fortunate enough to pick up a small and interesting piece by her and I wanted to make sure to share what I knew about her online. I don't know the title of the piece, but it's one from a series she called Sophisticated Provincials, and they are still widely available at reasonable prices on ebay.

Margo Alexander was a muralist and printer who ran a large art studio in California in the first half of the 20th century. Here's what it says about her in Emerging from the Shadows.

In Los Angeles, she established her reputation as a muralist, creating custom murals for private homes and public buildings. As in her oil and watercolor paintings, her mural subjects included figurative, landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes. She also designed fabric, china, and table linens. By the early 1940s, she employed six full-time artists at her Los Angeles studio to assist with mural commissions and with her more commercial production of serigraphs, which she called "Sophisticated Provincials," which were created using a hand reproduction technique she developed that attempts to retain the spontaneity of an original painting. These were simply signed "Margo."

What I think is interesting about Alexander is that she was commercializing screen prints in a way very similar to what Andy Warhol claimed credit for decades later. She was pumping out these small, semi-handcrafted works that were designed for the mass market. It's true that these small, quaint scenes haven't withstood the passage of time as well as Warhol's, but I still think she needs to be put in the same context as Warhol.

Here's the piece I picked up for $8 on ebay. It's only about three inches square.

A Sophisticated Provincial by Margo Alexander

A Sophisticated Provincial by Margo Alexander

Here's what it says on the back, if you're having a hard time reading the small print.

Widely recognized for the dash and color of her original paintings and murals, this popular western artist strove to develop a hand-reproduced technique retaining all the piquant spontaneity of her prized originals.

THIS, with the support of her associates, Ann Bode and a talented staff, in the seclusion of her tree-covered old-world studio, she has achieved and proudly presents herewith her original hand-replica of...

I can't read what was originally in the box at the bottom, so I can only speculate at the title.

I hope that by putting this online I can preserve some memory of an artist who was successful enough to run her own store in Los Angeles for decades.

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Evan X. Merz

Evan X. Merz holds degrees in computer science and music from The University of Rochester, Northern Illinois University, and University of California at Santa Cruz. He is a programmer, musician, and author of Empress blog software. He makes his online home at evanxmerz.com.