Leila McConnell

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Leila McConnell

LEILA MCCONNELL (b. 1927)

Leila McConnell was born in Los Angeles, California. Her family moved to Houston when she was six and, after graduating from high school, she enrolled at Rice Institute (now Rice University). At the time, Rice had no department of architecture but McConnell sought inspiration from iconic professor, James Chillman. According to McConnell, Chillman had the greatest influence on her sense of design, proportion, and the ability to actually see her art. Studying freehand drawing, design, watercolor, art, and architectural history under Chillman, McConnell excelled. After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree from Rice, she continued her art studies at the Museum School (now Glassell School) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

 

McConnell had impeccable academic training and her early paintings, both oil and pastel, were very realistic. The majority of her subject matter was either still life, figure studies, or portraits. In the summer of 1949, she attended the San Francisco School of Fine Arts and was fortunate to study under Mark Rothko. His vision and innovative instruction marked McConnell’s shift away from the realism that had previously dominated her works. After her classes with Rothko, she began to paint more abstract pieces, creating an imaginary girl in watercolor.

 

Realizing that she had a vivid imagination, McConnell embarked on a trip to Europe in 1960. The stucco buildings of Italy greatly impacted her vision and caused a change in her paintings. Her colors became soft and blended, often misty and portraying a sun or moon, causing the artist to deem many of her works “sky paintings.”

 

In 1976, McConnell began creating paper collages, a diversion from her painted works. Though small, her collages impacted the way McConnell created her paintings—her edges became harder, mixed with the mistiness of her skies and her compositions became more symmetrical. McConnell continues to paint in her unique style and develop her oeuvre of “sky” pieces.

 

Selected Biographical and Career Highlights:

1927          Born in Los Angeles, California

1948          BA, Rice University, Houston, Texas

1949          BS, Architecture, Rice University, Houston, Texas

1949          San Francisco School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California

1950–68    Instructor, Museum School, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

1954–59    Worked for Houston architect, Hamilton Brown

1956          Married artist, Henri Gadbois

1960          Visited Italy

Currently Resides in Houston, Texas

 

Selected Exhibitions:

1949–51    24th–26th Annual Exhibition of Work by Houston Artists, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

1951          13th Annual Exhibition of Texas Painting and Sculpture 1951–1952, circulated: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas

1952–55    27th–30th Annual Exhibition of Works by Houston Artists, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas (prize 1954)

1955          31st Annual Exhibition of Houston Artists, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

1957–60    32nd–35th Annual Houston Artists Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

1958          Texas Oil ’58, A Salute to the Oil Industry of the State by Texas Painters, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, traveled to: Bank of the Southwest, Houston; Dallas Public Library, Dallas; Republic National Bank of Dallas, Texas (catalogue)

1958          D. D. Feldman Competitive Award Exhibit: The Contemporary Work of 88 Texas Artists, traveled; 1958 Jul–Aug at McNay Museum, San Antonio, Texas (Orange Sun); DuBose Gallery, Houston, Texas; Leslie Muth Gallery, Houston, Texas

1959          21st Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition 1959–1960, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Witte Museum, San Antonio; Beaumont Art Museum, Beaumont; Museum, Texas Tech, Lubbock; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

1961          23rd Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition 1961–1962, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Witte Museum, San Antonio; Beaumont Art Museum, Beaumont; Museum, Texas Tech, Lubbock, Texas

1962–63    Museum School Faculty Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

1964          26th Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture Exhibition 1964–1965, circulated: Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Beaumont Art Museum, Beaumont; Witte Museum, San Antonio; Texas Western College, El Paso; University of Texas at Austin, Texas

1986          Leila McConnell: Collage to Canvas—New Works of Paper & Paintings, Plain Folk Gallery, Houston, Texas

2004          A Selection of Art Made in Houston 1950-1965, Brazos Projects, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Texas

2004–05    Rice Institute and the Visual Arts in Houston: 19001960, Fondren Library, Rice University, Houston, Texas

2006          Houston Art in Houston Collections: Works from 1900 to 1965, Heritage Society Museum, Houston, Texas

2006–07    Of This Vast State: Women Artists of Texas , 1900–1960, Women’s Museum, Dallas, Texas

2007          Timeless: A Retrospective of Selected Women Artists of Texas, 1940 to Present, David Dike Fine Art, Dallas, Texas; William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas; Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas

2007–08    Urban Texas: Changing Images of an Evolving State, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas

2008          Founders of Houston Art: Thirty Artists Who Led the Way, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2009          Back to the Future: Elements of “Modern” in Mid-Century Texas Art, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2009          Leila McConnell and Henri Gadbois: Side by Side, O’Kane Gallery, University of Houston/Downtown, Houston, Texas

2010          Third Anniversary Show: A Tribute to Houston Artists, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2010          Pioneering Women: Three Modernists in Houston—Dorothy Hood, Leila McConnell, Stella Sullivan, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas 

2010          The Presence of Light: Sky and Light in the Texas Landscape, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2010          Texas Collages: A Tribute to Kurt Schwitters, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2011          Southeast Texas Art: Cross-Currents and Influences, 1925–1965, Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont, Texas

2011          Lone Star Modernism: A Celebration of Mid-Century Texas Art, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2011          Portrait of Houston: 1900–2011, Alliance Gallery, Houston Arts Alliance, Houston, Texas (catalogue)

2011          Breakthrough: Sixty Years of Texas Abstraction, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2012          A Survey of Texas Modernists, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2013          A Tribute to Texas Rivers, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2013          Rhythms of Modernism, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2013          Summer Encore Exhibition, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2014          Houston Founders at City Hall Art Exhibition, City Hall, Houston, Texas

2014          A New Visual Vocabulary: Developments in Texas Modernism 1935-1965, One Allen Center, Lobby Gallery, Houston, Texas

2015         Bayou City Chic: Progressive Streams of Modern Art in Houston, Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas (catalogue)

2015         Midcentury Montage: Works by Three Houston Modernists, William Reaves Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2016         Texas Originals: Six Bayou City Expressionists, William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2016         This WAS Contemporary Art: Fine and Decorative Arts in Houston 1945-1965, Heritage Society Museum, Houston, Texas (catalogue)

2016         Celebrating Houston's Founding Modernists: David Adickes, Leila McConnell & Henri Gadbois, William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art, Houston, Texas 

2018          Midcentury Mod in Motion, William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2018          Midcentury Mod in Motion, William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art, Houston, Texas

2020          Ron Hartgrove & Leila McConnell, The Jung Center, Houston, Texas

2020          Another World: Recent Collages by Leila McConnell, Foltz Fine Art, Houston,  Texas 

2022          Texas Artists: Women of Abstraction, Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas

 

Selected Prizes, Awards

Houston Annual: Materials Prize 1954- Stella, oil

 

Selected Public Collections

Menil Collection, Houston, Texas

Old Jail House Art Center, Albany, Texas

Texas A&M University Museum, College Station, Texas 

The University of Houston - Victoria, Texas

 

Literature:

Robert Craig Bunch, The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists, Texas A&M University Press, 2016, pages 124-126.

Katie Robinson Edwards, Midcentury Modern Art in Texas, University of Texas Press, 2014. 

Bayou City Chic: Progressive Streams of Modern Art in Houston, Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas (catalogue), 2015. 

This WAS Contemporary Art: Fine and Decorative Arts in Houston 1945-1965, Heritage Society Museum, Houston, Texas (catalogue), 2016. 

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