Beatrice Wood 1893–1998

Born in 1893 to a wealthy and well-educated family and reared in New York, Beatrice Wood was an artistic free spirit from a young age. She spent her adolescence studying art and theater in Paris at the Académie Julian and La Comédie-Française. At the insistence of her family, she returned to New York in 1912, where she joined the French National Repertory Theatre.

Back in New York, Wood met artist Marcel Duchamp who introduced her to his social circle, exposed her to modern art and encouraged her artistic ambition. She became part of the New York Dada Movement along with fellow artists Man Ray, Francis Picabia and Joseph Stella. New York Dada's irreverence was less aggressive and more playful than its European counterparts, but nonetheless influenced by the carnage of WWI. The antics and excesses of the New York Dadaists—a number of whom were European artists escaping the war—was their form of protest.

Wood relocated to southern California in 1928. There, she became acquainted with the Indian sage Krishnamurti of the Theosophical Society and began to follow him on his international lectures. While on one of these trips in Holland, she purchased a set of baroque dessert plates with a striking luster glaze. Unable to find a matching tea pot, she decided to make one herself, and enrolled in a ceramic course at Hollywood High School in 1933. It was here that she first studied glaze chemistry and learned the intricacies of ceramic design. Her studies continued under noted ceramicist and teacher, Glen Lukens, whose tutelage prepared her for her next and most important mentors, ceramicists Gertrud and Otto Natzler. The Natzlers shared their methods and glaze secrets with her. She later said that learning the Natzler’s approach to ceramics was ‘invaluable’ to her development as a ceramic artist.

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