Virginia Cuthbert

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Virginia Isabel Cuthbert-Elliott (American, 1908-2001) artist, teacher, illustrator and art critic, known for her “magic realism” and surrealist urban genre paintings of people in architectural scenes, as well as Fortune Magazine covers. She worked primarily in oils and watercolors, but has also worked in pencil, charcoal, pastel and pen & ink. She married noted Buffalo artist Philip C. Elliott (American, 1903-1985), both professors for many years in the Art Department at the University at Buffalo (U.B.). She also taught at the Albright Art School, and later at the State University of New York at Buffalo, in Buffalo, NY. “Her work reflects a lifelong emphasis on realism, varied by degrees of expressive stylization, and on the subjects of daily life”*.

From her first one person show in 1930 until 1992, Cuthbert exhibited her work in sixty-five group shows and many solo exhibitions. She also established along with her husband, the Philip C. and Virginia Cuthbert Elliott Painting Scholarship at the University at Buffalo, which is awarded annually to a junior majoring in the painting art program.

Cuthbert received her B.F.A. degree in 1930 from Syracuse University and studied during that summer at the Provincetown Art Colony in Massachusetts with Charles Hawthorne. Aided by an August Hazard fellowship for European study, Cuthbert worked with Colin Gill in London, attending Chelsea Polytechnical Institute there, and had her work critiqued by Augustus John, the famous British portrait painter. Cuthbert also studied in Paris at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and at the Academie Colarossi, and in Florence with Felice Carena. Upon her return to America in 1932, she continued her studies in New York City with noted Ash Can School painter George Luks. From 1933-34 she went on to pursue graduate level studies in Pittsburgh at the University of Pittsburgh in art history, and from 1934-35 at the Carnegie Institute of Technology with Alexander Kostellow in painting.


1908- Born, West Newton, PA.

1926-30- Studied Art at Syracuse University (B.F.A.), Syracuse, NY.

1930- Exhibited in her first solo show, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

1930-32- Studied in Europe, aided by the August Hazard fellowship for European study. Cuthbert worked with Colin Gill in London, attending Chelsea Polytechnical Institute, and also studied in Paris at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and at the Academie Colarossi, and in Florence, Italy with Felice Carena. Met her future husband to be, Philip C. Elliott, the second day she was in Paris.

1932- Returns to U.S. after studies abroad and furthered studies under George Luks, NYC.

1933- Moved to Pittsburg, PA and furthered studies in art history for two years at the University of Pittsburg, PA establishing herself as an artist, garnering major prizes and honors.

1934- Exhibited, Carnegie Institute (prize-best painting), Pittsburg, PA. Commissioned by the Works Progress Administration to do a mural at the Municipal Building, Mt. Lebanon, PA.

1934-35- Furthered studies in painting under Alexander Kostellow, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, PA.

1935- Exhibited, Carnegie Institute (prize), Pittsburg, PA. Married noted artist Philip C. Elliott (American, 1903-1985) and they resided in Pittsburg, PA.

1937- Exhibited, Carnegie Institute (prize), Pittsburg, PA.

1938- Exhibited solo, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, PA. Exhibited solo, Butler Institute, Youngstown, OH.

1939- Exhibited solo, Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, Syracuse, NY and at the Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, Ohio. Exhibited also at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburg, PA, and at the Golden Gate Exposition, San Francisco, CA.

1940- Exhibited, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.

1940-41- Exhibited, Butler Institute (prize 1940), Youngstown, OH.

1941- Moved to Buffalo when Philip Elliott became director of the Albright Art School, Buffalo, NY.

1941-46- Exhibited at the Albright Art Gallery (prize 1944, and 1st prize Western NY exhibition, 1946), Buffalo, NY.

1941-61- Taught art at the Art Department at the University at Buffalo and also at the Albright Art School, both in Buffalo, NY.

1942- Exhibited, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA. Exhibited, Riverside Museum, Riverside, CA.

1942-54- Instructor of painting at both the Albright Art School, and at the University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

1943- Exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, and at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI.

1944- Exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC and solo at Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

1945-55- Exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, annual shows of contemporary painting, NYC.

1945-49 & 53- Exhibited solo, Contemporary Arts, NYC.

1946- Exhibited, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.

1950- Exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

1951- Illustrated the cover for Fortune Magazine.

1952- Illustrated the cover for Southwestern Review.

1954- Exhibited solo, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, NYC.

1954-55- Art critic-columnist for the Buffalo Courier-Express, Buffalo, NY.

1954-56- Art critic-author, special art reviews for the Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo, NY.

1955- Exhibited at the National Exhibition (prize), Frank Rehn Gallery, NYC.

1956- January, her cover painting of the “White House” (a copy), for Fortune Magazine, was sent to President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his Gettysburg farm.

1958 & 66- Exhibited solo, Frank Rehn Gallery, NYC.

1971- Exhibited with husband Philip C. Elliott, “Retrospective-Virginia Cuthbert and Philip Elliott”, featured more than 120 works in the Rockwell Hall, Charles Burchfield Center, Buffalo State University College, Buffalo, NY.

1985- Her husband Philip dies.

1987- Suffered a stroke which made it difficult to speak, still continuing to paint.

c1995- Health reasons prevent her from painting, a fact which she accepted philosophically, and which she is quoted as saying, “Art and music are so important, they will go on and on. With me or without me.”

1996- Cuthbert received the National Honor, vital contribution to American Art in the 20th Century. Her work was recorded and preserved in the national Archives, Washington, DC.

1990- Exhibited solo, “Virginia Cuthbert-A Retrospective”, at the Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

2001- Died, January 24th at the age of 92, at the Commons at Kenmore senior residence, Kenmore, NY. Memorial exhibition of her 1952 painting “Memories of Childhood”, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. “When I heard of Ginny’s passing I felt that it reflected the end of an era. A whole group of artists who had come to Buffalo and were associated with the Albright Art School. They are all gone. Ginny was the last”-Douglas Schultz, Albright Knox Gallery Director and her friend, 2001.

2005- Exhibited at “Exhibition of Works by Virginia Cuthbert”, Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY.

Exhibited also at: Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, 1931-37, 1938 (prize), 1939 (prize), 1940-42, Pittsburgh, PA; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1933-58, Philadelphia, PA; Carnegie Institute, “Carnegie International Exhibition” (1937-52), Pittsburgh, PA; Carnegie Institute, 1938-40, 1943-52, Pittsburgh, PA; Art Institute of Chicago, 1938-40, 1942-43, Chicago, IL; Contemporary Art Gallery (Solo), 1945; Pepsi-Cola (prize), 1946; University of Minnesota, 1947; Corcoran Gallery Biennial, 1949 & 1951, Washington, DC; Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, 1951, Utica, NY; Provincetown Art Association-Exhibit, 1958, Provincetown, MA; William Rockhill Nelson Gallery, 1959, Kansas City, MO; Good Will Exhibition to Brazil, 1960; and Frank Rehn Gallery during the 1970’s, NYC; The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; and The Members Gallery, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Memberships: Pittsburg Art Association, Pittsburg, PA; Patteran Society of Artists, Buffalo, NY and the New York Society of Women Artists.

Associations: WPA Federal Arts Project.

Honors: Awarded a $1000 grant from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts & Letters, 1954; Honored with Virginia Tillou, longtime friend and colleague, by the Arts Council of Buffalo and Erie County in the Professional Artist Category, 1994; The Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County and the Greater Buffalo Partnership honored her with an Individual Professional Artists Award, 1995; National Honor, vital contribution to American Art in the 20th Century, her work was recorded and preserved in the national Archives, Washington, DC, 1996.

Collections: the Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY; University of Buffalo and State University of New York, Buffalo, NY; Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY; Princeton University Art Museum, NJ; Rutgers University Library Collection, NJ; One Hundred Friends of Pittsburg Art, Pittsburg, PA.

Permanent displays: “A Winter Walk” painting, 1993, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

Other Commissions: Painting for the National Gypsum Company, Buffalo, NY.

Cuthbert sketched and painted throughout Western New York, New York State & New York City, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, France, Paris, London, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Haiti among others.

For additional information on this artist or for other possible examples of her works, please visit the AskArt link

(Rewritten & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc. East Aurora, NY,, sources: Furnished upon request.)