Tag Archives: Betty Davenport Ford

Primal Nature: Animalia by Women in Post-War Claremont

September 21 – January 6, 2019
Claremont Museum of Art
200 W. 1st St, Claremont

Animals, both real and fantastic, occupied an important place in artistic expression in mid- twentieth-century Claremont, appearing in the work of ceramists, painters, enamelists, and sculptors. Primal Nature: Animalia by Women in Post-War Claremont, curated by Susan M. Anderson, focuses on this phenomenon, particularly in the work of women artists who played a vital role in the development of the arts in Claremont.

The exhibition, sponsored by Gould Asset Management LLC, will be on view September 21, 2018 through January 6, 2019 at the Claremont Museum of Art, located in the historic Claremont Depot at 200 W. First Street. The museum is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4:00 PM, and during Art Walk, the first Saturday of every month from 6:00 to 9:00 PM.

The exhibition is generously sponsored by Gould Asset Management LLC.

Gould Asset Management


Mid-century modern art, architecture, and design in Claremont were influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement that developed in 19th-century Great Britain and flourished in the United States through the 1920s. Although the movement was multi-centered in America, the fullest expression of its ideals was to be found in Southern California. Here, with a focus on traditional craftsmanship and a lifestyle that promoted immersion in nature, artists drew sustenance from local flora and fauna, and vernacular design.

In Claremont, the ethos of the Arts and Crafts Movement lingered during the Depression era and experienced an extraordinary resurgence in the post-war period. This was due in large part to the influence of Millard Sheets and to the artists, designers, craftspeople, and architects he drew to the growing Claremont art colony beginning in 1932.

In the post-war period, Sheets’s exhibition programs at the Los Angeles County Fair included almost yearly arts and crafts shows, including the regionally important “The Arts of Daily Living” and “The Arts of Western Living.” These helped foster Claremont’s creative community, as did the Millard Sheets Studio on Foothill Boulevard where dozens of artists, craftspeople, and architects worked on landmarks, in Claremont and beyond, such as the Home Savings and Loan buildings with their signature mosaics.

Themes drawn from nature, especially animal forms, were common. Since classical antiquity, artists have assigned meaning to animals real and imagined. At the same time. animals—wild, domesticated and fantastic—often functioned for artists as creative muses or effective design solutions.

Primal Nature explores the significance of this shared theme and the context for its emergence in the work of pivotal figures in Claremont such as Jean Goodwin Ames, Betty Davenport Ford, Barbara Beretich, and Susan Hertel. The exhibition also includes works by Marjorie Burgeson, Dora de Larios, Ingrid Petersen, Hildred Reents, Martha Underwood, Nina de Creeft Ward, and Ellamarie Wooley.

Susan M. Anderson is an independent curator and art historian with a focus on the art of California. She is a former chief curator of Laguna Art Museum. Assisting the guest curator in her research, Scripps College undergraduate Linnea Rosenberg participated in the organization of this exhibition as this year’s Millard Sheets Art Intern.


Jean Ames, Untitled, detail, c.1962, enamel and bronze. Claremont Museum of Art, promised gift from Kathleen Wicker and Lois Langland.

Jean Goodwin Ames’ (1903-1986) preferred medium was enamel, but she was also a painter. Ames, who taught at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School from 1940 to 1962, described her oeuvre as being filled with “enchanted birds and beasts.” Her commitment to enamel contributed to the recognition of the medium as an art form in the years following World War II.

Barbara Beretich’s (1936-2018) ceramic sculptures of cats, which she often finished in bronze, also recall archaic sculpture while being highly polished and stylized. From 1962 to 1965, Beretich attended Claremont Graduate School, receiving an MFA. From 1973 to 1978, she operated Gallery 8 on Harvard Avenue, and, from 1978, Galleria Beretich, located in her home. Both offered important exhibition venues for local and regional artists.

Betty Davenport Ford, Clouded Leopard, c.1976, Stoneware. Collection of the artist.

Archaic animal forms recalling Egyptian, Greek, and Romanesque styles were popular among sculptors. The ceramic anincmal sculpture of Betty Davenport Ford (b.1924) exhibits this historicizing approach. Ford aims to balae the capture of the animal’s essential spirit with sound design. She graduated from Scripps College in 1946 and remained a vital part of the community through her work with the Millard Sheets Studio.

Susan Hertel (1930-1993) mused in a poem that she was “not a person of the people tribe,” suggesting a closer kinship to the animals she often portrayed in her paintings of everyday life. Hertel received her BA from Scripps College in 1952. Working in the Millard Sheets Studio, she subsequently became chief designer and executor of murals throughout Southern California, Texas, and Arkansas, for Home Savings and Loan.

Betty Davenport Ford: Capturing the Animal Spirit (updated)

Betty Davenport Ford with Wild Goat, 1956

Betty Davenport Ford with Wild Goat, 1956

A sculpture exhibit, Betty Davenport Ford: Capturing the Animal Spiritwill be on public view at three venues from November 3, 2013 through October of 2014. This exhibit, produced by the Claremont Museum of Art, is cosponsored by Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens and the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts.

One of Claremont’s most prolific sculptors, Betty Davenport Ford is well known for her unique style and honest craftsmanship. Working in clay and bronze for over sixty years, she simplifies form to abstract the natural essence of the wild creatures she depicts.

Sunday, November 3 at the Padua Hills Art Fiesta
Padua Hills Theatre, 4467 Padua Ave., Claremont, 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Art Fiesta tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for CMA, RSABG and SAMFAC members. Children under 18 are free.

November 10 – March 30, 2014 at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
1500 N. College Ave., Claremont. Exhibit is open Friday-Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Garden admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, $4 for children and free for CMA and RSABG members.

Friday, December 13, 5-7 p.m. at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
The Claremont Museum of Art will host a reception at the RSABG gallery to honor Betty Davenport Ford. There will be a $5 entrance fee for that evening’s Luminaria event with a candle-lit loop walk through the gardens.

May 4 – October 25 at Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts
5131 Carnelian St., Alta Loma. As part of Sculpture in the Garden 2014, the exhibition will be on display in the Pyramid Room every Thursday and Saturday noon to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.


During Ford’s early years she discovered the beauty of the animal form, a fascination that thematically reoccurred in her sculptures throughout her professional career. It was through the study of the form and anatomy of these creatures that Ford gained the ability to capture not only the likeness of her animal subjects, but their essence as well.

A professional sculptor, teacher and author, Betty Davenport Ford was born in Upland in 1924. She received her BA degree from Scripps College and her MFA from Cranbrook Academy in Michigan in 1950. Her award winning work has been exhibited throughout the country and she has taught at Scripps, Pasadena City College and throughout California for the Visual Arts Program. She created numerous public works of art including the large tiger of Chaffey High School in Ontario and several fountains for the Pomona Mall.