One of the few non-objective artists in pre-World War II Southern California, Elise is remarkably little known. Although she was trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, her home town, she first came to public attention as the long-legged, purple-haired and strikingly beautiful comic partner of W.C. Fields, appearing with him in several films, the most notable The Dentist (1932). By then she was in Los Angeles, where she met and married Merle Armitage, a major music impresario who was also an art collector and modernist book designer. Through him she entered art circles and soon began creating abstract prints. By the end of the decade she had turned to painting, and for the next few years produced and exhibited, primarily in California, a significant body of non-objective art. In the 1950s, she turned increasingly to more expressionist composition, although linear elements and dynamic rhythms were always essential to her work. She was a close friend of Edward Weston, and with Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg helped found the group Functionalists West.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has the largest holdings of her work in canvas and on paper as well as wonderful photographs of her. As part of the huge donation in 2008 from the estate of her last husband, James Welton, the Museum agreed to document the work, through their website, and make some of it available for purchase by other museums and collections. The proceeds of this sale will be for the American Art Department Acquisition Fund.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
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