Michener Art Museum

Elsie Driggs

Elsie Driggs, photo by Peggy Lewis, gift to the James A. Michener Art Museum library
BORN: 1898, Hartford, Connecticut
DIED: July 12, 1992, New York, New York

Driggs...explores abstraction and figurative art with warmth and wit, and sometimes even with whimsy. -Sally Friedman

Known primarily as a Precisionist painter, Elsie Driggs, in the course of her long career, also did floral and figurative paintings in watercolors, pastels, and oils. After studying at the Art Students League and in Italy, she settled in New York City, where she enjoyed immediate success. During the 1920s Driggs became associated with the Precisionists, also known as New Classicists or Immaculates, a group that painted the modern landscape of factories, bridges, and skyscrapers with geometric precision and almost abstract spareness. Her most famous Precisionist painting was Pittsburgh (1926-27), inspired by her memories of the steel mills where her father, an engineer, had worked. During the 1930s, however, Driggs departed from Precisionism, producing more whimsical watercolors and figurative paintings, as well as murals for the WPA. After marrying painter Lee Gatch, whose work she admired, Driggs moved to Lambertville, New Jersey in 1935 and devoted herself primarily to supporting her husband's career, a choice many female artists of her generation made. During the 1960s, however, Driggs resumed working actively, experimenting with mixed media constructions and figurative paintings in pastels and oils. Working until her death in 1992, Driggs was the most long-lived and productive of the Precisionist painters.