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Margaret Peterson

Canadian /American
(1902–1997)

Untitled, Abstract Figure
circa 1945

Tempera on panel
33.5 x 27.75 x 1.5 in.
Gift of the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation
2019.9.5

Margaret Peterson was born in Seattle, Washington in 1928. Peterson graduated from the University California Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1962 and a Masters of Fine Art in 1931. Peterson was hired to teach Fine Art at the University of California in 1928. However, in 1950 she was forced from her teaching position because, along with a small band of professors at UCB, she would not sign the school’s non-communist loyalty oath, which was a by-product of McCarthyism. Joe McCarthy questioned the loyalty of Americans, which eventually lead to a witch hunte across the nation for those in public positions known to be associated with Communism.

Peterson directly references patriotism in Untitled, c. 1950 by painting a figure whose body consists of the colors of the American flag, red, white, and blue. Untitled could be seen as a self-portrait of Peterson whose life was inexorably changed by the political winds of McCarthyism.


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