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Lillie May Nicholson Biography

Born on a ranch near Aromas, CA, Nicholson graduated from State Normal School in San Jose in 1907 and then taught school in Hawaii (1908-10) and in Watsonville, CA (1910-11).  In Watsonville she studied watercolor techniques with L. Minnie Pardee and during the years 1911-16, she was in Japan where she taught at Kyoto and studied art under J. Taguchi.  After returning from the Orient, she continued her art studies at the California School of Fine Arts for five years where she was greatly influenced by Gottardo Piazzoni.  During 1921-22 she traveled and painted in Italy and France.  She married Paul DeWolf in 1925, but the marriage lasted only a few years.  From 1923-38 she maintained a studio in Pacific Grove and specialized in coastal scenes and the fishing industry around Monterey.  After closing her studio in 1938, Nicholson moved to Oakland and abandoned her art career to become an aircraft mechanic at the Alameda Naval Air Station.  Her work was rediscovered in 1979 when a trunk was found on the family ranch containing the corpus of her life’s work.  An Impressionist, her work is characterized by loose brush strokes and vivid, broken color.