Archives & Special Collections Constance Fowler

(Excerpts from the historical notes of Constance Fowler’s Collection in the Archives & Special Collections.)

constance-fowler-waller-hall-artThe Constance Fowler Collection consists of her biographical records, correspondence, exhibition catalogues and fliers, reviews, publications, manuscripts, selections from her library, as well as examples of her prints, printing blocks, paintings, and drawings.

Fowler taught art lessons in Salem for one dollar a session and, in 1935, volunteered as advisor to an art club at Willamette University. That same year, the University’s president, Bruce Baxter, hired Fowler to teach art and to establish the school’s first art department (art lessons had been taught at Willamette since the nineteenth century, by Marie Craig Le Gall and others, but there had been no department). Fowler taught at Willamette for twelve years, until 1947.

For three summers (1936, 1937, 1938), Fowler was the recipient of the prestigious (and in the Depression years highly desirable) Carnegie grants to help art teachers complete their Master’s of Fine Art degrees. Carnegie programs were offered on two campuses in the country-Harvard University and University of Oregon. Fowler studied at Oregon with the architectural philosopher W. R. B. Willcox (whom she held in highest regard throughout her life), the painter Andrew Vincent, and others. She earned her M.F.A. degree in 1940, her Master’s thesis project being the execution of twenty wood engravings of historic sites in the Willamette Valley, which she published (with text) as The Old Days. In and Near Salem. Oregon (Frank McCaffrey’s Dogwood Press, Seattle, 1940). The book was immediately popular, respected for the quality of the prints, the design. layout, and typography of the book itself, and the historic commentary, based on original research, written by Fowler to accompany her engravings. The Old Days remained Fowler’s single most significant accomplishment; in 1969, in retirement, she arranged for the publication of seventy-five additional books, with engravings printed from the original cherry wood blocks.