Kate Cory



The following was writtern by Fran Elliott, Owner of the Sedona Arizona Historical Art Museum.  The article initially appeared in the Plateau Journal, the magazine of the Musuem of Northern Arizona.


 Kate Cory, an illustrator from New York, took from the blood-red canyons, azure skies, and linen-white clouds of the West an inspiration that defied the cynicism of modernism and that is still available today to those who look at her paintings.  A highly trained teacher at the Art Students League in New York City, and a Cooper Union artist, Cory was introduced to the dramatic attractions of the Grand Canyon and neighboring Hopi land by Louis Akin during a meeting of the Pen and Brush Club of New York.  Akin had just received a Santa Fe Railroad commission to paint in the region and promised Cory the company of an “artists” colony of like minded adventurers if she would join him there. She was forty-four when she accepted the invitation.  After arriving at Flagstaff in 1905, however, she learned that she alone was the “colony”.  According to Akin’s biographer Bruce Babbit, Akin had dived into the Native culture, living for “nearly a year at old Oraibi,” the ancient Hopi city atop Third Mesa.  He died of pneumonia in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1913.

Cory went to Hopi, where for eight years she created portraits, Arizona landscapes, and photographs that would comprise a priceless record of place and time.  She lived at Walpai and Polacca on First Mesa, and briefly on the Navajo Reservation.  The first publication of her Hopi work, in “The Hopi Photographs: Kate Cory 1905-1912, included sixty-eight photographs from over 642 negatives.  She also produced some vivid and well-written accounts of Hopi life, published  in several volumes of “The Border”.  “Living in the village with the Hopis,” she wrote, “while attended with some discomfort, is so strange and interesting that one bears cheerfully with these few little privations and discomforts, and forgets them in the enjoyment of the novel life.”

Cory moved to Prescott in 1912, where she continued to paint the Arizona landscape and the Hopi people.  She signed her full name to her canvasses, a somewhat unusual practice for women at the time, since many tried to hide their gender in hopes of receiving the higher prices accorded to male artists.

In 1913 she exhibited a painting, “Arizona Desert”, in the New York Armory Show.  The show introduced America to European modernism through the work of artists like Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, and was perceived at the time as shocking for its vivid and abstract images, so different from academic representationalist painting.  Cory’s painting sold for $150 to W. Clyde Jones of Chicago.  During World War I, she returned east to join the Women’s Land Army on Long Island, New York, in growing food in “victory gardens” to stave off wartime shortages.  A prototypical “Rosie the Riveter,” she also worked for Standard Aircraft in Newark, creating experimental camouflage designs for British airplanes.

Cory painted private and public commissions, and she painted for herself, her friends, and for the Smoki Musuem.  Never married and known for her thrifty lifestyle, she continued to support herself through her art in the Pioneer’s Home in Prescott, Arizona in 1958.  She has left a legacy that includes china and wallpaper design as well as interior design, photography, and paintings, which can be seen today at the Smoki Museum in Prescott, Arizona.


Kate Cory Hopi country
We are always interested in purchasing or accepting on consignment work by Kate Cory.  Please contact us with any inquiries.


Blue Coyote Gallery          480-489-3413            info@bluecoyotegallery.com
6145 E. Cave Creek Rd.        Cave Creek             Arizona            85331