"This work is super!" --Michele Figliomeni, Ph.D., President, Orange County Historical Society, New York.
"The book is not only an important scholarly publication, it is also good reading…. The illustrations are well-chosen and excellent. Congratulations on the publication of this superb volume.”
--Krystyna Wasserman, Curator of Book Arts,
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.
"We are indebted to Ms. Pollack for bringing forth this major American artist by meticulous research and original scholarship. She has guaranteed Laura Woodward’s rightful place in the history of nineteenth-century American art and her important role in the history of Florida.
--Robert W. Harper III, Executive Director of the Lightner Museum.
"Fascinating and beautiful...Her life and career are noteworthy...an important work of both art and social history." --Roger Ward, Ph.D., Interim Director and Chief Curator, Norton Museum of Art.
"Sumptuous...a feast for the eyes...Floridians and others owe a great debt to Deborah Pollack for unearthing the story of this remarkable, independent artist...should be on the shelf of every library that is serious about art." --Joseph Knetsch, Ph.D.
"Such a fascinating story and your archival work is simply tremendous. Thank you so much for providing us with this truly wonderful study." --Nancy J. Siegel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of
Art History, Towson University.
"An engrossing and beautiful book." --Florida Monthly Magazine
"Beautifully Illustrated" --The Coastal Star
"Well written, easy to follow and understand.”--Lynn Lasseter Drake, Archivist, Loxahatchee River Historical Society, co-author of
Jupiter and West Palm Beach.
"Landscape artist Laura Woodward may very well be credited as a founder of Palm Beach." --Palm Beach Illustrated
Laura Woodward’s paintings are “like love letters to Florida.” Palm Beach Daily News, quoting Tracy Kamerer,
Chief Curator of the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum
"Beautifully written and researched. I liked the picture and text layout; also the history, women's rights, and of course, there is Henry Flagler. There is information in the book about Flagler not known before."
--Albert P. Barash, A.I.A.
More Reviews by Scholars:
“Sitting down with Laura Woodward: The Artist Behind the Innovator Who Developed Palm Beach is a joy. The life story of the graceful and adventurous Laura Woodward is reflected in the visual beauty of the book.
The author demonstrates how Laura Woodward herself, her associations, and her work acted as major influences on Henry Flagler’s decision to make Palm Beach the terminus of the Florida East Coast Railroad.
I found Laura Woodward’s excursion to the Everglades in the company of Julia Tuttle particularly interesting and amusing. The author’s description brings to life the impediments of travel which are surmounted by two very determined women whose insights led to the opening for settlement of South Florida.
Deborah Pollack…benefits Florida history, art history, and women’s history with widespread visual and primary research on the artist. Pollack takes us on Laura Woodward’s paintbrush-in-hand journey from upstate New York beginnings, to life as a working artist in Gilded-Age New York City, to the Florida Southeast coast. The trip is recommended.”
--Jerre Foley, Historian, Palm Beach, M.A., History, St. Louis University.
“The first chapter was of enormous personal interest because it pulled together in a cohesive manner many sources that had not been previously linked by any other writer on local history. Throughout the book the illustrations were suitably matched and appropriately situated as the text proceeded from one point to another. The family photographs were charming and some were unusual and rarely reproduced. The use of so many dramatic illustrations…attests to the writer's energetic pursuit of new data. The time and expertise expended in locating these views and text references affirm the extraordinary value of this work about a nearly forgotten Orange County female artist. Again, this work is super!”
--Michelle Figliomeni, Ph.D., President of the Orange County Historical Society, New York.
"I was amazed at the sheer volume of information about Laura Woodward that Ms. Pollack had compiled. Most importantly, this book covers and illustrates both the variety and quality of Woodward’s painting—and the times of its creation—before and after her appearance in Florida. An extremely important facet of this book was the discovery of Woodward’s historic relationship with Henry Flagler, which hastened the founding and development of present day Palm Beach and southern Florida. This fact has been documented and proven by Ms. Pollack, thus giving Florida historians a unique wisdom into the personality of Flagler as well as the artist, herself….We are indebted to Ms. Pollack for bringing forth this major American artist by meticulous research and original scholarship. She has guaranteed Laura Woodward’s rightful place in the history of nineteenth-century American art and her important role in the history of Florida.”
--Robert W. Harper III, Executive Director of the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine.
“The author brings to life the fascinating story of Laura Woodward’s life with her tenacity and bravery in traveling to remote places to pursue her art career while dealing with the prejudice of men and male organizations of that time period. I enjoyed the build-up to Laura Woodward’s association with Henry Flagler and her influence on the development of Palm Beach. Foremost are Woodward’s fabulous paintings which are also brought to life with photographs of the like areas. There are views I had never seen before that will be very helpful in my own research. Well written, easy to follow and understand.”
--Lynn Lasseter Drake, Archivist, Loxahatchee River Historical Society, co-author of Jupiter and West Palm Beach.
“Fascinating! Her work is beautiful.
--Peg DeGroat, Librarian (and retired teacher), Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach.
Edward and Deborah Pollack are justly celebrating Deborah Pollack's biography of the artist Laura Woodward (1834-1926), recently co-published with the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. Early in her career, Woodward followed tradition by depicting the Hudson River Valley and New Hampshire's White Mountains, but from 1888 through 1896 she broke new ground by painting Florida's then un-familiar landscapes; indeed, these eye-popping images encouraged Henry Flagler to make Palm Beach the terminus of his Florida East Coast Railroad. --Fine Art Connoisseur
"Landscape artist Laura Woodward may very well be credited as a founder of Palm Beach." Author Deborah C. Pollack documents her importance to the community in this first book devoted to the artist, Laura Woodward: The Artist Behind the Innovator Who Developed Palm Beach (Blue Heron Press). In 1890, Woodward returned to St. Augustine after a trip to South Florida with new color artworks of the Palm Beach foliage and showed them to Henry M. Flagler. She insisted he visit to witness the beautiful foliage himself, and the rest is history. ---Palm Beach Illustrated
"In a well-illustrated volume published in association with the Historical Society of Palm Beach County for the county's centennial anniversary, a Palm Beach resident draws on public and private archives and other sources to give proper due to now little-known artist Laura Woodward (1834-1926). As one of the few women members of the Hudson River and White Mountain Schools, Woodward inspired tycoon/art patron Henry Morrison Flagler in the development of his resorts with her paintings depicting the area as a tropical paradise. Pollack discusses challenges for female artists in the social milieu of the era." ---Book News, Inc. (Concise coverage of scholarly, reference & sci-tech-med books)
"Getting Flagler on Track: Artist gave Flagler first brush with South Florida" If you think Florida is wild now — crazy drivers, countless guns — put yourself in Laura Woodward's shoes. Circa 1880s-style footwear, please. The plucky New York artist painted pastoral pictures so enticing they helped convince Henry Flagler to do business in untamed South Florida, according to a new book. Now the artist gets her due in Laura Woodward: The Artist Behind the Innovator Who Developed Palm Beach (Blue Heron Press; $39.99).
Woodward, who met Flagler in St. Augustine, where he was luring tourists, was among a handful of women in the Hudson River School of landscape painters. And Florida in the late 1800s offered quite a landscape.
If Laura Woodward was so vital to Flagler's decision to come south, why is she virtually unknown?
Women in the Hudson River School were largely forgotten by art scholars, and she had no children to carry on her legacy. She also grew up with the Victorian tradition of modesty and never publicly talked about how she changed South Florida history.
How'd she discover Palm Beach? The region was known as Lake Worth then and was famous for its coconut trees. She was always looking for tropical foliage, so she came here. But what a trip. She took a train from St. Augustine to Palatka, then changed to a line that went to Titusville. Then she traveled by riverboat to Jupiter, where she boarded a train to Juno.
The rest of her journey was by mail boat, and all this was in the summertime. There was no air-conditioning and she was wearing the cumbersome clothes of that era. It wasn't flip-flops and shorts.
What was the area like in the late 1800s?
There was no West Palm Beach — that was wilderness. The island now known as Palm Beach was entirely jungle and swamp. There were a few trails carved into dense hammocks and two small inns and some shacks. She painted here amid the alligators, snakes, panthers — even bears. People don't realize there were bears on Palm Beach. But she didn't mind wildlife. She painted in the New York wilderness, too. She once told the press, "Frequently these wild animals interfere with my work." It was so understated.
What did she show Flagler that was so convincing? Her paintings, including the royal poinciana, which only blooms in summer. No winter visitor or society tourist had ever seen the royal poinciana in bloom. There was no color photography.
Woodward told Flagler that Palm Beach should be developed as a resort and used her paintings as evidence. But I take nothing away from Flagler. He saw the potential to make money and made the dream happen. He was also a century ahead of his time. Men didn't listen to women back then. But he listened to her.
Your favorite? I love the painting of the royal poinciana by Lake Worth. That picture is one reason Flagler came to Palm Beach. You see it and understand. That would be enough to convince anyone. --Liz Doup, Sun-Sentinel See the actual article here
"Before the state was crowded and built up, Florida’s natural beauty captivated Laura Woodward (1834-1926), a sensitive and accomplished artist who left a legacy that went largely unremarked after her death. This book seeks to redress that neglect.
During her long life, Woodward delicately portrayed landscapes and flowers. She began, after waiting out the Civil War in her native Mt. Hope [New York] by moving to New York City. She painted in the Northeast with the Hudson River School artists. As the author reiterates, Woodward had to remain single to become a professional artist and had to overcome bias against women in her chosen field.
Having painted the iconic places in the Northeast, Woodward traveled to Florida. By 1890 she had joined the St. Augustine society of artists at their new studios completed by Henry M. Flagler, a partner of John D. Rockefeller and a major real estate developer. Then Woodward went to Palm Beach. The second half of the book covers her life and work there.
The author, who is a well known gallery owner in Palm Beach, has gathered an impressive amount of material to complete this life history of Laura Woodward and to reestablish Woodward’s reputation as a prominent artist of Florida. Incidentally, in her preface, the author writes that she discovered a Woodward watercolor of Florida at a New York antiques show in 1995, which inspired her to begin her diligent research for this well-illustrated, well-annotated and informative book."
--Maine Antique Digest
"Palm Beach wasn't always the opulent tourist destination that it is today. In the late-nineteenth century, portions of Florida were comprised of dense jungles. the area's natural beauty was captured in watercolor and oil by artist Laura Woodward, who traveled through the region recording what she beheld. Her adventures were a feat virtually unheard of for a woman in the 1800s. Her depictions of untouched landscapes and sprawling ocean views were a considerable inspiration to oil tycoon Henry Morrison Flagler." --Antiques and Fine Art Magazine
"Before Flagler, there was Woodward — and her Paintings
In the 1890s, that golden Gilded Ager, Henry M. Flagler, enticed his fellow multimillionaires to discover the subtropical splendor of Palm Beach.
But who enticed Flagler?
In the beginning, she bowed to Victorian modesty and signed herself simply, “L. Woodward.”
From 1890 until 1919, Laura Woodward painted Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter, Miami and the Everglades. In oil and watercolors, she captured the bloody reds of the island’s hibiscus blossoms, the cool blue shade of its jungle paths, the palm trees beside Lake Worth.
She came to Palm Beach four years before Henry Flagler, and when she carried paintings of its flaming royal Poinciana trees back to St. Augustine, the Standard Oil tycoon came after, and built a huge hotel he dubbed the Royal Poinciana, where Laura Woodward lived and painted for the next quarter-century.
“She was Florida’s most important 19th-century woman artist,” says Deborah Pollack, “and one of its greatest publicists.”
Pollack, a Palm Beach art historian and dealer, is the author of Laura Woodward: The Artist Behind the Innovator Who Developed Palm Beach, a beautifully illustrated biography, published in conjunction with the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
“She was an entrepreneur,” Pollack told a recent gathering at the library. “Not rich, but very gutsy. She perpetuated the notion of Florida as a tropical paradise.”
Born in 1834 in Mount Hope, N.Y., Woodward was in her fifties and already an established member of the Hudson River School of nature artists when she first came to St. Augustine in the mid-1880s. But ultimately, St. Augustine proved too tame, so Woodward came south, settled into the Coconut Grove House in what was then called Lake Worth, and painted. And painted.
“Frequently the wild animals interfered with my work,” she once said.
She painted the original Bethesda-by-the-Sea church, the Jupiter lighthouse, the black community in Palm Beach. At 61, she painted the Everglades.
Might she have painted Manalapan or Gulf Stream? “There’s no documentation of her doing any work between Palm Beach and Delray Beach,” Pollack says, “but it’s highly likely. We know she painted in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and stopped along the way.”
Woodward sold her paintings from a studio at the Royal Poinciana and licensed their reproduction as “chromolithographs,” early post cards. She painted hundreds of works until 1919, when failing eyesight forced her to stop.
In 1926, she moved to join a caregiver’s family in St. Cloud, near Orlando, and died two months later.
Back in Mount Hope, the headline in the local paper read, “Laura Woodward Spinster Artist Dies At Age Of 92."
But to her biographer, the pioneer artist was no spinster. “She never married,” Pollack concedes, “but she was in love with nature, and she was married to her work.” --Ron Hayes, The Coastal Star.
"Deborah Pollack revives Interest in Palm Beach artist Laura Woodward Picture this. Laura Woodward, 56, loaded with gear and smothered in a long dress, tramping down the jungle trails of Palm Beach. It's 1890, and Woodward is braving the bugs, critters and underbrush to paint the island in the dead of summer.
The pioneering artist was to spend most of the last 33 years of her life here, painting pictures that laid the groundwork for Palm Beach's image as a tropical paradise.
Although Woodward was well-known in Palm Beach during her lifetime, she was largely forgotten after her death in 1926. Deborah Pollack thought she deserved better. The Palm Beach art dealer is the author of Laura Woodward: The Artist Behind the Innovator Who Developed Palm Beach, the first biography of the artist. The book recently was published in association with the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.
Pollack, who specializes in Florida artists, has been enthralled by Woodward since she ran across one of her watercolors in 1995 at an antique show in New York. She had very little to go on — not even the artist's first name, since the painting was signed L. Woodward. Gradually, as more books about Florida paintings were published, she discovered clues about Woodward that made her even more intrigued.
Woodward exhibited in the artists studios attached to Henry Flagler's Hotel Ponce de Leon in St. Augustine. She was one of the few female members of the Hudson River and White Mountain School of landscape painters. And there were the stories about her friendship with Flagler.
"I didn't think of a book at first," Pollack said. "I only knew this artist deserved to be studied because she changed Florida history and nobody knows about her any more." In her book, Pollack says that Woodward's enthusiasm and her paintings of Palm Beach's natural beauty were instrumental in persuading Flagler that the island might be developed as luxury resort.
For example, it's known that Woodward's painting of Robert McCormick's 100-acre estate in Palm Beach was widely admired in 1892 in St. Augustine. The following year, Flagler started buying land in Palm Beach. The first property he purchased was McCormick's estate, where he built the Hotel Royal Poinciana. When construction started, "I told Mr. Flagler I wanted to open a studio then and there in the Royal Poinciana," Woodward said in a later interview. Flagler agreed. He even allowed Woodward and her sister to live at the construction site after the Cocoanut Grove House, where they had been staying, burned down.
Woodward's paintings of Palm Beach's sun-dappled paths, coastlines, exotic flowers and flowering trees — especially the Royal Poinciana — were wildly popular with Flagler's hotel guests. The paintings went with the tourists when they returned home and spread the word about Palm Beach's attractions.
"She was a huge booster of the area and loved it here," said Tracy Kamerer, chief curator at the Flagler Museum. "You can tell that from her work. They're like love letters to Florida."
Woodward exhibited regularly at the Hotel Royal Poinciana and at her cottage nearby. The press enthused about her work: "No guest should leave Palm Beach without a visit to the studio of Miss Woodward on Satinwood Avenue, a short walk from the Royal Poinciana," The Palm Beach Daily News wrote in 1905.
Woodward was a woman of contrasts. She was one of the first artists to paint in the wilds of the Everglades, yet she was a member of prestigious social groups, such as the Lake Worth Pioneer Association, the Fortnightly Club and the Guild of The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. Woodward never married. In her time, a woman who was a serious artist would have to choose between marriage and a career, Pollack said.
She was a prolific painter, but also a good one, said Robert Harper, executive director of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine. "It's a fact of life that women artists in the 19th and early 20th centuries were not considered as good as male artists," he said. "It was a male-dominated field. But she was just as good a painter as her male contemporaries."
In addition to images of Woodward's paintings, the book contains a wealth of photographs of early Palm Beach from the historical society's archives, many depicting the real-world equivalents of the paintings.
Pollack would love to see Woodward recognized in Palm Beach in some way — perhaps by erecting a plaque or naming a street after her, or better yet, hosting an exhibition of her work.
"She was an amazing woman," she said. "That's why I wrote the book." --Jan Sjostrom, Palm Beach Daily News
Deborah Pollack wins Women's History Award from Florida Memorial University!