Printmakers You Should Know: Dorothy Newkirk Stewart

I've lived in New Mexico for a few years now, but I'm still learning about new artists every day. A perfect case in point is today's printmaker: Dorothy Newkirk-Stewart (1891-1955).

Dorothy Newkirk Stewart, Papoose, 1929, woodcut on paper. Image courtesy of the Albuquerque Museum.

Born to an affluent family in Philadelphia, Stewart studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as well as in Paris. She first came to Santa Fe in 1925, becoming a member of the Santa Fe Art Colony. She moved into a historic home with her sister, Margretta S. Dietrich, and operated an art studio on Canyon Road. The studio also contained a gallery space called Galleria Mexico, and Stewart often held concerts, plays, and other social activities within the place. Together Stewart and her sister cultivated an interest in Native American arts and culture, eventually producing a book called the Handbook of Indian Dances.

Stewart worked in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, and mural painting. Among her larger projects was a mural for the entrance of the Albuquerque Little Theatre.
Image courtesy of
As a printmaker she focused on woodblock cuts and linocuts. Always interested in theater, she created prints for special printed editions of Shakespeare plays, as well as illustrations for the Handbook of Indian Dances. In 1948, she acquired her own press from a discontinued newspaper in Espanola, and is considered one of the first women in Santa Fe to run her own private printing press in the Southwest.

William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, in block prints, 1949. Image courtesy of

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Image courtesy of
A Midsummer Night's Dream, ca. 1953. Image courtesy of
A lover of travel, Stewart came to prefer Mexico over the United States, and made her final journey there after falling seriously ill. She subsequently died of a brain hemorrhage in Oaxaca.

What I find interesting about Stewart is not so much her work in itself, though I do appreciate its color and charm, but rather her role within the larger dialogue between women, the American West, and the arts. From Georgia O'Keeffe to Barbara Latham, numerous women artists came out west during the early twentieth century. Here, in the rugged and often primitive conditions of rural New Mexico, Texas and beyond, they found an artistic and social freedom that wasn't possible within the more established, refined cities of the east. Life wasn't easy, but time and again I've read about the freedom and unpredictability these artists relished. With her colorful and energetic compositions, Stewart's prints embody the liberation that so many women artists found the West.

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