University Museums

Title: Vieilles Maisons (Old Homes)
Name: Painting
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: Gift of the Randy Hoshaw Collection, acquired using a gift from Peter Orazem and Patricia Cotter. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: UM2017.6
More Information
A longtime, Des Moines art educator, Mabel Eastman Dixon's talents combined her modest beginnings, impressive educational choices, and a wide variety of life experiences. Born in the small, Sac County community of Auburn, Iowa, Dixon was one of three children. A brief enrollment at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) in 1908 may have inspired her choice to be both a teacher and artist. Dixon enrolled at the prestigious Teachers College of Columbia University (NYC) and completed her Bachelor's degree in 1914. With her family now living in Des Moines, Dixon relocated there and soon found employment in the local, public school district. She joined the faculty of North High School as an art teacher (1919-?) and later taught art at Roosevelt High School, where she was a memorable figure in the life of Glenn Chamberlain.

In pursuit of her own development as an artist, Dixon studied at the Church School of Art in Chicago and attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts of France at Fontainebleau, a 1920s conservatory devoted to painting, architecture, and sculpture. While abroad, Dixon had a one-man show in Paris (1928) and maintained a studio there (winters of 1928, 1929). She also painted in southern France, Brittany, and the islands of Corsica and Marjorca. Dixon had one-man shows at the City Library Gallery (Des Moines, 1929), the Memorial Union of Iowa State College (Ames, 1930), and the Younker Brothers department store (Des Moines, 1930), under the auspices of the Iowa Artists Club. The latter awarded Dixon its Francis Asbury Robinson prize for her work "A Spanish Garden" in 1931. She participated in later club exhibitions (1934, 1935) and served as treasurer (1932) and secretary (1934, 1935) for the organization.

During the 1930s, Dixon gained honors for her painting "Canadian Farmhouse," which won first prize from the Des Moines Women's Club (1934) and third place at the Iowa Art Salon, Iowa State Fair (1935). The Art Salon also featured "The Melodian," "The Old Oak Tree, and "Old Houses on the Loing" in its 1934 exhibition. Iowa Artist Club showings featured "Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest" (1934) and "Breakfast" (1935). One, notable painting, "Karn Marie" won the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs' gold medal and was selected for the All Iowa Exhibit at Carson Pirie Scott (1937). The painting was later shown at the National Exhibit of American Art at the Fine Art Society Galleries (NYC, 1937) and in Fontainbleau, France. Dixon's appearance in the All Iowa Exhibit paired her with eleven other Iowa artists, many of whom attended the Stone City Art Colony.