University Museums

Title: Threshing
Name: Painting
Date: 1933
Period: Depression Era
Medium: Oil on canvas
Country/Culture: American
Dimensions: 38 x 44 in. (96.5 x 111.8 cm)
Signed: Signed by the artist in the lower left corner.
Marks: Brass plate reads: Iowa State Solon Third award; 1933 Iowa State Fair.
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: Purchased by Iowa State College. Conservation by Upper Midwest Conservation Association funded by Beverly and Warren Madden, Art Klein, and the University Museums Membership. In the Permanent Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: um96.75
More Information
Dorothea Tomlinson Marquis (1898-1985), born in the central Iowa town of Fairfield, took private lessons with a local artist, Bertha Linder Pumphrey, and sold her first painting at the age of sixteen. A gifted artist, she won a four-year scholarship to the Cumming School of Art in Des Moines with her work, “Spinning Wheel," painted when she was eighteen. Dorothea attended the 1932 Stone City Art Colony session as a student advisor, reviewing works and mentoring students. She would later diversify her talents through WPA mural commissions, landscape paintings, portraiture, lithography, and industrial design.

Tomlinson had exhibited widely prior to the art colony, winning awards at the Iowa Art Salon, Iowa State Fair from 1928-1930. In addition, she would frequently garner prizes from the Des Moines Women’s Club for her oil paintings, taking top honors in 1937. One work, “Family Quilting,” shown at the Women’s Club in March 1934 was later chosen for a WPA art exhibit in the central Congressional building, Washington, D.C. Depicting her mother’s ancestral home in Fairfield, Iowa, the painting was featured in an article on WPA art in the Sunday New York Times on April 29, 1934. The painting was later acquired and displayed in a Kentucky senator's office in the Capitol. Two other lauded paintings, "Threshing" (1934 Iowa Art Salon, third in oils) and "Corn" (1937 Iowa Art Salon honors), were purchased by Iowa State College (Iowa State University) for display in the Agricultural Hall.

In 1939, Tomlinson was awarded the WPA mural commission for the Mount Pleasant, Iowa post office and produced three small murals that captured the town’s history in 1840. The panels depicted Pioneer Hall at Iowa Wesleyan College, the city square and first county courthouse, and a local farm. The panels were installed in November 1939. Tomlinson would also design and create a WPA mural for the Hoisington, Kansas post office in 1938 titled “Wheat Center,” showing a harvest scene.

Tomlinson continued to exhibit widely, including: the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs (1934); Iowa Artists Club (1933); Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa (1939); and the Woman’s Club of Charles City, Iowa (ca. 1938). While working as a resident artist and instructor for the Des Moines Art Center, she authored a book of personal drawings titled “Pioneer Industries (in the Middlewest Before the Railroad).” Tomlinson served as a member of the Iowa Artists Club, including organization secretary (1933-34) as art chairman of the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs (1937-39), and as a member of the Iowa Engineering Society. She was listed in Who’s Who in American Art, 1938-1980 (various editions).

During World War II, Tomlinson answered the government's call for industrial artists to aid the war effort. She joined Climax Engineering in Clinton, Iowa as a draftsman. The company manufactured military-grade hydraulic pumps. Her second employer, Loudon Manufacturing, was located in her hometown of Fairfield; while there, she served as an art instructor at Parsons College, leading summer workshops and giving lectures on art appreciation. During her last phase as an industrial designer, Tomlinson worked for Fair-Play Manufacturing in Des Moines, the original creators of the electronic scoreboard. The artist reconfigured the company's design layout for ease of use, prompting financial savings and recognition from the Iowa Engineering Society.

Dorothea continued to paint oils and murals, despite her workplace commitments, and produced a three-mural set that was part of a national tour in the 1980s. In her later years, she returned to the Des Moines area and died there in 1985.


Label #2
As a young artist, Tomlinson Marquis studied under Charles A. Cumming, Grant Wood, and Marvin Cone. She attended the Stone City Art Colony in 1932. She exhibited widely in Iowa and nationally, including the Iowa Art Salon; Iowa Artists Club; Federation of Arts Travelling Exhibitions; Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha; the Boston Academy of Design; the Great Hall (Memorial Union, Iowa State University); and Hoyt Sherman Place, Des Moines.

Threshing was awarded third place in the Iowa Art Salon in 1933 and was later purchased by President Raymond Hughes for the Iowa State College Art Collection. Note the artistic handling of the trees reminiscent of Grant Wood's style, while the barn reflects influences of Marvin Cone.

Published References: "Iowa Artists of the First Hundred Years"; Ness, Zenobia and Orwig, Louise. Wallace-Homestead Company, Des Moines, Iowa. c. 1939 pg. 206-207.