Twelve Days: Bradley took art to the world as the ‘paint-brush ambassador’

Carolyn Bradley, 1940

Carolyn Bradley, 1940

OSU can boast of a number of well-known artists who either studied or taught at the University: George Bellows, James Hopkins, and Roy Lichtenstein, for example. One artist – Carolyn Bradley – drew acclaim not only for her art but for her many travels to bring her artistic passion to the world.

Carolyn Gertrude Bradley was born on September 22, 1898, in Richmond, Indiana. She received her first bachelor’s degree in 1920 from Earlham College in Richmond. She went on to earn another B.A. from John Herron Art School in Indianapolis, as well as degrees from Columbia University, the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York, and a master’s degree in fine arts from Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes in San Miguel Allende, Mexico.

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Bradley with her artwork, no date

Bradley also was an avid traveler and fluent in Spanish, which earned her a place as an educational ambassador with the U.S. State Department from 1946-1951. Her first state-sponsored trip was as a visiting professor at the University of Chile, the second was a three-month tour of Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica. In 1950 she took a part-time teaching position at the Centre d’Art in Haiti, and in 1951 she was a visiting professor at the University of Costa Rica.

On all of these trips she taught and lectured almost every day, to audiences that ranged from university students to primary school children. Due to the economic situation in many places she taught, materials were scarce. Bradley was known to take students up into the hills to dig their own clay to use for paint pigment; she also brought many art supplies with her to donate to her students.

A Christmas card designed by Bradley, 1949

A Christmas card designed by Bradley, 1949

During these sojourns, she found time and plenty of inspiration to work on her art, and she returned with more than 60 of her own paintings, as well as the nickname “the paint-brush ambassador.”

A renowned water color artist in her own right, she studied with many well-known painters, including Henry B. Snell, George Pearce Ennis, James Hopkins, and Carlos Merida. She won 58 awards for her work and authored three books on costume design.

Bradley died on December 8, 1954, after a sudden illness. She was 56. Bradley Hall was dedicated in her honor on December 13, 1954.

In 1994, the OSU Archives received a small collection of handmade holiday greeting cards Bradley sent to friends and family, from 1940 to 1953.

– Filed by C.N.

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