Edna Andrade

Posted by: Lauren Bradley

Edna Andrade had a long and productive career at the forefront of the Op-Art and Hard-Edge movements. Her illusionary, undulating, warped and optically stimulating work focused on visual reactions and engagement rather than narrative development or emotional response. Based out of Philadelphia for nearly fifty years, Andrade was an important force in the Philadelphia art world and left behind a lasting and long-reaching legacy.

Born in 1917, Andrade received artistic encouragement from an early age. In her oral history interview with the Archives of American Art, Andrade recalls being given ‘nice things to look at’ such as books, blocks and colorful wooden tiles; elements she credited with having influenced the geometric impulses of her mature work[1].  Andrade first came to Philadelphia in order to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). As a student she worked under renowned Pennsylvania Impressionist and longtime PAFA instructor, Daniel Garber, and learned about Modernism from Academy instructors, Henry McCarter and Hugh Breckenridge. While at the Academy, Andrade was awarded the prestigious Cresson Traveling Scholarship (twice), which allowed her to travel abroad and study the work of European masters firsthand. While in Europe, Andrade was influenced by the linear constructions and hard-edges of the Bauhaus school. She was further influenced by the neo-futurist designer, Eero Saarinen, with whom she worked closely in the Office of Strategic Services during WWII. Exposure to the work of Paul Klee, Josef Albers and Piet Mondrian further impacted Andrade’s artistic development; encouraging a departure from traditionally based figurative work to her mature geometric and spherically based compositions.

Andrade is best known for measured combinations of form, geometry and pattern. Her palettes are carefully considered; consisting of contrasting and complementary hues. Although best known for her paintings, Edna Andrade explored a variety of mediums leaving behind a vast oeuvre ranging from delicate detailed drawings to massive boldly colored canvases. The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Pennsylvania held major retrospectives of her work during her lifetime (1993 and 2003 respectively). Her work is held in the permanent collections of a number of museums and institutions, including: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Baltimore Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Dallas Museum of Art.



[1] Oral history interview with Edna Andrade, 1987 April 1-29. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


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