(American, 1913 - 1998)
Marion Pike was a privileged, fourth-generation Californian and a direct descendent of both Kit Carson and Benjamin Rush. Raised with the maiden name of Hewlett in San Francisco, Pike traveled extensively as a child. On a trip to Paris when she was only twelve, young Marion Hewlett saw a Delacroix retrospective exhibition at the Louvre and decided then and there to become an artist. Three years later, at 15, she entered Stanford University. Pike graduated with honors in Oriental History in June 1933 during the Great Depression.
During that summer, her passion for art and painting blossomed. While vacationing in Carmel, Pike produced her first portrait of her sister. With great encouragement from painter William Ritchel, Pike moved to San Francisco where she studied oil painting with Marion Hartwell and Rudolf Shafer. The following summer provided her with an opportunity to exhibit at the Carmel Art Gallery. Her marriage to John Jacob Pike in 1935 and, subsequently, a move to Los Angeles afforded her strong social connections and a lifestyle insulated from financial difficulty. She was able to paint and continue to travel frequently until the marriage ended in divorce in 1950. Needing to support her two young children, Pike focused more seriously on painting as a source of income.
At age thirty-seven, a new life developed for Pike. Her home on Muirfield Road in Los Angeles became the center of intense creative activity. She painted in her studio from noon until dawn, often entertaining a circle of friends at the same time. During this energetic time in Pike’s career, she painted a large portrait of the sculptor Cornelia Runyan, the first of her “Big Heads” as she called them.
In 1955, Pike exhibited her work at the Los Angeles County Museum Annual Exhibition and then held a one-woman show at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Over 750 visitors attended the opening. Two months later, Marion Pike was honored by the Los Angeles Times as “Woman of the Year.”
Other major exhibitions would follow at the Los Angeles County Museum on the three separate occasions from 1956 through 1958. In May 1958, Pike moved to Paris where she settled at the Madison Hotel on the Boulevard Saint-Germaine. While in Paris, she visited the Louvre every day to copy old master paintings.
Over the next forty years, she traveled extensively dividing her time between three homes in three different countries – France, Guatemala, and the United State. She continued to accept numerous commissions (including the Time magazine cover of Ronald Reagan, then running for governor of California) and exhibited her work at select galleries throughout Italy and the United States until her death in 1998.