Mary Tift

Internationally acclaimed Printmaker, Mary Tift passed away at the age of 97 on March 9th at her home at University House in Seattle, Washington. Mrs. Tift had a long and successful career in printmaking. She earned her BFA cum laude degree from the University of Washington in 1933, studied at the Art Center in Los Angeles and after 15 years teaching at the California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland and the San Francisco Art Institute, she began to focus on her own works and the art of etching. She never stopped learning and growing with the craft. By combining an intaglio technique with silkscreen, embossing, and collage, she was able to incorporate a variety of metals such as lead, zinc, brass, and steel. She further developed her own silkscreen technique, creating a soft watercolor effect that allowed the paper color and surface texture to show through and become an integral part of the final print. She commented “The technical aspect of print making provides exploration in quality of line, treatment of paper surfaces, and embossment. It is a wonderful and exciting process, an experience in creating and unfoldment. It has been a joy to be able to be able to practice this craft”. Everyday objects became the hallmark of a Tift print, from a cigar box to a simple bowl of cherries. The oriental aesthetic strongly influenced her work. She had a curious mind and delightful sense of humor, which is evident in her varied pieces which are innovative and engaging. Many of the techniques she developed were new to printmaking, and she generously shared her knowledge with anyone who was interested in the processes. Tift has exhibited throughout the world and her work is found in many of the finest Art Museums in the United States, including the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts, The Palace of the Legion of Honor, Achenbach Collection in San Francisco, the Brooklyn Museum, the Oakland Museum, the Library of Congress, the U.S. State Department’s “Art in the Embassies” collection, The Seattle Art Museum, San Diego Museum of Art and Seattle’s Frye Art Museum. She was the cover story of American Artists Magazine, 1980, and studio article in 1987. She had one-woman shows at Gump’s Gallery, San Francisco; Diane Gilson Gallery, Seattle; Oregon State University, 198l; Her works were included in many group shows including British Biennale, Yorkshire, England, 1970; Grenchen Triennale, Switzerland, 1970; Polish Biennale, Crakow, 1972, National Gallery, Washington, 1973, Madrid Biennale, 1980, U.S.-U.K. Impressions, England 1988. Her work was featured at the Frye Art Museum in 2001, where she also gave a lecture on What is a Print?”. Mrs. Tift was born in Seattle in 1913 to John Howard and Wilhelmina Dreher, lived in the Queen Anne section of Seattle, and after graduating from The University of Washington, she served in the Navy 1943-1945. In 1945 she met her husband, William R. Tift at the Art Center in Los Angeles. They lived in the San Francisco area for many years while Mr. Tift worked as an Art Director with McCann-Erickson Advertising. Mrs. Tift produced most of her works at her studio in Sausalito, and while she never really marketed her works, with the exception of the Gump’s Gallery, her works are widely collected by private collectors, the largest collection being with Pat Patterson of Seattle. Tragically Mrs. Tift lost her eyesight in 1995 ending a wonderfully creative career. However, she graciously accepted this loss and lived a full life with a minimum of assistance except from friends and neighbors. She became extremely well-read, thanks to Books on Tape. Her zest for life made her company much in demand to people of all ages. Mrs. Tift is survived by one blood relative, Virginia Warren of Seattle. The Tifts had no children of their own but were adored as family by friends of all ages all over the country.