by Virginia E. Howard  

Frances E. Pratt was born on May 25, 1913, in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. She moved with her family to Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, probably during middle school or high school. She attended Highlands Hall, a finishing school for young women in Pennsylvania, and organized art shows at her family's home known as Cherry Corner as a young woman.

Eventually, she moved to New York City where she studied at the New York School of Applied Design for Woman (1930-33) after which she studied at the Arts Students League (1933-35), where she probably met her first husband, Christopher Ritter, who opened Laurel Gallery in Greenwich Village and printed the Laurel Folios.

She taught at drawing and painting at the Ballard School (Adult Education) from 1942 into the early 1950's, and mixed media and watercolor at the Parsons School of Design from 1948 to 1951.

She had many one-women shows, notably: Theodore Kohn Galleries NYC 1941, Marquie Cont Arts Gallery 1943, American British Art Center, 1945, Laurel Gallery (owned by Chris Ritter) 1946, Doris Meltzer Gallery in 1955 and 1960. She was best known for her semi-abstract figures in motion.

She is the author of a book entitled Encaustic, Methods and Materials, 1949 and co-authored with Carlo T.E. Gay, as well as providing hundreds of illustrations, three books on Pre-Columbian Art: Mezcala Stone Sculpture: The Human Figure, 1967; Chalcacingo, 1971, and Paleolithic and Megalithic Traits in Olmec Tradition of Mexico, 1971. She spent 30 years studying early Pre-Columbia Art.

She was a private dealer of Pre-Columbian Art for decades from her apartment at 31-33 W. 12th Street in Greenwich Village, and later dealt in Italian bronzes. She divorced Christopher Ritter in 1954 and married Bumpei Usui in 1955.

She died May 2, 2003 in Greenwich Village.


Click here for a selection of facsimile reproductions of biographical materials prepared by Pratt herself, annotated by Randal Davis.

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