Patricia Tobacco Forrester

Patricia Tobacco Forrester was born in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1940. She attended university at Smith College, graduating with a BFA, where she studied with Leonard Baskin. She received an MFA in 1965 from Yale University, where she studied with Chuck Close and Janet Fish. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1967. She was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member in 1992 and became a full Academician in 1994. She won a 2005 and 2009 Artist Grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on Arts and Humanities. 


Forrester painted large scale watercolors characterized by expansive compositions of vibrant hues. The artist produced many of her best works in Washington, D.C., where she lived for almost 30 years. Her subject matter is primarily trees and flowers against a landscape. She worked almost exclusively outdoors, preferring to paint en plein air, because of the wealth of visual information in a natural setting. Light was also an important component in her oeuvre. She chose a location to work based on its interplay of light with trees and vegetation. The artist was not concerned with verisimilitude, rather she was interested in inconsistencies and distortions. As a result, her flower paintings have a mannered quality to them. She described her paintings as abstract and favored the “accidental nature of watercolor” as a medium. During the winter, Forrester traveled to tropical climates; she was especially fond of Costa Rica. Her work from abroad depicts “lush and intricate rainforest scenes,” integrating components from multiple sites. The artist’s compositions are vibrant and layered.

Her works are in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, The White House, the Library of congress, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.


Forrester died in Washington, D.C. in 2011.


“Artist Spotlight: Patricia Tobacco Forrester,” July 9, 2017, National Museum of Women in the Arts

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