Margaret Putnam (1913-1989) San Antonio Artist


Margaret Putnam left an artistic legacy, rare even in the art world. Revered for her innovative techniques and inimitable style, prior to her death in 1989, her renown continues today. She was a 20th century woman with a Renaissance soul, who lavished her work with brilliant color, always making and breaking the rules to achieve her desired effect.

An explorer, Putnam was essentially self-taught; no other artist shared the vision that she possessed. She worked in oil, watercolor, wax resist, casein, and pastel, exploring new avenues, developing new techniques, combining mediums, and creating a unique style, instantly recognizable, unlike any other. A background in fashion illustration was evident in the color, texture, and design that adorned both male and female figures. In abstract work, there was always a keen but unique sense of design. She worked over 8 hours a day, 363 days a year.

"It's an exciting process," she says. "The picture keeps changing in my mind and changing in my fingers as I work and worry over the painting. I believe the artist's vision changes as you try to capture it. It's not as though you see it all perfectly from the beginning. You add here, subtract there, and keep on adjusting till it's right. There are many decisions along the way." Margaret Putman

Even after becoming partially paralyzed from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), she continued this schedule, working all day, even on the day of her passing. "I paint seven days a week because there is nothing I'd rather do. It's such a delight. Sometimes, I feel like I'm still a child, playing with colors…" Margaret Putman

Of Margaret Putnam:
"The apogee of her achievement was reached as she struggled upstream against the dangerous currents of life, without complaint or self-pity. For Margaret, it was always full courage ahead! In my entire life, I have never known anyone with more valor. Deep in the heart of Texas, drowsing placidly in the prairie sun, is that famous symbol of last-stand courage - the Alamo. Nearby, a few blocks up the street, in the little arts and crafts community of La Villita, artist Margaret Putnam paints every day. Although paralyzed from the waist down and stricken with an incurable disease, she continues to produce exquisite, expressive pictures filled with radiant colors and undefined joy, pictures which must be viewed as the triumph of art over life. But at seventy-two, and confined to a wheelchair, Margaret Putnam is neither playing with colors, nor is she a child. She is a remarkable woman, a talented artist, and, in the real spirit of the Alamo, she represents true Texas grit." "Margaret had always liked painting a big picture. Her strokes were broad, her colors bold, her paintings powerful and expressive. Her 18-by-7-1/2-foot mural, which used to hang at the top of the San Antonio Hilton Hotel is an example of the size she was comfortable with. An ambitious project, the mural traces epochs and events in Spanish history; then centers of Ferdinand, Isabella, and Columbus; and ends with the launch of Spanish explorers to our continent in search of the Seven Cities of Gold. "It took me a year to finish it," she remembers. "But I liked working on something so grand in scope and big in size." That was twenty-eight years ago. Today, she paints on narrow strips of paper, fractions of the canvases she once managed. Stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease often compared with polio, and one that kills through slow paralysis, Margaret may have been forced to modify the size and style of her paintings, but not her creative enthusiasm. She remains undaunted, and the strength of her artistic vision propels her forward." -Dr. Amy Freeman Lee


  • Commercial artist, St. Louis, MO; professional artist, gallery owner: Artworks Pallisado in LaVillita, San Antonio, TX
  • Over twenty-one "one man shows"; Fifty-two awards from the Texas watercolor society alone. San Antonio Art League
  • Artist of the Year, 1964.
  • San Antonio Express News Woman of the Year, 1964.
  • Poster and stamp for National Kennedy Foundation, 1987.
  • Artist of the Year, 1964.
  • Creator of her very own watercolor and wax resist with scoring technique- The Putnam technique.


  • HB Zachry Corp. Office
  • Palacio de Hilton Hotel
  • River walk, San Antonio


  • River Art Show, San Antonio, TX, 1956/57/59/60/61/62
  • Beaumont Museum, Beaumont, TX, Purchase Award 1957/58
  • Texas Fine Arts Museum, Purchase Award 1958, 1962
  • Texas Fine Arts Museum, Honorable Mention 1958
  • Local Artists 1958/61/63/66/67/70/72; Awards and Purchase Awards
  • Texas Watercolor Society 1959/63/65/68/69/70/71/72/74/76/79/81; Jackson, Mississippi 1959 Awards and Purchase Awards
  • El Paso Sun Carnival 1960; Chelmont, El Paso, 1960
  • Old Testament National 1963; Burch Wademan Juried 1963
  • Hertzberg Gallery 1963; One of Ten Outstanding Women in San Antonio 1964; Outstanding Artist of the Year, 1964
  • Joske's Annual Camellia Award; Time Capsule Dedication 1984
  • J.C. Penny Golden Rule Award 1987; Very Special Arts 1988
  • San Antonio Business Committee for the Arts 1988
  • Texas Fine Arts Three Time Winner of Top Award for Oils

Juried Exhibitions

  • Annual Southwest American Art: Artist Alliance of Dan Antonio
  • Beaumont Museum; Burch Wademan Gallery
  • Carriage House Gallery, Chelmont
  • Contemporary Artists Group; Delgado Museum
  • Eighth Annual National; Convocation of Methodist Youth
  • El Paso Sun Carnival; Feldman, D.D.

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