Bringing Art to Life

1910 East 15th Avenue
Eugene, Oregon 97403


[email protected]

Gallery Hours:
Monday to Friday:
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Saturday (when exhibits are on display): 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Gallery Admission:
Suggested Donation
$3 per person
$5 per family

Who is Maude Kerns?

Picture of Maude Art

Ascension, oil on canvas, 1942
Collection of the Seattle Art Museum

Maude I. Kerns
1876 - 1965

Maude Irvine Kerns, the namesake of the Maude Kerns Art Center, was a visionary artist and educator, the first head of the Art Education Department at the University of Oregon (1921 – 1947), and an internationally recognized artist in the Non-Objective Art Movement. Born during the Victorian era, she fearlessly pursued an artistic vision that allied her with some of the most acclaimed modernist artists of her day. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Portland Art Museum, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and the Seattle Art Museum, among others, and is owned by the Microsoft Corporation and many private collectors. The Maude Kerns Art Center has a collection of over 75 pieces of her work comprised of watercolors, prints, brush paintings, and oil canvases.

Kerns was born on August 1, 1876, in Portland, Oregon. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1899, attended the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco in 1900 - 1901, and then studied at Columbia Teachers College in New York, where she graduated in 1906 with a B.A. in Fine Arts and a B.S. in Art Education. At Columbia Teachers College, Kerns studied with artist Arthur Wesley Dow, who, along with Asian art scholar Ernest R. Fenollosa, developed a formal theory of composition based on the idea that all art was defined primarily by spacial arrangement rather than by the imitation of nature.

During her long career, Kerns experimented with a variety of styles, which included realistic landscapes and portraits, brush painting, and non-objective explorations of color and form. She studied with some of the most well-known modernist artists, among them Hans Hofmann, Rolph Scarlett, and Alexander Archipenko. She travelled extensively in Europe and Asia, and worked with Gertrude Bass Warner, the founder of the University of Oregon Museum of Art (now the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art), to select pieces for that museum’s permanent collection of Asian art.

It was in the 1940s that Kerns’s search for an expressive visual form for her spiritual ideals culminated in non-objective paintings composed of interlocking triangles, circles, and rectangles. Kerns is most recognized for her non-objective paintings. The term "non-objective art" describes any type of abstract art which is devoid of reference to the natural world. Kerns was the only woman in the Pacific Northwest to be active in the Non-Objective Art Movement. She was in close contact with a number of avant-garde painters in New York, including the Baroness Hilla Rebay, the first director of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (now the Guggenheim Museum). She showed regularly at the Museum of Non-Objective Art from 1941 – 1951 alongside such artists as Moholy-Nagy, Ilya Bolotowsky, Alice Trumbell-Mason, and Josef Albers.

Kerns shared with Rebay the aspiration to find a visual exploration of a spiritual state. “Non-objective painting represents no object or subject known to us on earth,” Rebay said. The masterpieces of non-objective art are “the culmination of spiritual power made intuitively visible. The forms and colors we see are secondary to their spiritual rhythm which we feel.”

Maude Kerns died in Eugene, Oregon on October 10, 1965.

Maude I. Kerns
A Chronology

1876 Born in Portland, OR on August 1 to Samuel and Elizabeth Kerns
1896-1899 University of Oregon, B.A.
1900-1901 Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, Diploma in Fine Arts
1901-1904 Elementary school teacher, Corvallis and Lebanon, OR
1904-1906 Columbia University Teachers College, NYC, B.A. in Fine Arts and B.S. in Art Education
1906-1921 High school teacher, Seattle, and instructor, Univ. of Washington
1907 Became a Christian Scientist
1913 European travel and study
1921 Assistant professor & Head of Univ. of Oregon Normal Arts (Art Education) Dept.
1925 First exhibition: NW Annual Competition, Seattle Art Museum
1928 World travel, visit with Gertrude Bass Warner in Japan
1929 Solo exhibition: Studio Guild, New York City
1930-1931 Summer study: Hans Hofmann, University of CA, Berkeley
1931 Associate Professor, University of Oregon
1933-1934 Prize: Los Angeles Watercolor Annual Exhibit
1935 Summer study: Alexander Archipenko, Los Angeles, CA
1939 Appointment to advisory Committee on Women’s Participation for New York World’s Fair
Summer study: Hans Hofmann, Provincetown, MA
Solo exhibition: Studio Galleries, New York City
1940s Experiments with local Oregon pigments for permanence and use
1941 - 1951 Works exhibited at Museum of Non-Objective Painting, NYC.
1946 Solo exhibition of non-objective paintings: Seattle Art Museum
1947 Retirement from University of Oregon
Solo exhibition: Portland Art Museum
1954 Solo exhibition: Pen and Brush Club, New York City
1955 Solo exhibit: Nat’l Assoc. of Women Artists, Argent Gallery, NYC
1958 As a founder, donated first building to Eugene Art Center
1960 “Time & Life” Exhibition, Rockefeller Center, NYC
1961 Presented deed to Eugene Art Center, renamed Maude I. Kerns Art Center
1962 Solo exhibition: Portland Art Museum
1965 Died in Eugene, OR, on October 10


1910 East 15th Avenue
Eugene, Oregon 97403

Phone: 541.345.1571
Fax: 541.345.6248

E-mail: [email protected]

Gallery Hours:*
Monday to Friday:
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Saturday: 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM
*(These hours apply when exhibits are on display. Please check our Current Exhibit dates.)

Gallery Admission:
Suggested Donation
$3 per person
$5 per family