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​Historic Knight Library: Art & Architecture

Guide to the art and architecture of the 1937 historic Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene.

LOUISE UTTER PRITCHARD

Louise Utter Pritchard contributed to the design of the Heads on the frieze of the Knight Library facade. She also designed the small sculptures Cougar & Cub and Deer & Fawn.

Clyfford Still. Portrait of the Sculptress: Louise Utter Pritchard. oil on canvas. 1941.
Courtesy of Shasta Pritchard Dawson.

Edna Dunberg (left) and Louise Utter Pritchard, c. 1936.
Courtesy of Shasta Pritchard Dawson.

Walt & Louise Prtichard. Walter Pritchard was also a WPA artist and graduate of the University of Oregon. Courtesy of Shasta Pritchard Dawson.

Louise Utter Pritchard designed the sculptural heads on the façade of the historic Knight Library along with Edna C. Dunberg who died before the work was completed.  Pritchard also created Cougar and Cub and Doe and Fawn, two sculptures originally sited for patios on the roof of the historic building animal sculptures originally sited

Louise Genieve Utter was born in 1912 to Emil and Bessie Utter in Washington.  She spent her early years in different Oregon towns, such as Ashland and Oakridge, while her father pursued work opportunities.  The family settled in Eugene in the 1930s.  Louise entered the University of Oregon in 1930, majoring in art, where she met fellow student Walter Lewis Pritchard (April 23, 1907-April 1979 ).  Walter Pritchard received an undergraduate degree in art from UO in 1931 and the M. F. A. in 1932.  In 1934, both Walter and Louise, who never finished college, began working on university art projects funded by the Public Works of Art Program and the Works Progress Administration. In 1935, Walter found work teaching art at Linfield College while Louise remained in Eugene working on sculpture projects for the university.  On September 14, 1936, they were married.

While Louise worked on sculpture projects for the University of Oregon, Walter found work teaching art at Linfield College, McMinnville, Oregon, in 1935.  In 1940, the they moved to Pullman, Washington, where Walter taught sculpture at Eastern Washington State College. Clyfford Still, who would become a leading figure in Abstract Expressionism, was also an instructor at Eastern Washington from 1933 to 1941 and painted a portrait of Louise now in the possession of her daughter, Shasta Dawson.

According to Shasta Dawson, Walter left his position in Pullman in 1944 because of political conflicts, and he and Louise moved back to Oregon, where they created art while Walter worked as a house and signage painter and Louise worked as an upholstery seamstress.  Their home and studio was located on Shasta Loop in Eugene, named after the daughter who was born in 1944.

In 1963, Walter and Louise moved to Pippa Passes, Kentucky, where Walter was hired has head of the art department at Alice Lloyd College. Louise died in 1965, and Walter passed away in 1972. Shasta Dawson, moved to Australia in 1971 where she became a professor at West and continued to document the lives of her parents with the goal of writing a book.

Walter and Louise Pritchard created works of art all their lives, but what remains has been little documented except for the work created for the University of Oregon. Walter’s known WPA work consists of two large planters at the entrance of Esslinger Hall.  In addition to the sculpture for Knight Library, Louise’s existing work at the University of Oregon includes the distinctive plaque now located in the interior of Allen Hall, bearing the inscription, "A free & enlightened press the surest guarantor of liberty."

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SOURCES

Dawson, Shasta.  Correspondence with Edward H. Teague. Shasta Dawson is the daughter of Walter and Louise Pritchard.

Emerson, Kim, "University of Oregon Library and Memorial Quadrangle," National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, August 15, 1989.

"Pritchard Presents Statues to Art School." Oregon Daily Emerald, April 7, 1936. Refers to Walter Pritchard's donation of two sculptures he created with WPA support.

Deer & Fawn, detail.
South Reading Room

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