Polly McDonell Bio

Polly McDonell: An artist worth remembering
by Tyler R. Evans, 25 July 2018, Salt Lake City

Polly McDonell was an artist who should be well remembered and well known as a talented figure in the 20th century international art scene. She was highly trained by some of the best artists of her generation, including the leading abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann. She used a variety of mediums for a variety of subjects throughout her life: she painted in oil, watercolor, charcoal, pastels, and pencil. She painted landscapes, portraits, religious scenes, and abstract subjects. At times she used plenty of color, and at other times she used very little. At times she brushed across a canvas widely and loose, other times, small and finely detailed. But she did it all to evoke emotion, to evoke movement, and to evoke symbolism. Polly McDonell was an artist that deserves to be remembered. 


A Short Biography of Artist Polly McDonell
by Tyler R. Evans, December 2017

Artist and painter Pauline “Polly” Adelaide Weldon McDonell Vaughn was born Pauline Adelaide Weldon in Oakes, Dickey County, North Dakota, along with her twin sister Catherine, on 26 September 1911 to parents Henry T. and Gay B. Weldon. She moved with her family to Phoenix, Arizona at age two, where she spent her childhood and teen years. She won several awards as a Phoenix Union High School student, including as the art editor of the yearbook, where she was honored with an award for the best art design out of all high school yearbooks across the United States. She studied at the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles, California, and at the University of California Berkeley as a fine arts student for one year before moving to New York City where she studied under Hans Hofmann. She later moved to Paris where she studied under Andre Lhote during the 1930s. She and her husband John Edward McDonell moved to Brazil in the early 1940s. While living in Brazil she worked in the studio of Arpad Szenes, showing work at several exhibitions, including at the first two Sao Paulo Art Biennial shows in 1951 and 1953. She returned to Arizona in the 1960s, continuing to paint and exhibit her work, winning the best in show prize for one of her paintings at the Interfaith Southwestern Religious and Liturgical Art Festival in Phoenix, Arizona in 1968.


A brief note:

We are currently on the hunt for examples Polly McDonell's work. We are planning a physical exhibition of her work sometime in the next year. We would love to have anyone with a work by Polly McDonell to contact us about being a part of such an exhibit. As noted in her biography, she had several surnames, sometimes she signed a painting "Pauline Weldon", after her marriage to John  she would often sign her name "Polly McD", "Polly McDonnell", "P. McD", Polly McDonell", "P.McDonell", and later when she was remarried after he first husband's death, she went by her new surname of "Vaughn" and often signed her work "Polly Vaughn", or "P. Vaughn".