Kate Thomson Cory (1861-1958) Biography

Kate Thomson Cory (1861-1958) 

Kate Cory is best known for paintings and photographs she made during the seven years she lived among the Hopi people.

Cory was born in Waukegan, Illinois, the daughter of newspaper editor and outspoken abolitionist, James Cory.  The family relocated to Newark, New Jersey when Kate was around nineteen and she enrolled in the Cooper Union, studying both painting and photography.  She also took courses at the Art Students League.

In 1905, at a meeting of the Pen and Brush Club, Cory met the artist Louis Akin who had just returned from Arizona where he painted scenes of the Grand Canyon and Hopi for the Santa Fe Railway.  Akin had visions of founding an artist colony of writers, musicians and painters near the Hopi mesas.  Cory became his first-and only-recruit, a remarkable decision for a single woman of 44 who came from a prosperous family.  From 1905 to 1912, she lived at the ancient village of Oraibi and documented the Hopi, their daily lives, homes, and ceremonies in more than 500 photographs, an unknown number of paintings and drawings, and her unpublished journal, Of Living with the Hopis.

Cory moved to Prescott, Arizona in 1912 and devoted herself to painting figure, genre, and landscapes of the Southwest.  She exhibited a painting, Arizona Desert, in the famed New York Armory Show of 1913 which introduced European modernism to the American public.  During World War I, she moved to Long Island, New York where she developed a Victory Garden project, drafted copies of airplane plans, and created airplane camouflage.  Returning to Prescott after the War, Cory supported herself with commercial projects such as designing books, china, and wallpapers, and continued to pursue easel painting and sculpture.