Painter Ambrose Patterson was born in 1877 in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia. After studying art briefly in Melbourne, Patterson left for Paris in 1898. There, he became part of the Paris arts scene and exhibted at the first Salon d'Automne exhibitions. The 1905 Salon -- at which Matisse and the Fauves stunned the art world -- included five of Patterson's paintings. His work was shown in galleries in Paris, London, and Brussles as well.

Patterson returned to Australia in 1909, leaving again in 1916 on a ship bound for New York. When his ship stopped in Hawaii on route, Patterson fell in love with its natural beauty and stayed for over a year, becoming a successful painter of Hawaiian mountains and landscape. Following a year in San Francisco, he moved to Seattle to work as a freelance artist -- perhaps the first modern artist to arrive in Seattle. In 1919, University of Washington President Henry Suzzallo invited Patterson to establish the UW School of Painting and Design. Patterson married painter and former student Viola Hansen in 1922, and the two became major figures in northwest arts. Patterson taught until his retirement in 1947 and continued to paint and exhibit until his death in 1966.

During his career, Patterson's work was shown at galleries and museums around the country, including the Chicago Institute, the San Francisco Arts Association, the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Seattle Fine Arts Society (predecessor to the Seattle Art Museum) held a solo exhibition of his work in 1921, and the Seattle Art Museum held solo shows in 1934, 1947, and 1956, as well as a retrospective in 1961.

Patterson's paintings can be found in the Seattle Art Museum, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and at several Australian museums, including the National Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney) and the Australia Portrait Gallery (Canberra). On the 5th floor of the Allen Center is Patterson's painting, Waves, which was part of the 42nd Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists held at the Seattle Art Museum in 1956. A 1940s impressionist painting of his studio is on the 2nd floor of the Gates Center.


What it Meant to be Modern: Seattle Art Mid-Century

National Gallery of Australia

Interview with Viola Patterson, Smithsonian Archives of American Art


Jane Alexander, Portrait of an Artist: Ambrose Patterson (1877 - 1996) From the Latin Quarter to the pot pourri of Palamadom, Jimaringle Publications, Melbourne, Australia (out of print).

Art in the Allen Center