Obituary: Jude Burkhauser

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JUDE BURKHAUSER was a person of many talents - art historian, academic, writer, researcher, teacher, fundraiser, curator - and at the same time, a gifted artist in her own right. She had energy, drive and competence, together with a generosity of spirit and love of her chosen subject, women's art, which illuminated her discourse and inspired others to follow in her footsteps.

She was born in New Jersey in 1947 and educated at Rutgers and New York universities, but it was the city of Glasgow which was to be the chief beneficiary of this charismatic and polymathic individual.

She came to Glasgow in 1987 to do post-graduate study at the School of Art on the subject of Scottish women artists. She was already a committed feminist and "guerilla girl", one of the fighting sisterhood who had first risen in protest in 1984 against the fact that over 95 per cent of the artists represented in the modern art collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York were male. Guerilla girls sought to achieve better representation for women in the art world, and to understand the ways in which the delimiting of women's talents and achievements takes place, with the intention of changing the system from within.

Jude Burkhauser spent the next three years recovering and re- assessing the work of women artists in Glasgow at the turn of the century, and in presenting an exhibition on the subject at Glasgow Art Gallery in the autumn of 1990. The exhibition, "Glasgow Girls - Women in Art and Design 1880-1920", was a blockbuster event during City of Culture year, and one of its few lasting successes. The "Glasgow Girls" included artists such as Jessie Newberry, Ann Macbeth, Bessie McNicol, Frances Macdonald and her sister Margaret, the wife of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. For many people, both women and men, it was the most significant and intellectually satisfying exhibition of 1990. In terms of art history, it was a major achievement. In terms of the rescue of a partially understood and long-lost aspect of women's history, it was a triumph.

It was accompanied by a handsome book of the same name, dedicated "to the next generation and their grandmothers", with essays commissioned by Burkhauser from 19 other contributors, along with her own work, which set a new standard for art history publications. In it she wrote of her reasons for undertaking the work:

Young women in the arts have been starved for stories of other women, tales of these

maverick sisters whom they might learn from, look up to, find compatriots in and emulate as role models. We were hungry for their stories - even if it took travelling across continents. We followed in one another's footsteps, knocking on doors, asking the same questions, rediscovering fire, the wheel, electricity, because there was no record of our past.

The public was excited by the Glasgow Girls exhibition, and 20,000 people per week came to see it. Mothers brought their daughters and young women their grandmothers. Had it been allowed to travel to North America and Japan as planned by Burkhauser, it would have been the most effective marketing tool that Glasgow could ever have had - an exhibition of indigenous Scottish art, featuring the work of a group of creative and innovative, but hitherto unknown women.

Plans for the exhibition to travel were blocked by Julian Spalding, the Director of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries. An extension to the exhibition run in Glasgow itself was allowed only on the condition that Jude Burkhauser should resign, for, in Spalding's words, "There can only be one Master of the Exhibition".

Burkhauser resisted every attempt to interfere with the integrity of her presentation, and in the end, had to create a private company to produce the exhibition and find all of the substantial sponsorship herself. Her dedication was such that she used her own property as security for the insurance to bring Margaret Macdonald's painting Opera of the Sea from Darmstadt in Germany to Glasgow.

The blocking of the planned tour of North America rendered Jude Burkhauser financially liable for the printing costs of the US edition of the Glasgow Girls book. In 1996 she wrote "I have lost my health as a result of the stress and distress associated with `Glasgow Girls' . . . I've paid an enormous price for my integrity but know that without it, life is worthless anyway."

Jude Burkhauser retained her creative abilities as well as her integrity. The vibrant railway history mosaic, commissioned from her by ScotRail in 1990, is a permanent feature in Glasgow's Central Station, and her translucent banners for the windows still survive there. Latterly, she was working on a series of drawings on Mexican bark paper entitled "The Spirits in the Wood" and had plans for a large-scale tapestry work.

Jude Burkhauser, artist and curator: born Trenton, New Jersey 10 September 1947; died 19 September 1998.

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