The Life and Career of Artist Kyra Markham


By Victoria Chick



ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Artist Victoria Chick discusses the fascinating life and career of artist and actor Kyra Markham. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on Spreaker, PodBean, SoundCloud.

Kyra Markham’s career included visual art, but she succeeded in other art areas as well. Her wide-ranging interests and talent brought her into contact with others that were outstanding in their areas of endeavor. She must have lived a stimulating life!

Kyra Markham was born in 1891 in Chicago, Illinois, and began a two-year course of study at the Chicago Art Institute when she was 16.

Her talents as a visual artist were matched by her talent as an actress and she pursued these expressive avenues simultaneously most of her life beginning in 1909 when she first appeared with the Chicago Little Theatre off and on till 1920. In this time frame, she also acted with the Provincetown Players and in movies in Los Angeles. She lived with Theodore Dreiser in Greenwich Village for two years and through him met H.L. Menken, Edgar Lee Masters, and other literary figures. Markham left Dreiser, moved to Provincetown, and continued acting with, among others, Eugene O’Neill, founder of the Provincetown Playhouse. She supported herself by making book jackets and illustrations, which helped prepare her for later work as an art director for the film companies Fox and Metro.

In 1922 she married the architect Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. This marriage was short-lived and in 1927 she married David Gaither, a set designer. They collaborated on set designs for theater. Gaither encouraged her to return to what she liked most – painting, leading to her study at the Art Students League in NY.

Markham’s mature work was produced from about 1930 up to the 1960s. In the early 30s, she gained prizes and recognition for her graphic work, especially lithographs, and for mural painting. She began to have solo exhibitions.

The Depression of the 30s inspired her subject matter in painting and lithography. But her theatre background controlled the arrangement of composition toward an almost surreal expression rather than social realism. Many of her subjects depicted the theater backstage. Her painting and lithograph subjects were not limited to the theater but had a commonality of depicting the lighthearted activity of everyday people in theatrical compositions and light with great detail.

After her husband died, Markham moved to Haiti where she continued painting and had a strong social life with local celebrities, Americans that lived there, and visitors who were all welcome at the salon she established in Port-au-Prince. Kyra Markham died there in 1967.

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico. She received a B.A. in Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and awarded an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in Ohio. Visit her website at

Cow Trail Art Studio

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About the Author:

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico.

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