Mary Beth Abbott

1887, Lincoln, Nebraska – 1981, Pomona, California

A Nebraska-born painter and teacher, Mary Beth Abbott lived her early life in Lincoln with parents Nettie (Walker) Abbott and William Taylor Abbott. As an adult, she, like many aspiring artists raised in Nebraska, settled in California. They went to the Golden State for a variety of reasons including diversity of art schools and teachers, cosmopolitan cities, mild climate, and fascinating vistas for plein-air painting.

After earning an A.B. degree from Pomona College in 1909, Mary Beth attended the University of California, Berkeley and the nearby California School of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts), graduating in 1911. She then returned to southern California, and pursued her own painting while teaching in the Art Department at Glendale High School. From 1940, she served as Chair of the Department, until she retired from Glendale High in 1952. She never married and judging by destinations listed in her passport records, she led an independent life of extensive travel, which opened up painting opportunities in Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, France, and other parts of Europe. Retiring to Pomona, she resided there until her death on August 5, 1981 at age 94.

Unknown is the extent of Mary Beth Abbott’s ties to Nebraska after relocating to California. During that time, her home state transitioned from open range to farms in the west, and from newly settled population centers to cities anchoring the east. Lincoln and Omaha had major art museums and art schools, both private and connected to universities. But much of this activity occurred after Mary Beth had moved away. Looking back to the time she departed, even hard-core Nebraskans can understand that, for artists of that era, they offered no match to California. Who could resist?

Mary Beth Abbott is not represented in the Museum of Nebraska Art collection.

Sources:, Jan. 2014
Falk, Peter Hastings, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art, Volume I, Print
Hughes, Edan Milton, Artists in California, 1786-1940, Volume I, Print
Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

Museum of Nebraska Art Project:
Their Place, Their Time: Women Artists in Nebraska, 1825-1945