Mary Labarre Angood

1889, Fremont, Nebraska – 1971, Omaha, Nebraska

A long-time Omaha Central High School art instructor, Mary Angood was known for curriculum innovation including the addition of classes in etching, leather tooling, and weaving. At Central High, art was made a regular part of the curriculum after World War I, and four credits could be earned toward the 32 required for graduation. Mary received encouragement from Ruth Tompsett, the Central High Art Department Chair. When Mary arrived in 1922, Ruth had already paved the way for broader choices, something underscored by the Omaha World Herald on July 4: “Because of the large enrollment in the art department, Miss Mary Angood has been added to the staff. Miss Ruth Tompsett, head of the department, who is studying at Chicago University this summer, introduced classes in costume design, interior decoration and cartooning. In all these courses, more students registered than could be cared for.” Among those students was Jon Nelson, who later became Assistant to the Director of Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery in Lincoln from 1966 to 1981 and then Curator of the Great Plains Art Museum at the Center for Great Plains Studies, also in Lincoln, from 1981 to 1991. He was an admirer of Mary Angood and wrote the following:

“This year marks the 60th anniversary of my high school graduation, so I consider it a miracle that I even remembered Miss Angood. Also, in thinking about her I now also realize that she was at the end of her career, because in my senior year Central High had a new art teacher, Zenaide Luhr, who became a friend. Miss Angood did not befriend students. Like many teachers of her generation she was starchy and strict and instructed by laying out rules. I recall the first painting I made the first semester of my freshman year was a still life of a bouquet of white daisies. The medium was gouache on watercolor paper. First we soaked the paper in the sink, then laid it on a drawing board and fastened it to the board with strips of brown paper tape. This was called ‘stretching the paper,’ because as the paper dried it shrank. The next day, when the paper was dry we chose a position in front of our still life set up and made a pencil drawing of our subject. When that was finished painting could commence, but only after we prepared the paint. To do that we each received a clean Pond’s cold cream jar, which we filled with white gouache. That being done we were then told to add one drop each of red, blue and yellow to the white paint. The resulting grey was to be used to color the background of our still life. Writing this tells me that she was an excellent teacher, because all our lessons in painting, drawing, leatherwork, textile printing, etc. were given step by step. She taught techniques which became the tools that allowed creativity to grow. Learn the rules first, then, as Gertrude Stein said, ‘you can break them.’“(Jon Nelson)

Mary Angood was born in Fremont, Nebraska, the only child of Fred and Catharine LaBarre Angood. By 1910, when she was age 20, she was living with her mother in Council Bluffs and had graduated from high school. She never married, and the two women continued sharing a home until her mother’s death. For post high school education, Mary attended the University of Omaha (now University of Nebraska at Omaha) where she studied painting with Augusta Knight. She also studied etching with Mark Levings (1881-1957), who taught in his home and had a special influence on Mary. He had studied at The Art Institute of Chicago and the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and, while in Paris, paid much attention to the etching revival stirred by the popularity of the etchings of James McNeill Whistler. Mary, like Levings, also attended The Art Institute of Chicago, and later studied with J. Laurie Wallace and Augustus Dunbier in Omaha.

During the first decades of Mary’s teaching at Central High School, the post-World War I economy looked fairly positive in Nebraska and Iowa, and part of Omaha’s growth was reflected in the increasing focus on visual arts. The Omaha Art Guild, founded in 1911, held regular exhibitions with J. Laurie Wallace as Director; the Omaha Sketch Club had been active since 1913; studio space became available in the Aquila Court Building, completed in 1924; the Omaha Artists Society was organized in 1925; and Augusta Knight established the University of Omaha (now University of Nebraska at Omaha) Art Department in 1930. In 1931, Joslyn Art Museum with the name Society of Liberal Arts opened at 22nd and Dodge Streets and became a major center for collections, exhibitions, and art classes. Mary taught summer school sessions in costume design at the University of Omaha after taking classes with Knight. Perhaps she felt the need to earn money beyond her salary, which on her 1940 census record was listed as $1,250.

Exhibition venues included Omaha Friends of Art; Omaha Society of Fine Art; Omaha Art Institute, 1925 to 1930; Kansas City Art Institute, 1929 to 1930; and International Printmakers of Los Angeles, 1929. In October 1937, her painting Brunhilde, at a Nebraska Wesleyan University art show was described in the Lincoln Evening Journal as “a richly decorative portrait,” and that same year, she exhibited work with the Lincoln Artists’ Guild. She was a judge for the Omaha Camera Club in July 1935 and in 1938 for the Annual Spring Exhibition at Morrill Hall of the Lincoln Artists’ Guild with whom she had exhibited the previous year. An April 2, 1962 Omaha World Herald update on Mary Angood after she had retired from teaching referred to her many trips and to her desire “to flee the Nebraska winters.” She died in Omaha in April 1971 and was buried in Fremont at Ridge Cemetery. A Mary Angood Art Scholarship was established at Central High School.

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

Sources:, Mar. 2014
Bucklin, Clarissa, Nebraska Art and Artists, p. 77, Print
Falk, Peter Hastings, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art, Volume One, Print
Gilbert, Dorothy, Editor, Who’s Who in American Art, 1940, Print
“Mark Levings,” Notables of Old Estes Park, Web, May 2014
Omaha World-Herald, newspaper: 6/3/1910, 7/4/1922, 7/10/1923, 3/9/1928, 11/12/1929, 2/12/1930, 12/4/1931, 10/20/1932, 4/19/1938, 1/14/1946, 2/22/1951, 4/3/1971, 5/22/1982
Lincoln Evening Journal, newspaper: 10/20/1937, 4/17/1938
The Lincoln Star, newspaper: 12/7/1930, 4/25/1937
Nelson, Jon, Personal Interview, Oct. 21, 2014 and Email to Lonnie Dunbier, November 2, 2014. He was Assistant to the Director of Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery (now Sheldon Museum of Art) from 1966 to 1981, and from 1981 to 1991, Curator of the Great Plains Art Collection at the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, both Lincoln, Nebraska.
Petteys, Chris, Dictionary of Women Artists, Print
Walsh, Stacey, Collections Manager, Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska, Lincoln Artists’ Guild Exhibition Information

Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

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