Waggaman Berl was born in 1901 and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. Her
father nicknamed her “Mariequita” – “Little Marie”
-, to distinguish her from her mother whose name was also Marie. She shortened
that nickname to Quita as an adult. In 1919, when she graduated from a
convent school, her mother insisted that she go to a Catholic college
in Washington D.C. But Quita didn’t want to go to another religious
school. They compromised and Quita went the Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts (“PAFA”) and commuted from her parents’ home
in Wilmington to Philadelphia.
She studied at PAFA from 1920 to 1925 under the tutelage of the highly
regarded artist and teacher Arthur Beecher Carles. Carles had studied
and painted in France in the 1890s and early 20th century and shared his
love of the impressionists and of Matisse and Picasso with his students.
Color, form, and line were what the new art was about. Carles became Quita’s
mentor and inspired her to paint the way she did. In the summer of 1923,
she traveled to Paris and painted at the Acadamie Julian and La Grande
Chaumiere. On her return, she continued studying with Carles through 1926,
and in 1927, she studied with Alexander Archipenko in Woodstock, NY.
In 1927, she married Truxtun Brodhead and moved to Wayne, Pa. She gave
birth to three children and suffered through an unhappy marriage that
ended in divorce. In the 1930s and 40s, she had shows in New York City
and throughout the Philadelphia area. Later she would paint in Paris,
Rome, Southern France, and Tenerife in the Canary Islands. She had more
than 20 solo exhibitions and multiple group shows in major cities in Europe
and the United States. Her paintings are found in the permanent collections
of more than twenty major museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of
Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Woodmere Art Museum, New Jersey
State Museum, Delaware State Museum, and the State Museum of Pennsylvania.
She never ceased to be inspired by new discoveries, new scientific theories,
and changes in the world around her. Through the decades, she segued from
figurative still lives and portraits to abstract expressionism. She was
inspired by the Space Program and the Hubble Telescope to launch her "Endless
Circle" and "Whence and Whereto" series. Well into her
nineties, she told an interviewer "I am always interested in the
next surge of things to come."
In 2001, celebrating her 100 birthday, PAFA hosted an exhibition “Quita
Brodhead Paintings 1920 – 2001”, and The Hollis Taggert Gallery
in New York City presented “Quita Brodhead – Celebrating a
Century”. At the conclusion of the Hollis Taggart show, Grace Glueck,
senior art critic for the New York Times said, “The gifts of long
life and the talent to live it rewardingly do not go to many. Ms. Brodhead
is quite simply a phenomenon”.