Ms. Brodhead is quite simply a phenomenon”
New York Times, 2001
Marie 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”.