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Shirley Ann Georges Gittelsohn ’49

An artist whose dramatic landscapes of the Pacific Northwest earned her national acclaim, Shirley grew up in Portland and attended Lincoln High School, following her brothers Thomas T. Georges Jr. ’42 and Maurice O. (Ossie) Georges ’47 to Reed. (A third brother, Paul Georges, was also an artist.) She met William A. Gittelsohn ’48 at Reed when he returned from service in World War II. They fell in love and were married a week following Bill’s graduation. Soon after, they moved to California, where Shirley completed a BA in elementary education at San Francisco State while Bill earned an MBA from UC Berkeley. After five years they returned to Portland, where Shirley raised their three children—Dena, John, and Judy—and began painting. Bill joined with Tom to operate the Georges family business, Oregon Laundry (Oregon Linen Rental).

Shirley’s work was in oil and acrylic and she became renowned for her paintings of landscapes—especially of Cannon Beach, where the family had owned a home since 1944. She also painted still life, gardens, flowers, and portraits of her children and their friends. Her art was created with a bold contemporary style.

“Much of my work is in the form of not-so-still life, exuberant plant life, huge landscapes, or excesses of one sort or another,” she said. “It is doing that sort of work that makes me feel wonderful.” Shirley noted an influence in her art from the works of German expressionist Emile Nolde, American landscape artist Jane Freilicher, and Édouard Manet. She was also influenced by Japanese screen painting, and found fascinating the work of botanical illustrator Pierre-Joseph Redouté. Her paintings were shown and represented in a number of galleries in the Pacific Northwest, including the Fountain Gallery, the Gottlieb Gallery, the Antoinette Hatfield Gallery, and the Cannon Beach Arts Association Gallery.

Her work was celebrated in a retrospective exhibition, Paintings and Reflections, held at Reed in 2009. Her art was also prominently featured in an episode of Oregon Art Beat on Oregon Public Broadcasting in November 2013. “Painting has added a dimension to my life I would never have dreamed possible,” she said.

During 52 years of marriage, Bill and Shirley enjoyed time in their three homes, in Portland, Cannon Beach, and Vida del Mar, Mexico. They traveled to Micronesia, Greece, and France, where Paul lived. The couple was closely connected to Reed through family—Bill’s brother, Alan Gittelsohn ’50, and his wife, Sharon Goodman Gittelsohn ’48; Shirley’s brothers and sister-in-laws, including May Director Georges ’37—and friends, such as Karen Vedvei Atiyeh ’47, Ernie Bonyhadi ’48, Ilo Lehmann Bonyhadi ’51, Anna Lou Melson Dehavenon ’48, Dorothy Robinson Freedman ’49, Regina Tarlow Kriss ’47, Lore Caro Labby ’47, Phiz Mezey ’48, Joy Spalding Rabin ’48, Ellie Boettiger Seagraves ’49, Van Seagraves ’48, and Estelle Asher Wertheimer ’46. Bill was active at Reed in his work as a volunteer and a member of the board of trustees. In 1986, when Bill and Tom sold the business and retired, Shirley and Bill created the Gittelsohn-Georges Endowed Scholarship Fund. She served on the Western States Arts Association and the Oregon Arts Commission.

Following Bill’s death in 2000, Shirley began spending time in the company of Ernie, who had also been widowed. Shirley and Ernie married in October 2007 and were featured in “Love Stories” in the winter 2007 issue of Reed. A memorial for Shirley took place in August. Survivors include Ernie and Shirley’s children and granddaughter.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2015

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