Born on a ranch near Aromas, California on Aug. 29, 1884, Lillie May Nicholson graduated from State Normal School in San Jose in 1907 and then taught school in Hawaii (1908-10) and in Watsonville, CA (1910-11). In Watsonville she studied watercolor techniques with L. Minnie Pardee and during the years 1911-16, she was in Japan where she taught at Kyoto and studied art under J. Taguchi.
After returning to California, she continued her art studies at the California School of Fine Arts for five years where she was greatly influenced by Gottardo Piazzoni. During 1921-22 she traveled and painted in Italy and France.
Her marriage to Paul DeWolf in 1925 lasted only a few years. From 1923-38 she maintained a studio in Pacific Grove and specialized in coastal scenes and the fishing industry around Monterey. After closing her studio in 1938, Nicholson moved to Oakland and abandoned her art career to become an aircraft mechanic at the Alameda Naval Air Station.
The last 20 years of her life were spent as a resident of the Sutter Hotel in Oakland where she died on Nov. 28, 1964. Her work was rediscovered in 1979 when a trunk was found on the family ranch containing most of her oeuvre.
An Impressionist, her work is characterized by loose brush strokes and vivid, broken color. Many of her oils were painted on cardboard 12″ x 16″.
Carmel Art Association.
Carmel Arts & Crafts Club, 1923-28
Arizona State Fair, 1927
California State Fair, 1926-28
Santa Cruz Art League, 1928
Monterey Peninsula Museum, 1981 (solo)
Oakland Museum, 1981
UC Santa Cruz, 1985
Santa Cruz Museum, 1986 (retrospective).
In: Santa Cruz City Museum
Monterey Peninsula Museum
Edan Hughes, “Artists in California, 1786-1940”
Lillie May Nicholson by Walter Nelson-Rees; Impressionism, The Calif. View; Monterey Peninsula Herald, 4-5-1981.