|The Stone City Art Colony and School 1932-1933
Lillyan Jacobs Rhodes
Lillyan (Estelle) Jacobs [Rhodes] (1915-1986)
Recognized as a sculptor and figures painter, Lillyan Estelle Jacobs was a native Iowan who specialized in Pueblo pottery design. Born in Des Moines, Jacobs graduated from Roosevelt High School and attended the State University of Iowa (University of Iowa) for a single semester (fall 1933). She began her formal art education at Drake University as a student of Florence Sprague, the sole female instructor at the Stone City art colony. Jacobs attended the colony while a high school student (1932-33) and later completed studies at the Art Institute of Chicago (1936), University of Iowa, Black Mountain College (NC), and Alfred University (NY). Among her many teachers were Adrian Dornbush, Lowell Houser, and Edmund Geishert. By 1937, Jacobs served as art director for Iowa’s State Recreation division of its WPA program. In the Des Moines area, she was an active volunteer for the establishment of an art museum and worked as an assistant project supervisor for the Des Moines Fine Arts Association (1939).
While promoting art on both a city and state level, Jacobs revealed her talents in oil paintings and mural commissions, exhibiting widely in the region and receiving numerous accolades. Shown frequently in Iowa Art Salon exhibitions (1932-1937), Jacobs was awarded first prize in the oils division (1932), first and sweepstakes prizes for monochrome (1935-1936), and first prize in commercial design (1937). Notable competitions featuring her work included the Great Hall, Iowa State College (Iowa State University); the Midwestern Art Exposition, 1935 (Kansas City, KS); the All Iowa Exhibit, 1937 (Chicago); the Des Moines Women’s Club, 1938; and the New York World’s Fair, 1939. In Iowa, Jacobs’ works were also viewed at the Younker Galleries (Des Moines) and the Des Moines Public Library. Private mural commissions for the Franklin Hotel (Des Moines) and the State School for Girls (Mitchellville, IA) completed her major projects during the 1930s.
A 1940 decision would hereafter affect both Jacobs’ life and that of Daniel Rhodes, a fellow Stone City colony participant. By 1935, Lillyan developed a professional career that mainly classified her as a regionalist artist, despite her interest in Native American pottery construction and design. Rhodes, a recognized painter and muralist, had a productive life in those two media forms. However, Jacobs’ influence is held as the guiding force that led Rhodes into ceramics and created a formal break with his past career. The couple married and immediately moved to Colorado Springs for Daniel’s ceramics classes at the local fine arts center. In 1941, the two moved to New York, where he enrolled as the New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University’s first MFA graduate student. After completing his degree in 1942, he built an internationally recognized reputation as both a ceramics artist and educator.
While her husband made landmark contributions in the areas of firings and glazes, Lillyan continued to exhibit both in oils and Pueblo pottery at regional and national competitions. Her work was featured in shows at the 1957 Western New York Artists Exhibition, the 1958 Ceramics Nationals, held at Syracuse University, and in the United States exhibit of the 1958 Brussels World Fair. The couple moved to Davenport, California in 1973, where they built their own home and studio, both conceived from an original architectural design. On the west coast, Lillyan’s pottery was shown at the Harris Gallery (University of Southern California), Berkeley’s Bertha Schaefer Gallery, and at Gumps department store in San Francisco. Additional displays of her work were offered at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MOMA) and the Truro Art Gallery (Cape Cod, MA). The couple had joint shows at the University of Texas and at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana. The Rhodes remained in the Santa Cruz area, where Lillyan died in 1986. Daniel remarried that same year and died in Davenport in 1989.
Online Resources for Lillyan Jacobs Rhodes:
AskArt.com. "Lillyan Estelle Jacobs.” Available:
Getty Art Museum and Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA. "Mary Caroline Richards Papers, 1928-1994: Black Mountain College Special Collection." Available:
Image is from an invitation for a show "Birds by Lillyan Rhodes" held at the "Library Reading Room, State University of New York, Agricultural and Technical College at Alfred, May 11-12" (no year given). She had 18 pieces on exhibit. The school now is called SUNY College of Technology at Alfred.
Lillyan Jacobs Rhodes (nd). Used with permission of the Daniel Rhodes Collection (MC-4) from Scholes Library, Alfred University, New York State School of Ceramics (NYSSC).
Lillyan Jacobs Rhodes & Daniel Rhodes (ca 1940). Used with the permission of the Daniel Rhodes Collection (MC-4) from Scholes Library, Alfred University, New York State School of Ceramics (NYSSC).
Lillyan Jacobs Rhodes & Daniel Rhodes (nd). Used with the permission of Daniel Rhodes Collection (MC-4) from Scholes Library, Alfred University, New York State School of Ceramics (NYSSC).
When Tillage Begins: The Stone City Art Colony and School
Researcher & Author: Kristy Raine