elderly couple looking out a window at chickadees and cardinals with snow

%C2%A9 Estate Elizabeth Layton

Winter, January 14, 1979

Not on Viewexpand_more

Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton began to draw at the age of 68. While running a small Kansas newspaper for many years, she also coped with manic-depression. In 1957, she underwent a series of electroshock treatments, which led to a two-decade period of severe despondency, capped by the loss of an adult son.

To help her find some distraction, Layton’s sister suggested that she take a drawing class. The instructor focused on contour drawing and told his students if they had no other subject, they could always draw themselves. Layton went to work. Her first attempts were disturbing, powerfully so. She exorcized her demons, showing herself in disquieting roles. Her confident yet distorted lines and psychologically charged imagery were oceans away from the stereotype of the Midwestern grandma. Equally remarkable was the effect that drawing had on Layton herself. Her depression lifted, and she took joy in her ability to communicate visually. Empathy, often spiced by wry humor, emanates from her explorations of growing old.

Of Winter, she said, “Glenn [her husband] looks a little sad in that drawing because he doesn’t like to be pinned up, but I just love it. I’d be a good one to put in prison, wouldn’t bother me at all.”

Artist Life
1909 - 1993
Accession Number
The artist; Lawrence Art Center, Kansas; given to MIA 2015
Curator Approved

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elderly couple looking out a window at chickadees and cardinals with snow

© Estate Elizabeth Layton

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