Gina Knee was born Virginia Schnaufer on October 31, 1898, in Marietta, Ohio. Virginia Schnaufer was brought up to function as her affluent family had done, setting family and social obligations above the pursuit of self. Art was not considered a serious activity in the Schnaufer family. She fled an unhappy marriage after ten years, leaving everything she ever knew behind.
Gina Knee arrived in New Mexico in 1931, inspired by thirty-two John Marin watercolors she had seen on exhibit in New York at Stieglitz’s An American Place in November, 1930. Intending to stay two weeks, she was so impressed with what she found in New Mexico, that she remained there for the next ten years.
Her New Mexico watercolors initially showed a strong debt to Marin. Great forward leaps in Knee’s technique and in her artistic vision began in 1935. In her luminous, transparent watercolors, she created a world of symbols borrowed in part from Klee and the Native Americans. Once she established the language of her unique artistic voice, it did not take long for the art world to notice.
Knee lived and worked in several American cities in her lifetime including Los Angeles, New York and Savannah, Georgia. However, New Mexico would always remain a special place for Gina Knee, because it was the unique and magical southwestern landscape that gave birth to the artist. Later in her life she would remark, “I never got over New Mexico – the landscape, the mesas, mountains.”
Photo Credit: Ernest Knee
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