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Maud Spiller Holt was an avid traveler and painter who painted in every American state and throughout much of Europe. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) guide to 1930s Arkansas cited Holt as one of the state’s most accomplished women artists. Today, her paintings are on display at the Arkansas State Capitol, Historic Arkansas Museum, and in various other public and private collections.
Maud Spiller was born in Carbondale, Illinois, on November 1, 1866, the daughter of James W. Spiller and Sarah Patrick Spiller. On December 22, 1886, Spiller married Winfield Scott Holt at Albion, Illinois, and moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Winfield Holt became one of the most progressive businessmen of Little Rock and served many years as postmaster under appointments from presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
Maud Holt’s sketches and paintings expressed an appreciation of nature; Pacific seascapes, Texas bluebonnets, and Arkansas mountain landscapes were among her most recognized subjects. “If open to the secrets of nature,” she said, “we absorb them and they are ours.” In 1892, while in Paris, France, one of her still-life paintings was accepted for exhibit in the Salon at the Palais de l’Industrie.
Holt was an early participant in the Little Rock Fine Arts Club, an organization formed in 1914 that ultimately became the Arkansas Arts Center. Holt was among twelve artists whose works were selected, acquired, and displayed at the first permanent exhibit when the club’s gallery opened on May 15, 1928.
Holt authored and illustrated three books: Studio Talk (1939); A Travelogue through the Years (1940), an autobiographical account of her travels; and Devotion (1948), a collection of short stories.
Holt died on June 15, 1952, and is buried at Little Rock’s Oakland Cemetery. In 2006, a Historic Arkansas Museum exhibit, “Women Artists in Arkansas: An Overview from the Permanent Collection,” displayed Holt’s landscapes from the museum’s collection. The other primary artists in this exhibit were Jenny Delony, Elsie Freund, and Josephine Graham.
For additional information:Federal Writers Project. WPA Guide to 1930s Arkansas. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1987.
Herndon, Dallas T., ed. Centennial History of Arkansas. Vol. 2. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922.
Holt, Maud S. Studio Talk. Philadelphia, PA: Dorrance, 1939.
———. A Travelogue through the Years. Philadelphia, PA: Dorrance, 1940.
Thomas A. TeeterLittle Rock, Arkansas
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