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Amanda Snyder

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Amanda Snyder

American, 1894-1980

Amanda Snyder Biography
Amanda Snyder made a notable impact on the modernist movement in the Pacific Northwest, becoming well known for paintings that “combine strong forms, vigorous brushwork, and rich color.” She produced hundreds of artworks during her forty-year career that were based on the simple pleasures and observances of everyday life, including birds, clowns, still lifes, landscapes, and abstracts. Snyder had a reputation for being a private and reclusive person, yet her artwork invites the viewer to see the world through her eyes.
The oldest child of William Jefferson Tester and Della Lee Hull Tester, Amanda [Tester] Snyder was born near Mountain City, Tennessee in 1894. The Tester family moved to Roseburg, Oregon when Snyder was nine where she began to show increasing interest and aptitude for art, producing early works that greatly impressed her third grade teacher. In 1916, Snyder married Edmund Snyder, a descendant of the pioneer religious settlers of the Aurora Colony in Oregon. Following their marriage, they moved to Portland where Snyder pursued her passion for art, briefly studying at the Museum Art School (now called The Pacific Northwest College of Art) in 1917. In August 1918, the Snyders welcomed their only child, Eugene Edmund Snyder. However, Snyder’s role as a house maker and mother did not deter her from returning to her artwork. In 1925 she studied under the tutelage of Sidney Bell along with her brother and fellow artist, Jefferson Tester. Bell was a recent emigrant from London who painted in the tradition of the Royal Academy and who praised Snyder for her drawing skills and exceptional use of color.
Snyder was largely a self-taught artist, preferring to learn through experience than through formal training in a classroom. Throughout her career she developed personal variations of Impressionism and Expressionism while working in the solitude of her home. Snyder once said that she had to “have new ideas. To experiment. If you don’t know new things you go stale.” This belief led to her exploration of other media of art-making, including block prints, sculptures, pottery, and collages. Snyder rarely left the comfort and isolation of her home, believing that “all the stimulation she needed [was] in her house, garden, imagination, and occasional visitors.” Snyder and her work were also greatly influenced by fellow Pacific Northwest modernist artists and friends, Clayton Sumner Price and Charles Heaney.
Snyder met C.S. Price (1874-1950) in 1929, after which he became a significant artistic influence in her career. Price is often recognized as Oregon’s first great modernist painter impacting the work of other Oregon artists such as Snyder and Charles Heaney throughout his career. Price and Snyder shared reclusive personalities and an understanding of the direction in which new American painting was headed. Their working relationship was mutually beneficial, with Price introducing Snyder to new artists, such as French painter, Georges Rouault (1871-1958) and Snyder encouraging Price to paint birds. This relationship blossomed into a friendship that lasted until Price’s death in 1950, when Snyder inherited his work table, easel, and cans of paint. Snyder later used Price’s paint canisters in her piece, “His Dear Old Paint Cans,” in which the canisters are displayed as a monument; a “solid and enduring structure in memory of a friend.”
Snyder only began exhibiting her work publicly in the 1930s when she entered a still life in the Oregon Society of Artists exhibition in 1931 and won a blue ribbon. This success was followed in 1932, when she was represented in the “Artists in Portland and Vicinity” show at the Portland Art Museum; she was later included in this show every year between 1948 and 1960. Snyder continued to show her work for the rest of her life, participating in thirty-two solo exhibitions and various group exhibitions in Portland and Seattle, including seven showings in the Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists. Some of Snyder’s paintings were never shown in her various exhibitions, but she hoped that, one day, they would be purchased as a group, and perhaps published in a small book. Beginning in 1963, Snyder’s work was sold through the Rental Sales Gallery of the Portland Art Museum and after her death, Eugene E. Snyder donated pieces of her work to museums in the Northwest which had shown their support during her career. This included the Seattle Art Museum, which received paintings from her son in 1983.
Amanda Snyder had an impressive career that spanned more than four decades, during which she created more than 800 oil, pastel, collage, watercolor, and encaustic paintings, sculptural works, and 80 prints (woodcuts, linoleum cuts, and collagraphs). Never afraid of trying something new, her style evolved over the years, incorporating what she learned through her own experimentation and the influences she received from other artists around her. Within the social context of the time, Snyder had a difficult time being taken seriously by other artists; she was a woman who preferred to paint “casual subjects.” However, through friends and perseverance, Snyder was able to make a significant contribution to the art world of the Pacific Northwest.
Snyder once said of her work: "My inspiration comes from shapes and colors. I see beauty and design in 'every-day' things in my home and garden. My greatest pleasure is to produce paintings which communicate a love of simple life." Snyder’s forty year career reflected the simple pleasures in her solitary life and shared those with the world that she so often hid away from.
-Annika Firn, intern, 2013

Hull, Roger. “Amanda Snyder (1894-1980),” on The Oregon Encyclopedia – Oregon History and Culture,
Hull, Roger. “Amanda Snyder: Structures,” Willamette University, September 2007,
Jefferson Tester (1899 - 1972) became a well-known illustrator, portraitist, and landscapist who worked across the United States and had an international reputation. Compared to his sister, Amanda Snyder, his career was much more extroverted and in the public eye. He was born in Tennessee and became interested in art after his family moved to Oregon in 1894. Unlike his sister, he gained a formal art education attending the San Francisco Art School in 1918, and later graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1924. His success as an artist includes working as a staff artist for the Orgeonian and creating seven covers for Time Magazine. (
Tester Snyder, Amanda. “My Mountain Childhood,” Inkwater Press, 2008. Summary on Google Books,
Gohs, Carl. “Birds, Clowns and Rag Dolls: An Artist Alone” in the Sunday Oregonian Northwest Magazine, May 4, 1969. p 3.
Hull, Roger. “Amanda Snyder (1894-1980),” on The Oregon Encyclopedia.
Hull. “Amanda Snyder: Structures,” 2007.
Joki, Robert L. “OHS Exhibits: Oregon Originals: The Art of Amanda Snyder and Jefferson Tester,” in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 107, No. 3, Fall 2006, p. 454-459.
Hull. “Amanda Snyder” Structures,” 2007.
Rouault was unknown to Snyder, but she “was painting in his way” without knowing it; both Rouault and Snyder painted clowns with black outlines and bright colors. They developed a friendship with regular correspondence, through which they exchanged Christmas card and small prints of their work. (Gohs, Carl. “Birds, Clowns and Rag Dolls: An Artist Alone” in the Sunday Oregonian Northwest Magazine, May 4, 1969. p 3.)
Gohs. “An Artist Alone.” 1969. p 3.
Weiman Bledsoe, Helen. “Amanda Snyder’s Quiet Windows,” in Stepping Out Northwest, Fall/Winter 1982, p. 67-70.
Amanda Snyder was represented in the Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists (AENA) in the following years: 1935, 1937, 1952, 1953 (“Dead Bird” recommended by Jury for purchase consideration), 1954, 1955, 1958.
Gohs. “An Artist Alone.” 1969. p 2.
Weiman Bledsoe. “Quiet Windows,” 1982, p. 70.
Tester Snyder. “My Mountain Childhood,” 2008.
Row, D.K. “Amanda Snyder at Hallie Ford,” The Oregonian, November 2007,
Tester Snyder. “My Mountain Childhood,” 2008.

  • painting
  • American
  • Portland, OR

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