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Margaret Pace Willson


Margaret Pace Willson

Margaret Pace Willson was married to Robert Willson in 1981. She has for some 30 years has been a vigorous participant in the arts of the Southwest, as an artist, as an articulate force in art organizations and as an imaginative philanthropist.

Her achievements in art and contributions to society would satisfy the most demanding tests for a full and rewarding life. But Margaret Willson has combined her monumental commitments to art and culture with two additional full-time vocations—one domestic, as a mother and wife; and the other entrepreneurial, as the co-creator of Pace Picante Sauce.

Margaret Willson began her career at the top; she painted ceiling murals while studying art at Newcomb College in New Orleans. This lofty debut was fostered in her childhood in San Antonio.

She grew up in a home steeped in the European tradition—a house filled with art and a family who encouraged her talents. As an eleven-year-old, Margaret visited Marian Koogler McNay at her hilltop home. The impressionist art that sat propped against Mrs. McNay's walls infected Margaret with a love of color and imagery that is still flourishing in her art today.

In the decades since graduating from college, Margaret has fashioned a career as a painter, muralist, sculptor, jeweler, graphic designer and college teacher. In her pursuit of artistic discovery, she has experimented with pen, brush, camera, torch, kiln, furnace and chisel. Between commissions, teaching and exhibitions, Margaret has donated her talent, time, energy and resources to museums and universities in San Antonio and New Orleans.

Her paintings, particularly those in watercolor (either opaque or transparent), reflect a genuine joy in the art of painting. She works rapidly, preferably in the out of doors frequently doing consecutive paintings of a single subject. Her brushwork is forceful and direct incorporating bright colors and creating sparkling contrasts of lights and darks. She is an able composer of paintings, whether in her earlier abstractions or in the later, more expressionistic landscapes, giving them an immediate physical impact. Working with the strong forms of nature — mountains and the sea — she creates exuberant paintings done with zest.

Throughout her career of experimenting with different media, she has remained faithful to her love of landscapes and architecture. In the last decade, these two inspirations have coalesced in her water drawings.

Venice is a particular architectural delight for Margaret. She sees the edifices and vistas through a lens distorted by shimmering heat, light, and water. Her Venetian buildings quiver with the canal reflections. The waterline blurs into the sculptures until the land is liquid as the sea.

Whether waterscapes or landscapes, Margaret captures an ephemeral movement. You can feel the heat radiating from her parched Texas landscapes. You can glimpse at the sun’s rays as they bounce off her Colorado high country snows. But most of all you can hear the water of the Venetian canals as it blends the buildings, the gondolas and the light into a symphony of color and feeling.

Her skill and clarity have not been achieved lightly, for she has subjected her native talents to the disciplines of constant training. After receiving her BDES and BFA from Newcomb College, Tulane University, she studied mural painting under Rico LeBrun for year and subsequently worked with Xavier Gonzales, Etienne Ret, Fletcher Martin and Peter Lanyon. She has not confined her interests to painting, but has received significant public commissions in mosaic murals. Mrs. Willson has worked in the field of jewelry and has taught the subject as well as receiving commissions for specific work. Under Phillip John Evett she studied welded sculpture. Also she has seriously worked toward an additional degree in architecture and has completed two of three years of architectural internship.

Her career as a successful artist has been attended by commissions, and by innumerable honors and awards, and she has exhibited extensively in group shows and in solo exhibitions.

In San Antonio, Mrs. Willson has served indefatigably and in many capacities in both the San Antonio Art League and the San Antonio Art Institute. She has been on the Witte Memorial Museum board, and is a member of the Council of the McNay. Equally the Southwest Craft Center has benefitted from her support; she is a charter member of the Texas Watercolor Society, and has served on its board. This is not to mention her contributions to other cultural and educational institutions in the vicinity. She has been deeply concerned with the Aspen Institute Design Conferences, the Alumni of Tulane University and for eleven years was a college teacher of art.

Coming from an eminent German family, distinguished by its substantial contributions to culture and education during the century, Mrs. Willson has found pleasure in continuing this family tradition of philanthropy. The McNay Art Institute, the San Antonio Art Institute, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Tulane University have been among those touched by her thoughtful and original contributions.

The region is fortunate to number among its citizens so capable an artist, and so devoted a supporter of its civic and cultural welfare.

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