Lily Spandorf, an Austrian artist who emigrated to the United States in 1959, lived in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle and worked as a contributing artist for the Washington Star newspaper from 1960 to 1981. Some of Spandorf’s art, including the images below, is on view at the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum, in a new exhibition that opened on Saturday.
Spandorf worked at a time when many older buildings and neighborhoods in American cities were being radically altered or destroyed, thanks to policies of urban renewal. She often sketched places in D.C. that were at risk of demolition and occasionally caught the bulldozers in the act, making destruction look oddly beautiful through her deployment of watercolor or gouache.
Preservation-minded cityscapes aside, much of the freelance artist’s bread and butter came from her renderings of less controversial subjects: portraits of dignitaries or the paintings of White House Christmas decorations that she sketched and sold every year. (A Spandorf drawing of the National Christmas Tree was made into a postage stamp in 1963.)