Edna Andrade was an influential artist and teacher whose Op Art oil paintings were known for their organic unity, delicacy of line, and interdependent relationship of volume, color, and light. She reduced images to color planes, inspired by her interest in cubism and the theories of Bauhaus artists Paul Klee and Josef Albers.
Andrade studied at the Barnes Foundation from 1935-1936. She earned her B.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1937, and in 1938 she completed her post graduate studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Traveling in Germany after World War II, she encountered the Bauhaus Movement, which influenced her techniques of design, color, and abstraction. Later in the 1940s, Andrade worked as an architectural draftsman for government projects.
She lived and worked in Philadelphia since 1946 and taught at the Philadelphia College of Art for thirty years. In the 1960s, when she was teaching color and design at the college, she explored optical phenomena in her paintings. Her Op Art oil paintings from the 1960s and on possessed illusionistic qualities which pulled the viewer into the center of the canvas. One of her most famous paintings is “Motion 4-64,” 1964. This is a 48-inch square painting featuring geometric black and white rectangles whose edges bend inwards creating an illusionary experience for viewers.
In the 1970s, she painted with a limited palette of bright colors finely drawn with straight lines on dark backgrounds. She devised mathematical systems to generate elegant, curving surface patterns and visual effects. One painting from this time period is her “Night Sea,” 1977, which shows her organic unity, delicacy of line, and the interdependent relationship of drawing, volume, color, and light. Every line connects to every other line, and its colors and fluctuating waves recall the effects of phosphorescence in the ocean glowing at night.
Throughout her career, Andrade was fascinated by an approach to values in color by painting gradations of color in sequential passages. She worked with immaculately rendered color planes arranged in geometric progression. In her 1983 acrylic painting “Painted Desert – Blue” the sky is divided into four light-to-dark bands of color with the mountains divided into three deeper planes. Airplane and highway routes are shown by variously toned horizontal lines.
Painted in the same year, her “Moon Game” canvas is divided into evenly spaced vertical stripes. On this grid, she plays the color game of her title, interrupting the stripes with round ‘moons’ and ‘half-moons’ of different sizes in tones of yellow, orange, turquoise, and grayed violet.
She created public artworks, one of which was commissioned by the Philadelphia Library. She has had two major retrospectives The first was in 1983 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The second was in 2003 at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania.
Her works are in the permanent collections of major museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas Museum of Art, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.