As a young girl in Yanceyville, North Carolina, Maud Florance Gatewood’s parents encouraged her independence and free spirit. She explored her hometown on horseback and cultivated a close relationship with nature that would influence her creative endeavors. Having displayed an early artistic penchant, Gatewood took classes at Averett College while in high school before enrolling at the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro at the age of sixteen. Following her graduation in 1954, she went on to acquire a master’s degree in painting from Ohio State University the next year. In 1963, Gatewood received a Fulbright grant to study at the Akademie fur Angewandte Kunst in Vienna and with the Austrian Expressionist painter Oskar Kokoschka.
Upon her return to the United States, Gatewood accepted a faculty position at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte; over the course of her academic career, she would also teach at Averett University, Central Piedmont Community College, Davidson College, the University of Cincinnati, and the State University of New York, Oswego. She continually pursued her own artistic interests and exhibited throughout the Southeast during her lifetime; her paintings were included in the landmark 1983 touring exhibition Painting in the South and in Nine from North Carolina held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. in 1989. Gatewood experimented with a range of styles, ranging from realism to abstract; media; and subject matter, including landscapes, architecture, forms and patterns, figures, and genre scenes. Highly individualistic, Gatewood was reluctant to define her aesthetic philosophy, insisting that “her paintings were her statement.” Over the course of her career, she was honored by numerous prestigious arts organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Gatewood was deeply engaged in her community and home state, serving on many boards and commissions up until her death. She is remembered as one of the most important twentieth century artists from North Carolina, and her achievements were lauded in in the documentary film, Gatewood: Facing the White Canvas. Maud Gatewood’s paintings are included in the collections of the Hunter Museum of Art, Mint Museum of Art, Nasher Museum of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and North Carolina Museum of Art.