Frequently, artists who are educators are also perpetual students, a pattern borne out in the career of Grace Martin Frame Taylor. A native of Morgantown, West Virginia, she was brought up in a household that emphasized music and so began piano lessons at the age of five. This early training served her well when she launched a nearly forty-year affiliation with the Mason College of Music and Fine Arts, now part of the University of Charleston in West Virginia. In her teaching, Taylor often drew analogies between music and the visual arts, and she emphasized the individuality of creative processes: “there is no formula for abstract painting . . . Each artist has his own approach. I use a subject only for inspiration. Then I break it down into its simplest elements and develop it from there.”

In 1921, Taylor enrolled at the University of West Virginia in her hometown; disappointed by the art curriculum, however, she left after just one year to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The distinguished Philadelphia school offered a thorough course of artistic study, and, during her time there, Taylor was introduced to contemporary trends by modernist Arthur B. Carles. She returned to the University of West Virginia in 1924 to finish her bachelor’s degree, selecting English as her major, with an emphasis on journalism; she eventually earned a master’s degree there in 1929.

Following her graduation, Taylor went to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and renewed her interest in art under the guidance of her distant cousin Blanche Lazzell. Both Provincetown and Lazzell had gained a significant reputation for a particular kind of color woodblock printmaking. Known as the white line method, it enabled artists like Lazzell and Anna Heyward Taylor to cut and print from a single block of wood, rather than the multiple blocks typically used in traditional woodblock prints. The visual end result is a white line that separates one color area from another. Grace Taylor embraced this approach wholeheartedly; for twenty-eight summers she returned to Provincetown to advance her printmaking skills with Lazzell and Heinrich Pfeiffer. In the ensuing decades, she also studied under Hans Hofmann whom she called her “very favorite modern master.” 

In addition to her time in Provincetown, Taylor traveled to other destinations to further her education. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, she spent time at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh; closer to home, she studied at the Old White Art Colony in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and took lessons in portraiture in the capital city of Charleston in 1941. Farther afield, she went to Taos, New Mexico, and received instruction from Emil Bisttram whose abstract work is characterized by geometric shapes and bright colors. In the 1950s, she headed to the Akron Art Institute and Ohio University for classes in painting and printmaking respectively; in 1960, she went to the Art Students League in New York.

Taylor’s home base, however, was in Charleston; in 1929, she joined the faculty at Mason College as an instructor, was promoted to associate professor, moved on to lead the art department, and then assumed the deanship. Ultimately, Taylor became president of the college; after its merger with Morris Harvey College in 1956, she continued to teach for another twelve years. As an advocate for artistic activity in the state, Taylor was involved in the founding of the Allied Artists of West Virginia in 1931, serving as its president 1932–1934. Thirty years later, she helped to establish the Creative Arts Festival of West Virginia. Since her death, Taylor’s work has been widely exhibited, most notably at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the British Museum. The Art Museum of West Virginia University owns more than two hundred of Taylor’s works, many of which were donated by the artist’s daughter.