Frances Brand

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Frances Brand. Photo credit: Charlottesville Woman

Frances Brand (1901-1990) was a local artist whose most-celebrated work was a collection of portraits called "Firsts" - images of local people who were pioneers in a field or endeavor. [1]

Born in 1901 in New York, Frances Brand married a military man with whom she had two children. At the age of 41, she joined the army where she spent a 10 year career as a liaison (particularly in Germany working with children affected by the Nazi regime), ultimately becoming an army major. [1] Brand once said she was asked out by Al Capone and was once arrested for civil disobedience at a protest organized by Martin Luther King Jr. [2]

Upon her retirement, she studied art at Mexico City College (now the University of Mexico) for five years. [3][dead link]

Her collection of "Firsts" reflects the influence of the Mexican folk painting she studied[4].[dead link]

The "Firsts" were painted between 1974-78 and include 157 portraits (although some may be part of her "modern madonna" series). The subjects are "people that Mrs. Brand had met and befriended in Charlottesville or Albemarle County, people whose strength of character she admired." [5] Many of her portraits were of notable women in the community or of civil rights leaders. Subjects include Nancy O'Brien, the first woman mayor of Charlottesville, Cornelia Johnson, the city's first female African-American police officer, and Jill Rinehart, the first woman elected to city council. [2]

The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society owns the collection. [6][dead link]

A museum had been open at the site of her home at 111 Washington Avenue in the Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhood. The house was painted purple to honor Brand's penchant to dress in purple. [2] However, her granddaughter sold the house in February 2012. [citation needed]


"Firsts" Portrait subjects and their contributions to the Charlottesville-Albemarle community:

External Links

Interview with Frances Brand about her interactions with civil rights leaders, provided by the University of Virginia Library[dead link]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Web. Remarkable "firsts" in Charlottesville, Lynn Rainville, Blog Post, Loco History, July 27, 2008, retrieved May 4, 2022.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Web. Purple Gain: France Brand's house gets painted, Maxey Hackworth, The Hook, January 30, 2003, retrieved January 26, 2012.
  3. Web. [ Our Firsts, Great and Small], Aleta Burchyski, Charlottesville Woman, March 1, 2011, retrieved January 26, 2012.
  4. Web. Online Exhibit: France Brand Collection Exhibit, Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, retrieved January 26, 2012.
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named painting
  6. Web. Online Exhibit: France Brand Collection Exhibit, Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, January 30, 2003, retrieved January 26, 2012.