Ludmilla Pilat Welch Biography

Though her work is largely identified with Marin County, California, Ludmilla Pilat Welch had abiding Southern ties. Her father, a privileged political refugee from Austria, immigrated to Savannah, Georgia in 1848 and eventually owned a peach orchard in Dalton.  Following the Civil War, Carl Pilat moved to Ossining, New York, where Ludmilla was born. Located in the beautiful Hudson River area, the Pilat home was an artistic milieu where the young girl was exposed to art, music, and literature.  A romance blossomed between her and Thad Welch, a boarder in their home, when he was sketching in the woods near her home. Welch became friends with the Pilat family and subsequently fell in love with their daughter. Despite a twenty-three year age difference, the couple was married in 1883.

Thaddeus encouraged Ludmilla's talent for drawing, which she pursued with passion. While Thaddeus fulfilled commissions in Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and Australia, Ludmilla returned to live in Ossinnig. It was during this period that she accompanied her family on visits to Georgia. Paintings depicting Georgia scenes date from 1890, 1892, and 1893.

After a few years in New York, Boston, and a visit to the World’s Fair in Chicago, she came with her husband to California in 1893.  Pasadena was their home for a year until moving north to Marin County.  The couple lived in a rustic cabin in the hills of Marin where, under the tutelage of her husband, she became a highly competent painter of quiet, bucolic scenes.  The two often painted side by side in a very similar style producing a body of work that captures the beauty of rural California before the advent of development. Many are scenes of landscapes we are familiar with today, but captured on canvas at a time when cows, not cars, were seen everywhere.

Due to Thad's health they were forced to leave Marin County for a more moderate climate.  Moving to Santa Barbara, the couple spent their remaining years there where they developed a loyal patronage.

Ludmilla Welch died on a train near New Orleans on May 17, 1925.

In: Santa Barbara Historical Society; Oakland Museum; California Historical Society; Sonoma Co. (CA) Museum.

Source: AskART; Bolinas Museum/Pastoral California: The Art of Thaddeus & Ludmilla Welch