Margaret Pace Willson
Margaret Pace Willson was married to Robert Willson in 1981. She
has for some 30 years has been a vigorous participant in the arts
of the Southwest, as an artist, as an articulate force in art organizations
and as an imaginative philanthropist.
Her achievements in art and contributions to society would satisfy
the most demanding tests for a full and rewarding life. But Margaret
Willson has combined her monumental commitments to art and culture
with two additional full-time vocations—one domestic, as a
mother and wife; and the other entrepreneurial, as the co-creator
of Pace Picante Sauce.
Margaret Willson began her career at the top; she painted ceiling
murals while studying art at Newcomb College in New Orleans. This
lofty debut was fostered in her childhood in San Antonio.
She grew up in a home steeped in the European tradition—a
house filled with art and a family who encouraged her talents. As
an eleven-year-old, Margaret visited Marian Koogler McNay at her
hilltop home. The impressionist art that sat propped against Mrs.
McNay's walls infected Margaret with a love of color and imagery
that is still flourishing in her art today.
In the decades since graduating from college, Margaret has fashioned
a career as a painter, muralist, sculptor, jeweler, graphic designer
and college teacher. In her pursuit of artistic discovery, she has
experimented with pen, brush, camera, torch, kiln, furnace and chisel.
Between commissions, teaching and exhibitions, Margaret has donated
her talent, time, energy and resources to museums and universities
in San Antonio and New Orleans.
Her paintings, particularly those in watercolor (either opaque
or transparent), reflect a genuine joy in the art of painting. She
works rapidly, preferably in the out of doors frequently doing consecutive
paintings of a single subject. Her brushwork is forceful and direct
incorporating bright colors and creating sparkling contrasts of
lights and darks. She is an able composer of paintings, whether
in her earlier abstractions or in the later, more expressionistic
landscapes, giving them an immediate physical impact. Working with
the strong forms of nature — mountains and the sea —
she creates exuberant paintings done with zest.
Throughout her career of experimenting with different media, she
has remained faithful to her love of landscapes and architecture.
In the last decade, these two inspirations have coalesced in her
Venice is a particular architectural delight for Margaret. She
sees the edifices and vistas through a lens distorted by shimmering
heat, light, and water. Her Venetian buildings quiver with the canal
reflections. The waterline blurs into the sculptures until the land
is liquid as the sea.
Whether waterscapes or landscapes, Margaret captures an ephemeral
movement. You can feel the heat radiating from her parched Texas
landscapes. You can glimpse at the sun’s rays as they bounce
off her Colorado high country snows. But most of all you can hear
the water of the Venetian canals as it blends the buildings, the
gondolas and the light into a symphony of color and feeling.
Her skill and clarity have not been achieved lightly, for she has
subjected her native talents to the disciplines of constant training.
After receiving her BDES and BFA from Newcomb College, Tulane University,
she studied mural painting under Rico LeBrun for year and subsequently
worked with Xavier Gonzales, Etienne Ret, Fletcher Martin and Peter
Lanyon. She has not confined her interests to painting, but has
received significant public commissions in mosaic murals. Mrs. Willson
has worked in the field of jewelry and has taught the subject as
well as receiving commissions for specific work. Under Phillip John
Evett she studied welded sculpture. Also she has seriously worked
toward an additional degree in architecture and has completed two
of three years of architectural internship.
Her career as a successful artist has been attended by commissions,
and by innumerable honors and awards, and she has exhibited extensively
in group shows and in solo exhibitions.
In San Antonio, Mrs. Willson has served indefatigably and in many
capacities in both the San Antonio Art League and the San Antonio
Art Institute. She has been on the Witte Memorial Museum board,
and is a member of the Council of the McNay. Equally the Southwest
Craft Center has benefitted from her support; she is a charter member
of the Texas Watercolor Society, and has served on its board. This
is not to mention her contributions to other cultural and educational
institutions in the vicinity. She has been deeply concerned with
the Aspen Institute Design Conferences, the Alumni of Tulane University
and for eleven years was a college teacher of art.
Coming from an eminent German family, distinguished by its substantial
contributions to culture and education during the century, Mrs.
Willson has found pleasure in continuing this family tradition of
philanthropy. The McNay Art Institute, the San Antonio Art Institute,
the University of Texas at San Antonio and Tulane University have
been among those touched by her thoughtful and original contributions.
The region is fortunate to number among its citizens so capable
an artist, and so devoted a supporter of its civic and cultural