Judith Deim, née Barbara Stevenson, was born in St. Louis, MO in 1912, to a family of artists and musicians.
She attended St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University on a scholarship. It was here that she met her future husband, painter Ellwood Graham. After graduating she worked in the Federal Art Project during the Depression. She came to California to do a mural for the Treasury Art Project in the 1930s. She was also commissioned for murals at the Salinas Children's Hospital, the Ventura Post Office and a Veterans Hospital in Washington DC.
From 1939 to 1959 she resided in Monteray, CA. She initially worked with the Society of Six artist, August Gay, who exposed her to the California School of Modernism. Her use of bold bright colors outlined with dark color became characteristic of her work as did her subjects of everyday life. In the 1940s, she exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Art, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and the Corcoran Gallery, and with museums in St Louis, New Mexico and Dallas. In 1945, her solo show in Manhattan earned high praise from New York Times critics, describing her work as "vigorous," and her as "a new and promising talent." In 1946 she was the first to be honored with a solo exhibition by the Carmel Art Association.
While living in Monteray, Deim befriended John Steinbeck. She painted the acclaimed portrait of Steinbeck writing his first draft of The Sea of Cortez at her studio in 1941. Later, Steinbeck funded a painting expedition that Deim and Graham made to central Mexico.
Deim's international career began in 1950. She painted and exhibited in Mexico, Guatemala, Europe and Africa. Later, Judith found her greatest inspiration in the gypsy and flamenco cultures of Spain. In the 1980's and 1990's, Judith focused her travels closer to the U.S. and in Indian villages in Michoacan, Mexico.
For the last 20 years Deim divided her time between Patzcuaro, Mexico, and Northern California. Fiercely prolific, Deim's paintings are featured in the National Biennial of Mexico, "This Side of Eden" in California, and in "The Passage of the Muse," a collaboration with her granddaughter, the Flamenco dancer La Tania at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Judith Deim died on August 2, 2006.