Described by those who knew her as exotic, flamboyant, and colorful, Zoë Dusanne, was an art dealer and collector who opened Seattle’s first professional modern-art gallery, the Zoë Dusanne Gallery, in 1950 and who worked tirelessly to both introduce modern art to a northwest audience and to promote northwest art and artists to a larger international art community.
Dusanne was born Zola Graves on March 24, 1884 in Kansas to Letitia Denny and John Henry Graves, a stonemason. Although she was self-taught with respect to modern art, her artistic bent was nourished early in life by her parents. When the Graves family lived in Iowa at the turn of the 20th century, for example, Letitia took the young Zoë on summer trips to Chicago to attend the theater and to visit the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 1903 Zoë spent one year at Oberlin College followed by a semester at the University of Illinois, Urbana. It was during this time that Zoë met her first husband, George Young, whom she married in 1904. The union produced Zoë’s only child, Theodosia, in 1909. By 1912 Zoë was separated and decided to follow her parents to Seattle. A divorce from George followed after her arrival in Seattle. Zoë’s second marriage, in 1919 to Dr. Frederick Boston, lasted only a few years.
In 1928 Zoë and then teenaged Theodosia left Seattle for New York. Sometime during her residence in New York, Zoë began using the last name Dusanne. While living in Greenwich Village, Zoë’s passion for collecting modern art began in earnest. At the height of the Great Depression Zoë found that artists were the first to feel the impact of hard times, and often sold their works at a fraction of their earlier value. Little by little during these years Zoë amassed a collection of modern art which she brought back to Seattle in 1942.
In 1947 at age 63, Zoë built a home overlooking Seattle’s Lake Union that was specifically designed to double as an art gallery, and on November 12, 1950, Dusanne opened her collection to the public. From the mid-1940s