Katheryne Seep Loughran, who possessed a passion for painting people and promoted cultural understanding through art, died of cancer Oct. 31 at her apartment in Chevy Chase. She was 79.
Mrs. Loughran, a former Washington resident who lived most recently in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Tequesta, Fla., was known for her portraits, still lifes and landscapes. Her portrait subjects included Pope Paul VI, commissioned for the Embassy to the Holy See in Germany; President Jimmy Carter for the Union League in Philadelphia; and other world leaders in embassies around the world.
Once, she was asked to capture on canvas the likeness of a deceased naval officer, which she did so expertly from photographs and anecdotes that his friends were amazed, she told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post three years ago.
"How did you know he was like that?" they asked. Mrs. Loughran told the reporter that her faith was central to her art.
"The whole time I was painting, I was praying for the Holy Spirit to come out of my right arm," she said. "I do that a lot. I paint from the inside out."
Mrs. Loughran, whose work has been exhibited in galleries in Washington and throughout the world, traveled extensively with her husband, a former Foreign Service officer and U.S. ambassador to Somalia. While in Africa, she organized Gambian women who did batik and tie-dye into a cooperative and held the first Craftsman's Market in Gambia. It continues today.
She and her husband used their collection of African art to establish the Foundation for Cross-Cultural Understanding, which developed exhibitions and outreach programs on African culture. Most notable was "Somalia in Word and Image," the first exhibition and catalog on the African country to tour the United States.
In talking about her art as a cultural bridge, she once said: "We're all the same. We just have different ways of expressing it. Until we begin to understand other ways of believing, we can't get rid of hatred."
Mrs. Loughran, a native of Oil City, Pa., was a fourth-generation graduate of Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in 1944. After graduating from the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in 1948, she began a career as a commercial illustrator and model.
While modeling a wedding dress in the late 1940s at John Wanamaker's department store in Philadelphia, an agent for Christian Dior saw her and asked her to come to Paris, her husband said. She modeled for Dior and also did illustrations for Elle and Paris-Match magazines in Paris.
After marrying in 1950, she lived in Europe and Africa. Her work has been shown in Washington, including at the Volta Place Gallery; at the Musee des Beaux Arts in Paris; and in galleries and museums in the Netherlands, Germany, Kenya, Gambia, Senegal and Somalia. She also taught art classes in Tequesta.
Survivors include her husband of 55 years, John Loughran of Shepherdstown and Tequesta; three children, Kristyne Bini of Florence, Lisbeth Loughran of Nairobi and John Michael Loughran of Montclair, N.J.; four sisters; a brother; and seven grandchildren.