Lucy McGowan Diecks was raised in the West End, her family living “above the shop,“ her father’s electric company. Her artistic abilities were evident from a young age. In 1924, at the age of 16, she won a prize for a drawing and illustrated stories and columns in The Courier-Journal, Junior, the newspaper’s page for young people.
She graduated from the Louisville Girls’ High School, having studied art with Alice Cane and Nina Benedict, and at 17 began her studies at the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design in Washington, D.C. After four years, she returned to Louisville to begin her 30-year career teaching art at Atherton High School, then the J.M. Atherton High School for Girls on Morton Avenue. Later she also taught at the Art Center School in the evenings. Diecks completed her bachelor-of-fine-arts degree from Syracuse University in New York during the summers, studying with a student of abstract expressionist Hans Hoffmann. She continued her education by taking classes at the Art Center and studying at various artist colonies around the country.
Diecks was an active and influential member of the Louisville arts community. Her work was frequently accepted in the annual exhibits of Kentucky and Southern Indiana artists, Louisville Woman’s Club shows, Art Center faculty shows, the Kentucky State Fair and many other venues over the years. She painted in oils and watercolor, creating portraits, landscapes and abstract works that frequently won prizes and honorable mentions. In March 1949 a retrospective exhibition covering 13 years of her career was held at Memorial Auditorium. Diecks also sculpted and made jewelry, the latter featured in a 1957 show of Louisville art in Montpellier, France, a Louisville Sister City.
Diecks retired in 1962 and, according to a relative, “put down her brushes … and never painted again.” The now-defunct TriArt Gallery in Louisville held a retrospective of her career in 1997. The Courier-Journal art critic at that time, Diane Heilenman, acknowledged the artist’s effect on “generations of Louisville artists.” The curator of the show, Louisville artist and educator John Begley, summed up Diecks’ strength to be “her ability to continually evolve as an artist” through sustained study.
Her dedication showed itself at one point in her career when she moved to a new home in Louisville and, like French Impressionist giant Claude Monet and fellow Louisville artist G. Caliman Coxe, burned many a “bad” painting in a backyard bonfire.