The period of roughly 1920 through 1960 saw the development of a vibrant artistic community in Savannah. Organizations such as the Savannah Art Association (founded in 1920 as the Savannah Art Club), the Southern States Art League, and the Association of Georgia Artists worked in tandem with Telfair to encourage the arts in Savannah by organizing exhibitions, providing art instruction, and bringing visiting artists to Savannah.
Perhaps not surprisingly, female artists played a crucial role in the artistic life of Savannah during this period. Women Artists in Savannah, 1920–1960 showcases approximately twenty works, nearly all of them drawn from Telfair’s permanent collection, by some of the female artists who made significant contributions to Savannah’s art scene. Born in 1870, Emma Cheves Wilkins is the earliest artist in the exhibition; she began her artistic studies under Telfair’s first director, Carl Brandt, then received professional training in Paris at the Académie Colarossi before returning to Savannah and teaching art to other Savannah women such as Hattie Saussy and Augusta Oelschig.
The exhibition also includes work by artists who considered themselves to be primarily self-taught, such as Anna Hunter and Myrtle Jones, as well as work by artists from other cities who were influenced by time spent in Savannah, such as Andrée Ruellan and Mary Hoover Aiken. One of the most contemporary artists in the exhibition is Virginia Jackson Kiah, who moved to Savannah in 1950 and was widely known for her work as both a civil rights activist and a portrait painter.
Mary Hoover Aiken
Café Fortune Teller, 1933
oil on canvas
gift of friends of Mary Hoover Aiken, 1975.3
© Joseph Killorin.