Bonaventure: A Historic Cemetery in Art

Jepson Center March 2 – September 23, 2018

Steeped in art and history, Bonaventure Cemetery is one of Savannah’s most scenic locales, attracting visitors since the early 19th century. Drawn from Telfair’s and others’ collections, this exhibition includes paintings, prints, photographs, and sculpture inspired by or connected to the cemetery. First established as a plantation in the 1760s, Bonaventure was visited by artists as early as the 1830s. The former plantation and burial ground later became a public cemetery called Evergreen.

The city purchased the cemetery in 1907, adding the adjacent Greenwich site in 1937. Bonaventure holds many connections to Telfair, including the resting places of museum founder Mary Telfair and first director Carl Brandt. Artists inspired by Bonaventure’s moss-draped avenues of oaks and funerary sculpture include 19th century painters Thomas Addison Richards and Henry Cleenewerck. Photographers likewise discovered the cemetery, which became a popular subject for photographic stereopticon cards.

The cemetery’s celebrated funerary art was created by international and local sculptors, including the German-born John Walz. Bonaventure appears in 20th century works by local painters such as Hattie Saussy and by photographers Edward Weston and Jack Leigh. Leigh’s iconic image of Sylvia Shaw Judson’s bronze sculpture The Bird Girl was commissioned in 1993 for the cover of John Berendt’s bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The book fueled Savannah’s tourism and cemented Bonaventure’s reputation as one of the world’s most distinctive and aesthetically appealing cemeteries.


Related Programs:


Opening Lecture Panel: The Art and History of Bonaventure
Thursday, March 1 | 6pm
Jepson Center
Members free; non-members $8

Learn more about the fascinating history and art of Bonaventure with a panel of short presentations. Local historian Dr. Christopher Hendricks will provide background on the rural movement, while the exhibition’s curator Harry DeLorme will discuss artists who have worked at Bonaventure and gallerist Susan Laney will explain the making of Jack Leigh’s iconic photograph Midnight. Reception to follow.

Due to limited seating and high demand, online ticket sales have closed. Tickets may be available at the Jepson Center front desk starting at 5pm.

We strongly recommend all pre-registered members and guests be in their seats by 5:45pm. Waitlisted seating may be available to unregistered members and non-members on a first come, first served basis. We suggest arriving early to secure a seat. Once the auditorium reaches capacity, the doors will be closed and no additional entrances will be admitted to the lecture. However, all of the museum galleries will remain open for viewing and guests are welcome to join us for the reception.


Bonaventure Historical Society Guided Tours
Saturday, March 10 | 2pm
Sunday, March 11 | 2pm, 2:30pm, 3pm
Bonaventure Cemetery

Free, donation suggested.



Bonaventure Painting Workshop
Saturday-Sunday, March 24-25 | 8am-5pm
Bonaventure Cemetery

This two-day workshop will show the beginner-to-intermediate artist two approaches for plein air oil painting in one location. There will be eight contact hours of instruction each day with demonstrations. This workshop will focus on the simple things that can make a big difference in your paintings. The instructor will discuss the effects of light on color, selecting subject matter for painting, the importance of shadows for value contrast, simple compositions to bring the viewer into your painting, and simplifying unnecessary details for focus. No experience in plein-air painting is necessary; however, basic painting skills are helpful.


See More Classes Like This »



Investment is provided by the City of Savannah.

Investment is provided by the City of Savannah


Henry Cleenewerck (Belgian, 1818-1901)
Bonaventure Cemetery, c. 1860
Oil on canvas
28 7/8 x 38 7/8 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Washburn in memory of Mrs. James Cary Evans (Cecilia DeWolfe Erskine), 1967.10

Jeff Markowsky
Path of Light, 2017
Oil on panel, 14 x 20 inches (framed)
Loaned by the artist