Since the founding of Savannah in 1733, artists have gravitated toward the city’s waterfront. Drawn from local collections, the Library of Congress, and Telfair Museums’ collection, Port City tells the story of the Savannah riverfront as depicted by artists in prints, drawings, paintings, and photographs from the 1730s to the present.
Artists have captured the vibrancy of life on this working river, from important historical events to daily life in Georgia’s port city. The exhibition begins with the best-known early image of Savannah, a 1734 engraving that shows General James Oglethorpe’s famous plan for the city taking shape on the bluff above the river. Moving on, the viewer glimpses Civil War river activity in drawings by William Waud and photographs by George N. Barnard. Eliot Clark’s moody, nocturnal paintings of River Street capture the industrial waterfront of the early twentieth century.
Beginning in the 1930s, the old riverfront warehouses became sought-after studio spaces for visiting and local artists from Alexander Brook to Anna Hunter, who are both represented in the exhibition. Vessels plying the river in the twentieth century were documented by talented locals from self-taught artist and sailor William O. Golding to iconic Savannah painter Christopher A.D. Murphy and photographer Jack Leigh. Visitors and residents alike can appreciate the stories that unfold in Port City: The Savannah Riverfront through Artists’ Eyes.
Lecture: “On the Waterfront: Artists and the Savannah River,” by Harry DeLorme
Thursday, September 11 | 6pm
Port City’s curator Harry DeLorme, Telfair Museums Senior Curator of Education, shares stories of artists who spent time on the Savannah waterfront, including tales of Savannah’s small but lively riverfront art scene and Factor’s Walk art studios of the 1930s-1980s. Free to museum members or included with museum admission.
Free Family Day
Saturday, October 4 | 1-4 pm
Telfair Museums invites families to enjoy free admission to the Jepson Center to explore the Port City exhibition. The afternoon will include hands-on activities in the museum studios, storytelling, and demonstrations by local artists who have drawn inspiration from the Savannah River. Gallery activities will introduce visitors to the types of ships and sailing vessels found in the art on view. Funding is provided by the City of Savannah and Georgia Power Foundation, Inc.
Landscape Painting Workshop
Instructor: West Fraser
Friday-Sunday, October 10-12
Friday 4pm | Saturday 7:30am | Sunday 7:30am
Complementing the exhibition Port City, Fraser conducts this painting workshop as an introduction to capturing the extraordinary environment of our river and port with oil or acrylic paint en plein air. Fraser focuses on working quickly, entirely on location, making well-designed compositions with emphasis on color and light. Through demonstrations, Fraser shows how to reduce a complex scene to its essence and how to use unified shapes to create a center of interest with strong composition, contrast, and color. Click here for more information and to register »
Blank Page Poetry
Thursday October 16 | 6pm
Telfair presents Words & Shadows: “If Ever These Rivers Should Speak,” a performance of poetic expressions of people and events related to the natural water systems that define Savannah geographically and historically. This performance will encompass spoken word, digitally projected text, drumming, and dance. All of the performers are local and of various ages and, along with poetry, will represent a range of creative disciplines. Admission is free thanks to funding from the City of Savannah.
Lecture: “Georgia’s Ports: An Economic Engine, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow” by Robert S. Jepson, Jr.
Thursday, December 4 | 6 pm
The Jepson Center’s own Robert Jepson, a member of the Governor-appointed Board of Directors of the Georgia Ports Authority, offers his unique insight on this important topic. Free to museum members or included with museum admission. A light reception will follow.
Telfair Museum of Art, 1998.8
River Nocturne (On the River), 1941
Oil on canvas
Telfair Museum of Art