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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Savannah Art Club, Telfair presents this exhibition of work by and about the founding members of the club, including local favorites such as Lila Cabaniss, Anna Hunter, Mary Comer Lane, Juliette Gordon Low, Christopher A.D. Murphy, Hattie Saussy, Margaret Gray Thomas, Emma Wilkins, and others. Savannah paintings by visiting Savannah Art Club teachers William Chadwick and Eliot Clark demonstrate how leading artists of the day took inspiration from Savannah during their time as visiting instructors.

One hundred years ago, the Savannah Art Club (now known as the Savannah Art Association) was founded to “develop art appreciation in individuals and further art in the community.” The group still exists today and is the oldest art association in the state of Georgia. From its inception in February of 1920, the Savannah Art Club quickly rose to become a site of major support for Savannah artists, helping to pave the way for the vibrant arts community that flourishes in Savannah today.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Savannah Art Club, Telfair presents this exhibition of work by and about the founding members of the club, including local favorites such as Lila Cabaniss, Anna Hunter, Mary Comer Lane, Juliette Gordon Low, Christopher A.D. Murphy, Hattie Saussy, Margaret Gray Thomas, Emma Wilkins, and others. Savannah paintings by visiting Savannah Art Club teachers William Chadwick and Eliot Clark demonstrate how leading artists of the day took inspiration from Savannah during their time as visiting instructors.

Unknown photographer, Savannah Art Club class at Armstrong Farm, led by visiting artist Eliot Clark, April 1925

From left to right: Mary Teasdale, F. Wurndorf, Elizabeth Oemler, Alice Collins, Hattie Saussy, Margaret (Meta) Thomas, Haseltine Mallory, Mrs. Robert Billington, Mrs. H. D. Pollard, Eliot Clark, [illegible] Sheppard, Mrs. M. M. Hopkins, Mary Comer Lane, Christopher A. D. Murphy

Eliot Candee Clark (American, 1883-1980), Smoke Plumes of Savannah, c. 1924-25, oil on academy board, gift of Mary Lane Morrison, 1985.2

During his time as a visiting instructor for the Savannah Art Club, artist Eliot Clark produced about twenty paintings of Savannah, focused primarily on the river at twilight and at night. Here, Clark presents a view of the city’s riverfront looking eastward, toward cotton warehouses on the left and smokestacks on the right. This hazy, industrial scene stands in contrast to the riverfront of today, which is a bustling tourist attraction populated by numerous shops, bars, and restaurants.

Eliot Candee Clark (American, 1883-1980), Savannah Nocturne, c. 1924-25, oil on board, museum purchase, partial funding provided by the Ann H. Cordell Bequest, 1998.7

Eliot Clark was born in New York City and grew up painting under the tutelage of his father, Walter Clark, a landscape painter. In 1924 and 1925, Clark spent the winters in Savannah as a visiting instructor for the Savannah Art Club. He set up his studio in an old cotton warehouse along Bay Street for an unfettered view of the Savannah River. Savannah Nocturne captures one of the moonlight-drenched cobblestone ramps that lead down to the riverfront. Clark wrote of the Savannah scenery: “What impressed me most was the soft, enveloping atmospheric light quite different from the contours and strong shadows of New England.”

Christopher P.H. Murphy (American, 1869-1939), Fort Pulaski, by 1939, watercolor on paper, collection of Virginia & John Duncan, Savannah

Christopher P.H. Murphy (American, 1869-1939), Chippewa Square, a study, by 1939, watercolor on paper, gift of the Ronald J. Strahan Estate, 2009.11.13

watercolor, 5/12/14, 1:16 PM, 16C, 6000×7004 (0+327), 100%, 1.8 darker hil, 1/8 s, R100.0, G32.5, B48.2

Pulaski Monument, a study, by 1939, watercolor on paper, gift of the Ronald J. Strahan Estate, 2009.11.12

A leader in the Savannah arts community from the late 19th century until his death in 1939, Christopher P. H. Murphy was a sign painter by trade. However, his true passion was painting in watercolor in the loose, expressive style of the American Impressionists. His characteristic brushwork is on display here in his renderings of monuments to General James Oglethorpe (top) and General Casimir Pulaski (bottom) that reside in two of Savannah’s iconic squares.

Valeria Chisholm (American, 1890-1948), Untitled, n.d., oil on canvas board, private collection, Savannah

Valeria Chisholm was a founding member of the Savannah Art Club. Chisholm, along with Hattie Saussy, was the prize-winning artist at the inaugural Savannah Art Club members’ exhibition, held at Telfair Academy in March of 1921.

Anna C. Hunter (American, 1892-1985), Warehouses, c. 1959, oil on canvas, collection of Virginia and John Duncan

Ted Waters (American, 1919-2000), The Old Tavern, 1945, watercolor, gift of the Savannah Art Club, 1946.6

Artist and designer Ted Waters exhibited often with the Savannah Art Club and was best known for his watercolors of Savannah’s architecture. The watercolor seen here won first prize in the Savannah Art Club Annual Exhibition of 1945, and was donated by the SAC to Telfair in 1946.

William Chadwick (American, 1879-1962), Church Towers, c. 1925-6, oil on canvas, The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

William Chadwick is best known as an active participant in the American Impressionist art colony in Old Lyme, Connecticut. He spent the winters of 1924 and 1925 in Savannah, teaching classes for the Savannah Art Club at the Telfair Academy. Church Towers represents the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, an imposing French Gothic structure dating from the late nineteenth century. Bright winter light illuminates the church and its surroundings. The rectangular vernacular structures in the foreground juxtapose the angular elegance of the soaring cathedral.

William Chadwick (American, 1879-1962), Savannah, 1923, oil on board, The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina

This image of Forsyth Park demonstrates Chadwick’s mastery of the American Impressionist style of painting. The purple shadows in the foreground and loose, painterly brushstrokes in the trees reveal the artist’s interest in the effects of sunlight and wind on the scene before him.

interior telfair academy -unframed, 1/10/08, 10:06 AM, 16C, 2698×3360 (479+1440), 62%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/20 s, R92.9, G31.0, B40.1

Christopher A. D. Murphy (American, 1902-1973), Interior, Telfair Academy, by 1973, oil on canvas board, gift of Mr. Ronald J. Strahan in memory of the artist, 2001.7.2

The son of artists Christopher P.H. Murphy and Lucile Desboullions, Christopher A. D. Murphy kept close ties with Telfair throughout his career. The younger Murphy left Savannah to study in New York in 1921, where he was influenced by noted printmaker Joseph Pennell. Murphy alternated time in New York with visits home, returning to Savannah permanently in 1931. He participated actively in Savannah Art Club exhibitions both during his time in New York and his years in Savannah. Throughout his life, Murphy recorded the urban landscape, and examples of his Savannah views and New York scenes are presently on view in the Telfair Academy.

Emma Cheves Wilkins (American, 1871-1956), Jerry, c. 1942, oil on canvas, bequest of the artist, 1974.2

The subject of this portrait is Savannahian Jerry Dickerson (born c. 1872), who served as the janitor and unofficial tour guide of the Telfair Academy from 1920 until about 1942. Although Dickerson’s work would have put him in close physical proximity to the Savannah Art Club exhibitions and classes hosted by Telfair, as an African American he would not have been permitted to access membership to the group during this era of segregation. Dickerson is portrayed here in his work clothes by artist Emma Cheves Wilkins. The brushwork of this informal, familiar portrait is loose and expressive, standing in contrast to the tighter and more formal style of Wilkins’s commissioned portraits. Both the artist and the sitter were about 70 years old at the time this portrait was painted, and both had been involved with Telfair for several decades. Wilkins bequeathed this painting to Telfair upon her death.

Helen Hatch Inglesby (American, 1914-1999), Sketching on the Wilmington River, Savannah, by 1999, ink and wash on paper, gift of John and Virginia Duncan in memory of David S. Price III, 2008.23.4

Studio Class, c. 1930, graphite and watercolor on paper, gift of John and Virginia Duncan in memory of David S. Price III, 2008.23.3

Inglesby often looked to the city of Savannah itself for artistic inspiration. Her paintings and drawings often reveal an interest in the less glamorous, more industrial aspects of the city. The works on view here show Inglesby’s perspective on two scenes of artistic life in Savannah. Above, Inglesby depicts a group of artists sketching from nature along the Wilmington River. Below, she portrays art students drawing from a live model in a classroom. Like nearly all other educational opportunities in Georgia during the early 20th century, artistic instruction was segregated and the classes offered by the Savannah Art Club would not have been open to African American students. The classroom scene on view here was most likely the life drawing class at Savannah State University taught by Walter Simon, a Brooklyn-born painter and teacher who had been mentored by Georgia artist Hale Woodruff.

Myrtle Jones (American, 1913-2005), Studio Interior, c. 1959, oil on canvas, collection of John and Virginia Duncan

Savannah Art Club, March 15-29, 1921, Exhibition of Work by Local Artists, Draft Checklist

Seen here is the working checklist for the first exhibition of the Savannah Art Club, which was also the first exhibition of local artists’ work held at the Telfair Academy.

Unknown photographer, Savannah Art Club class at Armstrong Farm, led by visiting artist Eliot Clark, April 1925, collection of Robert Hicklin, Charleston, SC

Savannah Art Club, April-May 1945, Annual Exhibition of the Savannah Art Club Checklist, accompanying checklist to the annual exhibition

Ted Waters’ Old Tavern (1945) was awarded first place and is currently on display in this exhibition.

Savannah Art Club, April 29-May 14, 1953, Savannah Art Club Special Exhibition of Available Works of its Charter Members Checklist

Margaret Gray Thomas’ Pink Perfection (1939) was included in this 1953 exhibition and is currently on display in this gallery.

Myrtle Jones (American, 1913-2005), Essie Reading, c. 1959, oil on canvas, collection of John and Virginia Duncan

In one of her most accomplished portraits, Myrtle Jones paints her housekeeper, Essie, seated and reading a book. This painting was acquired from the artist by collector John Duncan, who recounts the purchase as follows: “She signed and dated her painting 1960, copying Picasso, whom, she said, would often wait to sign until he sold his artwork. In another painting I own by Myrtle, dated 1959, the interior scene depicts this 1960 painting of Essie. She obviously was incorrect in dating one or both of them. She was an artist, not a record keeper.”

Hilda Belcher (American, 1881-1963), The Choir, 1934, oil on board, Collection of the artist’s descendants, courtesy of Martha Richardson Fine Art, Boston

Hilda Belcher was a native of Vermont but visited Savannah frequently throughout the 1920s and 1930s, often working as a visiting instructor for the Savannah Art Club. The two works on view here were both painted in 1934 and demonstrate Belcher’s fascination with depicting Savannah’s African American community. Spiritual music from Southern African American communities was popular among Northern whites during this time period thanks to interest and awareness created by the Harlem Renaissance, and Belcher exhibited these works to warm acclaim from white audiences both in the South and in the Northeast.

Hilda Belcher (American, 1881-1963), Choir Girls, Savannah, 1934, watercolor on paper, collection of the artist’s descendants, courtesy of Martha Richardson Fine Art, Boston

Hattie Saussy (American, 1890-1978), Woman in Red Kimono, 1915, oil on canvas, gift of Mrs. Myrtle Jones King, 1982.11

Saussy utilized a muted palette and swift brush strokes in order to emphasize the figure’s red kimono without straying too greatly from her traditional style of painting. Her impressionist aesthetic is maintained through her attention to light on the planes of the figure, as well as in the sketchy details of the pattern on the kimono.

Margaret Augusta Murphy (American, 1908-1991), Untitled (Oystermen and fisherman at Thunderbolt), c. 1948, watercolor on paper, collection of Mr. Joseph V. Ryan, Savannah

This scene of oystermen shucking oysters while a fisherman spears his catch nearby is the type of closely observed moment from ordinary life that links Murphy to the American Scene style of painting. It takes place in Thunderbolt, which is located approximately five miles from downtown Savannah and is known for its importance to the local seafood industry.

Images taken for the Telfair Academey or Art. Recently acquired artwork

Helen Hatch Inglesby (American, 1914-1999), Boy and Dog Crabbing, 1993, paper silhouette, gift of John and Virginia Duncan in memory of David S. Price III, 2008.23.12

Man at Low Country Boil, n.d., paper silhouette, gift of John and Virginia Duncan in memory of David S. Price III, 2008.23.6

Helen Hatch Inglesby produced hundreds of works in a variety of media including oil, watercolor, pencil, and even etching, but in her native Savannah she was best known as the “Silhouette Lady.” Inglesby possessed a natural inclination for cutting silhouettes and produced silhouette portraits of prominent Savannahians, as well as likenesses of nationally-recognized figures including illustrator James Montgomery Flagg and Tuskegee Institute scholar George Washington Carver. Her most ambitious silhouettes are complex and charming visual narratives, often focusing on children at play or figures in the landscape as seen here.

Anna C. Hunter (American, 1892-1985), Recessional, 1949-50, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1952.5

Anna Colquitt Hunter became an artist later in life, initially as a means to better understand the process of painting for her job as an art reviewer at the local newspaper.  She frequently painted the scenes and people of coastal Georgia and South Carolina, recording the vanishing, understated way of life for posterity. A brochure for a solo exhibition of Hunter’s work in 1948 stated: “You feel she loves to paint her subject and that she paints the subject she loves.” While her works often show genuine sensitivity to her subject matter, others evoke racial caricature. Hunter was primarily self-taught but did take classes at Telfair Academy under Augusta Oelschig and received guidance from University of Georgia professor Rueben Gambrell.

Copy work for the Telfair Museum of Arts and Sciences

Lila Marguerite Cabaniss (American, 1885-1969), Untitled (Landscape), n.d., oil on canvas, gift of Ronald J Strahan in memory of Julie Backus Smith, 2005.32.3

Lila Marguerite Cabaniss, a charter member of the Savannah Art Club, is noted for bringing art to the public school system in Chatham County, beginning with an art curriculum she developed in 1915. Cabaniss served as the first secretary of the SAC and served as president from 1930-1934. She was a member of the Association of Georgia Artists and studied at Columbia University, University of Georgia, University of Virginia, New York School of Normal Arts, and Art Students League of New York. She exhibited her work at the Telfair Academy, with the Southern States Art League, and participated in Philadelphia’s sesquicentennial celebration.

Copy work for the Telfair Museum.

Hattie Saussy (American, 1890-1978), Untitled, by 1978, oil on canvas, partial gift of Breedon Liles, and museum purchase in memory of Daniel and Effie Denny with funds provided by the Daniel Denny Bequest, 2005.3

Emma Cheves Wilkins (American, 1871-1956), Untitled, by 1956, oil on canvas, bequest of Estate of Miss Sarah A. Cunningham, 1977.71

Savannah native Emma Cheves Wilkins was one of many women who played a pivotal role in the development of the arts in Savannah in the early years of the twentieth century. She began her studies at Telfair under director Carl Brandt, and then traveled to Paris, where she studied at the Académie Colarossi, one of the leading private ateliers of the time. After her return to Savannah she taught art to other local women, including Hattie Saussy and Augusta Oelschig.

Copy work for the Telfair Museum.

Hattie Saussy (American, 1890-1978), Left, 1961, casein on canvas board, partial gift of Breedon Liles, and museum purchase in memory of Daniel and Effie Denny with funds provided by the Daniel Denny Bequest, 2005.2

Hattie Saussy studied with Savannah artists Emma Wilkins and Lila Cabaniss. Later, she studied art at the Mary Baldwin Seminary in Staunton, Virginia; New York School of Fine and Applied Arts (now the Parsons School of Design); the National Academy of Design; and the Art Students League. She was an active member of the Savannah Art Club from the time of its founding until the end of her career, and exhibited her work extensively throughout the state.

Hattie Saussy (American, 1890-1978), Untitled, by 1978, oil on canvas board, museum purchase and partial gift of Ramsey Khalidi, 2010.10

Hattie Saussy (American, 1890-1978), Wood Boo, n.d., oil on canvas, collection of John and Virginia Duncan, Savannah

The Ravenel family owned Woodboo Plantation, located in Berkley County, South Carolina. The property was submerged by the Santee Cooper Hydroelectric and Navigation Project in 1939. The Ravenels later acquired property located alongside the Moon River in Chatham County, Georgia, and renamed it Woodboo. This later site was a popular destination for many Savannah artists, including Saussy.

Mary Comer Lane (American, 1881-1966), Athabaska River, 1946, body color, watercolor, and pencil on paper, gift of the artist, 1947.3

Mary Comer Lane’s interest in drawing and painting began in early childhood when she received her first lessons from local artist Emma Wilkins. In 1920 she was instrumental in the founding of the Savannah Art Club, convening the very first meeting of the group in her living room and acting as president from 1921 until 1927. Lane exhibited her work with the Savannah Art Club and also with the Association of Georgia Artists, actively participating in the art scene of Savannah until her death in 1966. Lane painted this view of the Athabasca River during a trip to the Canadian Rockies in 1946-47.

Juliette Gordon Low (American, 1860-1927), Bust of William Washington Gordon, 1926, bronze, City of Savannah Municipal Archives

Juliette Gordon Low, best known as the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, was also an early participant in the Savannah Art Club, serving as the group’s first Vice President. Minutes of the SAC’s meeting in June of 1924 state that Low “displayed a large colored design for the flag of the Girl Scouts, gave its history and asked the criticism and advice of the club.” Low also sculpted this portrait of her grandfather, politician William Washington Gordon (1796-1842), which is now owned by the City of Savannah.

woman, 5/12/14, 11:19 AM, 16C, 6000×8000 (0+0), 100%, 1.8 darker hil, 1/8 s, R100.0, G32.5, B48.2

Christopher A. D. Murphy (American, 1902-1973), Margaret, c.1935, oil on canvas, gift of Christopher Cole Murphy, 2004.6.2

The subject of this portrait is Margaret Murphy (1908-1991), painted by her brother and fellow artist Christopher A. D. Murphy. Margaret Murphy was best known as an art educator. She taught in the Savannah public school system from the 1930s until her retirement in 1971, after which she taught at several area colleges and universities. Murphy was not yet a teenager when the Savannah Art Club was founded, but quickly joined her brother and parents (Christopher P.H. Murphy and Lucile Desboullions Murphy) in participating in classes and exhibitions with the SAC.

Nancy Cabaniss Warth (American, b. 1945), Portrait Sketch of Lila Cabaniss, 1959, graphite on paper, gift of Beth Moore, 2010.4

The subject of this portrait sketch is Lila Cabaniss (1885-1969), who was intimately involved with the founding of the Savannah Art Club. She served as the first secretary of the SAC and served as president from 1930-1934. She is seen here in an intimate pencil sketch made by her niece, Nancy Cabaniss Warth, a long-tenured staff member of Telfair who has greeted visitors to the Telfair Academy from behind the front desk for more than 30 years.

Myrtle Jones (American, 1913-2005), The Flowered Hat, before 1955, oil on canvas, gift of John and Virginia Duncan, 2014.5.4

Moving to Savannah in 1943 after a difficult childhood and unfulfilling job, Myrtle Jones promptly fell in love with the city. The Flowered Hat is said to be a self-portrait. In Savannah, Jones was finally able to realize her dream of being an artist, becoming a vital member of the local art scene. She studied with Emil Holzhauer at the Telfair Academy, joined the Savannah Art Club, and befriended local painters such as Hattie Saussy.  She was known for her impressionistic technique and modern sensibility as evoked in her everyday scenes of Savannah and her introspective portraits of family and friends.

helen hatch polav2, 1/11/08, 4:03 PM, 16C, 1376×1617 (45+180), 25%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/10 s, R110.9, G41.8, B57.3

Christopher A. D. Murphy (American, 1902-1973), Helen Hatch, n.d., oil on canvas, gift of John and Virginia Duncan, 2003.25.1

The subject of this portrait, Savannah artist Helen Hatch (later Helen Hatch Inglesby) demonstrated artistic talent from a young age. At 16, she enrolled in her first formal art course under local artist Christopher A.D. Murphy, who would later paint this portrait. She also became a member of the Savannah Art Club and took advantage of the opportunity to study with prominent visiting artists brought in by the Club. Inglesby remained involved with the Savannah Art Club as an active member, student, and teacher well into the 1960s.

Brenda Putnam (American, 1890-1975), Portrait Bust of Christopher P.H. Murphy, 1935, painted plaster, gift of Christopher Cole Murphy, 2004.6.3

Savannah native Christopher P.H. Murphy (American, 1869-1939) became an accomplished artist, particularly known for his watercolors, even though family business obligations did not allow him to pursue the study of art full-time. Instead, his arts education came from reading, copying paintings, and classes at the Savannah Art Club. In addition, he made friends with many well-known artists who visited Savannah, often to teach classes at the Telfair Academy. One such visiting artist was Brenda Putnam, who gave a sculpture modeling demonstration at the Academy in 1935 when Christopher P.H. Murphy was 70 years old. In two hours, she made a clay model of his head, which was later made into a plaster cast and painted to look like a bronze sculpture. Putnam had a distinguished career making mainly art deco sculptures and was the author of the book The Sculptor’s Way: A Guide to Modeling and Sculpture, published in 1939.

Emma Cheves Wilkins (American, 1871-1956), Playing with Reds, c. 1931, oil on canvas, museum purchase, 1931.1

This still life demonstrates the artist’s command of the dark color palette and bravura brushwork of the Munich School and the aesthetics of contemporary Parisian art. Wilkins explores the aesthetic issues created by the repeated use of the color red, in the camellias, the ceramics, and the reflections on the polished tabletop and brass coffee urn.

Margaret Gray Thomas (American, 1871-1951), Pink Perfection, 1938, pastel, gift of Miss Isabelle Harrison, 1967.25.2

Margaret Gray Thomas is best known for bequeathing her family’s home to Telfair Museums. That building is now known as the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters. During her lifetime, Thomas was active with the Savannah Art Club and frequently worked in pastel on floral subjects like the one on view here. This particular work was included in Telfair’s 1953 exhibition of work by the charter members of the Savannah Art Club.

Mary Hope Cabaniss (American, 1882-1941), Untitled, n.d., watercolor on paper, collection of John and Virginia Duncan, Savannah

still life with pitcher, 1/10/08, 9:49 AM, 16C, 2770×3809 (126+50), 50%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/20 s, R92.9, G31.0, B40.1

Christopher A. D. Murphy (American, 1902-1973), Untitled, n.d., oil on canvas board, gift of the Ronald J. Strahan Estate, 2009.11.3