Friday, June 25, 2010

The Artist Who Lived Twice

For those of you who love art and especially figurative work I hope you have been introduced to this fine artist from the past (ESJ). Elizabeth Sparhawk Jones lived to paint and after reading her story you will find out how she lived twice! Author Barbara Lehman Smith became interested in learning more about ESJ after stumbling upon her scrapbooks that were almost lost forever. You can read the circumstances that drew these two amazing women together across time. Barbara's book will be available this summer. Hopefully she will be visiting our area so please watch for announcements of her tour, book signings, or sign up for notifications on her website.

On a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago many years ago I stood in front of this very painting of "The Shoe Shop" (courtesy of AIC) by ESJ. I was mesmerized and wanted to know more about this artist. The museum gift shop had artist's images on everything from books to T-shirts but nothing with works from ESJ. Disappointed, I began my quest to find as much as I could about this artist who inspired me to pursue my own passion for painting. I did learn she was one of the early plein air artists (1889-1968) and part of a group of Urban Realists sometimes refered to as the "Ashcan School" since they painted outdoors, in streets and alleys of the city. The book covers her story as well as her friendships with other renowned artists of that time such as Marsden Hartley, Morton Schamberg, Charles Sheeler, and of course her reliance on William Merritt Chase during her studies with him. At the time I was searching the web there was very little information available. However, I discovered I was not alone in my search and touched base with many inspired artists looking for the whole story including author Barbara Lehman Smith. I am so grateful for her persistence to tell Elizabeth's story. As an artist I can relate to her struggle to find her own voice but in the strict social mores of the past it must have been significantly more difficult. Part of her story includes those family responsibilities she was expected to put before her own passions. Have any of you heard of this gifted artist who was christened by New York critics as its "find of the year" in 1908? You will be able to learn what transpired to allow her to become " ESJ: The Artist who lived twice". Her story is a wonderful reminder of the importance of listening to our own artist's voice.

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