Editor's note: The following essay was reprinted November 2, 2004 in Resource Library with permission of the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia. The essay is contained in a brochure which was published in connection with an exhibit of the same name being held at the Georgia Museum of Art October 9-December 5, 2004. We express appreciation to Bonnie Ramsey of the Georgia Museum of Art for bringing the essay to our attention. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or wish to purchase a copy of the brochure please contact the Georgia Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:


Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead's (1861-1955) Idealized Visions About Simple Living and Arts and Crafts

by Heidi Nasstrom Evans



By comparing photographs, works of art by Whitehead and her circle, and related documents from the four phases of Whitehead's life, the evolution of the visual and aesthetic reality of the simple-life ideal she used as "the mean," "[t]he center where dwells harmony" becomes apparent. [31] Whitehead's interest in a simple life probably led the young Victorian socialite to Oxford, where she studied with John Ruskin. When this highly cultured, socially elite woman was traveling with ease between the United States, Britain, and the Continent, the simple life united her with Ralph Whitehead, her like-minded soul mate. As a serious painter living close to nature at its kindest in the beautiful climate of southern California, Whitehead's existence in the Mediterranean-styled villa Arcady translated into the mean. Whereas in Woodstock, as the mature artist experimenting in many media, she found the rustic setting of Byrdcliffe, nestled in the woods and smelling of earth, to provide the healthful ideal for harmonious living. "All one wants to be armed with is a little love, a little health, a little philosophy, and a good deal of nature out of doors." [32] Photographs of the Whiteheads, and their milieu, and works of art reveal the evolution of the visual qualities of Whitehead's simple life over time. Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead's particular story elucidates our understanding of simple living among the advocates of the Arts and Crafts Movement.


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