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"A Lonely Soul": The Art of Edward Jennings
April 27 - July 22, 2007
The work of Charleston native Edward I.R. Jennings (1898-1929) will be featured in the upcoming exhibition "A Lonely Soul": The Art of Edward Jennings at the Gibbes Museum of Art April 27 though July 22, 2007. An artist of the Charleston Renaissance era (1915-1940), Edward Jennings' imaginative style, characterized by his use of mythological creatures and fanciful landscapes that verge on surrealism, set him apart from his Charleston contemporaries. In his ten year career, Jennings defied the conventional styles of realism and became one of the first local artists of this period to experiment with the abstract.
"The exhibition pays tribute to the range of creativity that Jennings expressed. From the fanciful illustrations for the stage, to the cubist-inspired scenes of Paris to the completely abstracted works, the art of Jennings brings together the dominant trends in contemporary art of the late 1920s. His work provides a revealing complement to the representational and anecdotal work that his colleagues in Charleston created at the same time. The title of the exhibition, "A Lonely Soul," is taken from a reference that Jennings made about himself during this period. His sadness, however, finds some solace in the imagination he plumbs for his inspiration" says Gibbes Executive Director Todd Smith.
Edward I.R. Jennings
Inspired by his love of theater, much of Jennings early work consists of vibrant masks, costume and set designs. As his career evolved his artwork was increasingly influenced by Cubism, Surrealism and other modern art movements.
After serving in World War I, Jennings studied art at Columbia University in New York and the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh where he focused on theater design. Upon returning to Charleston in 1923 Jennings became actively involved in many of the local clubs; he participated in the Charleston Etchers Club and the South Carolina Poetry Society. He designed sets and costumes for local theater productions and was appointed curator of the art department at the Charleston Museum. Jennings taught art classes at the Gibbes and gave private lessons to a few select artists including a young William Halsey.
During the last two years of his life, Jennings made increasingly bold forays into modernism. His full potential as an abstract artist was never realized. In May 1929, while in his studio surrounded by his work, Edward Jennings took his own life.
Text panels for the exhibition
(above: Edward I. R. Jennings (1898 - 1929), Costume Design for a Marine Ballet, 1923-1926, Gouche on board. Courtesy of the Gibbes Museum)
(above: Edward I. R. Jennings (1898 - 1929), Design for a Mask, ca. 1925, Watercolor on paper. Courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art)
(above: Edward I. R. Jennings (1898 - 1929), On the Seine,
1927, Watercolor on paper. Courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art)
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