Gibbes Museum of Art
Elizabeth O'Neill Verner: Charleston Renaissance Artist
"Elizabeth O'Neill Verner: Charleston Renaissance Artist" will be on view in the Renaissance Gallery through August, 2000. Inspired by her city's rich heritage. Elizabeth O'Neill Verner created beautiful etchings and drawings of Charleston scenes, such as Avenue at the Oaks.
Verner was part of a group of local artists and writers who spearheaded a dramatic cultural renewal for Charleston. The outcome of this group's efforts was an artistic renaissance that fostered civic pride and led eventually to Charleston's pioneering historic preservation movement. This exhibition, derived from the Gibbes Museum of Art permanent collection, focuses mainly on Verner's work, but includes pieces from other Charleston Renaissance artists as well.
Elizabeth O'Neill Verner was a Charleston artist in every possible sense. She was one of the best known local artists to record views of Charlestons' lovely old homes, interesting buildings and distinctive people. She was lived in Charleston her entire life except for a short period of time from 1901 until 1903 when she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Her artistic gifts were encouraged and developed by her maternal grandfather who also had been a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
After leaving the Academy, Verner taught for two years in Aiken, South Carolina, before returning to Charleston, where she lived out her life. In 1907 she married E. Pettigrew Verner with whom she had two children, Elizabeth in 1908 and David in 1910.
Verner genuinely loved the city and its people and through her drawings, etchings and dry points she tried to preserve as much of the charm, flavor and uniqueness of her home as she possibly could. She selected as her subjects interesting churches, typical Charleston homes, porticos, columns, wrought iron gates and scenes in the city market and of vendors selling their wares.
Verner was part of a group of artists who were dedicated to reviving an interest in art in the Charleston area in the 1920s and 1930s. She had taken art lessons from Alice Ravenel Huger Smith as a child and when she was left a widow in 1925 with her two young children to support, Smith encouraged her and helped her find a market for her work. Their studios and homes were in close proximity on Atlantic and Church Streets, and together with Anna Heyward Taylor and Alfred Hutty who also lived and worked nearby, they nurtured a veritable art colony.
As Verner grew older, she began to do more work in pastels, a medium not as exacting as etchings. However with her superb color sense she created in pastel many truly memorable views of Charleston and its people. Elizabeth O'Neill Verner died in 1979 at the age of 95.
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For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
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