As one of the oldest cities in America, Charleston boasts a rich cultural heritage with the lasting impressions of many ethnic and religious groups. Yet, Charleston’s history is not without blemish. From the aftermath of the Civil War to Hurricane Hugo, Charlestonians have faced extreme loss and the necessity to pull together the pieces of a shattered cultural fabric. Our greatest strength is that when faced with tough times, we have not only been able to rebuild, but have preserved the art and architecture that make us the charming Holy City that we are today—one that consistently ranks as one of the top cities to visit in the world.
Born out of the shambles that the Civil War left in its wake, the Charleston Renaissance was perhaps our city’s most dramatic period of renewal to date. In the mid-1920s, a few forward-thinkers began writing about and painting what was left of the beauty of Charleston. With several women artists at the helm of the movement and a focus on African-American subjects, the Charleston Renaissance proved to be a pivotal time of transition for the art of the South in more ways than one. Among the artists celebrated during this time were painters Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Alfred Hutty, Anna Heyward Taylor, and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner and writers DuBose Heyward, Josephine Pinckney, John Bennett, and Beatrice Ravenel.
The sketch featured in this post is by Alfred Hutty, who wrote home to his wife in New York after first visiting Charleston, saying “Come quick, have found Heaven.” Like much of his work, Hutty’s sketch depicts an African-American going about daily life. As the object in her possession is somewhat ambiguous, we can only deduce from the title that this woman is holding flowers, perhaps those woven from sweet-grasses, a long-cherished tradition of African origin. This sketch is significant for many reasons, not the least of which being that it was produced by Hutty, who co-founded the Charleston Etcher’s Club and was the first American inducted into the British Society of Graphic Arts (1). “Flower Lady” is more than a depiction of a Southern woman; it is a statement acknowledging her value as an important member of society and a subject worth portraying in art. What’s more, it serves as a reminder to viewers that the magic of Charleston lies in its people, their traditions, and art.
View this work by Alfred Hutty on our website
To view other works by Alfred Hutty, visit the Gibbes Museum’s website by clicking this link
1. Biographical information seen here was sourced from the Gibbes Museum of Art’s blog. http://www.gibbesmuseum.org/gibbes_blog/?p=2473