Ohio Valley Artists: A visual legacy

By Robin L. Wallace
Reference Specialist

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The recent Collector’s Showcase exhibition here in Louisville has spurred a renewed interest in regional art history. A host of internationally renowned painters, sculptors, and craftspersons have called the Ohio Valley home. Some of their works are familiar: Enid Yandell’s statue of Daniel Boone, John James Audubon’s ornithological prints, and the innovative abstract paintings of artist Sam Gilliam.

Yet many of these persons are only now being recognized for their artistic merit and historical significance. The Filson Historical Society wants to ensure that the vision and skill of Kentucky’s forgotten and unrecognized artists are preserved and remembered. The wealth of information available here at The Filson contributes to the historical legacy of our local artists and provides a valuable resource for scholars and art collectors.

In addition to our impressive collection of works by regional artists (ranging from miniatures to life-size portraits to intimate still-lifes), The Filson maintains a newly revamped and ever-expanding compilation of information on these painters. Our collection of books on local artists is extensive, and we have an informative set of historical files, which contains information culled from newspapers, periodicals, exhibition catalogs, brochures, and the Internet. The files include not only our lauded painters and sculptors but also cartoonists, such as Fontaine Fox, and fiber artists like Alma Lesch. These library resources complement the collection of documents and artwork housed in our special collections department and on display throughout the building. And upon completion of our new patron access catalog later this spring, visitors will be able to search a database called Past Perfect, which displays our current art holdings and information about each artist.

One treasure to be found in our collection is a set of fourteen sensitive and wonderful portraits and still-lifes by little-known painter Carrie Douglas Dudley (“Doug Ewen”), as well as illustrated children’s books and greeting cards designed by Dudley. In the historical file on Dudley, one can find newspaper clippings about Dudley’s career as an illustrator. Similarly, an informative file of magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and brochures complement our elephantine portfolio of rare Audubon prints. Or one can investigate photographs of and manuscripts pertaining to Enid Yandell in special collections, then proceed to the library to read her book Three Girls in a Flat. This is a recently acquired rare title from 1892, co-authored by Yandell and describing her experience of living in Chicago during the planning of the Columbian Exposition.

One of the most fascinating aspects of these multifaceted resources is their capacity to reveal new connections between artists of a particular milieu and to show how their works influenced generations to come, forming the pattern of our region’s artistic heritage. We plan to continue gathering information from other local resources, keeping our collection of art historical files as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible, and to add to our collection of fine art, making us not only the holder of the state’s largest nineteenth-century portrait collection but also of the most varied representation of regional works. It is our sincerest wish that this information will be a valuable source not only for those desiring to learn more about regional art history but also for students and scholars desiring to contribute to the flourishing legacy of our cultural past, present, and future.

Volume 2, Number 2

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The Filson Historical Society
1310 South Third Street - Louisville, KY 40208
Phone: (502) 635-5083 Fax: (502) 635-5086

The Ferguson Mansion and Office

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Monday - Friday: 9 am. - 5 pm.
Saturday: 9 am. - 12 noon