Carrie Douglas Dudley Ewen: Ohio Valley Artist

By Robin Wallace
Reference Specialist

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Ewen painted stunning portraits and still lifes, but she primarily supported herself as a commercial artist, illustrating children's books and designing greeting cards for Henri Fayette, NuArt and Chrysons card companies. Ewen felt compelled to assume a male pseudonym during her career and used "Doug Ewen" as her professional name. As her niece Lu Ann Weinstein fondly remembered, "Aunt Doug [was] making money long before women were supposed to be so uppity." 

Over the years Ewen became adept at writing and illustrating whimsical and innovative books, such as My Peek-a-boo Show Book and Let's Play Circus: Another Peek-a-boo Show Book. The cardboard pages of these "peek-a-boo" books contain small windows that reveal images on subsequent pages that can be changed at random. She also illustrated other authors' works, such as Betty Baxter's Supposin', as well as magazines. Ewen designed a variety of holiday and greeting cards over the years but concentrated solely on Christmas cards during the last years of her life. These cards exhibit the same playful touches as her children's books, featuring jolly Santas, winsome angels, ice-skating snowmen, and Louisville street scenes.

Ewen's original designs were created in the same size as the finished product. Unfortunately she was often disappointed with the poor color reproductions of her creations. Designing the cards became second nature to Ewen, who produced hundreds of images over the years. When asked if she made preliminary sketches for her cards in a 1969 Louisville Times article, Ewen replied, "Not any more my dear. When you've been doing this as long as I have you can almost do them in your sleep. Painting Christmas card designs, after all these years, is just as natural to me as breathing." Unfortunately, none of her original paintings were returned to her after the cards had been produced. 

The Filson Historical Society has a generous amount of material on the life and family of Carrie Dudley Douglas Ewen. There are over eighty of her Christmas cards in our collection, as well as twelve oil paintings and seven watercolors. We also have two oils painted by Ewen's mother Lula Kenner Dudley. Dudley family documents in our manuscript department include family letters written by Joseph and Charles Dudley while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, by Carrie Dudley Ewen while traveling in Europe with her husband Jack Ewen in 1927 and 1928, and letters regarding her brother Bruce's career as sports editor for The Courier-Journal and president of the Louisville Baseball Club and the Louisville Colonels; three diaries and a scrapbook kept by Lula Kenner Dudley; Civil War muster rolls and army records; Grand Army of the Republic records; and a memoir of plantation life. The Dudley photograph collection covers the years from 1850 to 1979 and contains both professional photographs and candid snapshots of members of the Dudley family, relatives, and friends. There are several albums showcasing family gatherings and parties, scenes in Flemingsburg and at Park Lake in Fleming County, and pictures of the Dudley homes in Flemingsburg. These records are an insightful complement to the works produced by this delightful artist. Ewen remained in Louisville until her death on March 11, 1982. 

Volume 3, Number 4

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