Yesterday, I attended the monthly meeting of the Hibriten Garden Club. The topic was a study of the genus Helleborus.
The meeting was held at the home of Mary. Mary's gardens are just beginning to explode with hundreds of Helleborus blooms. Mary's lives in a woodland setting and over the years her helleborus have cross pollinated and self seeded in mass all the way down to her neighbors driveway.
Helleborus orientalis cross pollinate easily, in the right conditions, and the blooms colors range from dark purple to apricot to pink to white.
When we finished the chocolate torte with fresh raspberries and cream, and discusssed all the attributes of the best woodland perennial ever....we were then given a tour of Mary's beautiful art collection.
For me it was an eye opening moment into the heart of an art collector. Mary has a fondness for the artwork of a group of women artists known as the Philadelphia Ten. A unique and progressive group of women painters and sculptors who broke the rules of society and the art world by working and exhibiting together. The Philadelphia Ten exhibited together between 1917 and 1945, at first annually in Philadelphia and later, with traveling exhibitions at major museums and galleries on the east coast and in the Midwest. All members had studied art in the schools of Philadelphia and all but three of the original ten were graduates of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). Relatively unknown today, this group of a total of 23 painters and 7 sculptors was critically acclaimed, aggressively shown, and widely patronized during the twenty-eight years they formally exhibited together.
For Mary, the significance and range of these artists was great, because at the beginning of their era, they did not have the right to vote, and the artwork of women artists more often than not, was not counted as significant in the art world, because they were women. At this time in our history, women were expected to raise babies and stay out of sight.
Forming a group of artists to exhibit their work, some of the women were students of the influential PSDW teacher Elliott Daingerfield, who painted mystical, visionary landscapes, as well as poetic genre scenes and academic figural compositions. Beyond the studios of PSDW, Daingerfield conducted summer classes in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Thus another link to Mary's heart with this group of artists.
So, not only did I enjoy a great group of southern women gardeners, I so enjoyed the art, the history of the artwork, and insight into why people collect the work of certain artists.
Cora Smalley Brooks, Nasturtiums, c. 1920, oil on canvas, Collection of Michael Chutko