Mary Elizabeth Price
(i) Flower Border I
Signed M. Elizabeth Price (ll); signed on the reverse M. Elizabeth Price and inscribed Screen Panels (Uncut) / 140 West 57th St. / Flower Border I / FLOWER
Oil with gold leaf on board
50 x 19 1/2 inches
(ii) Flower Border II
Signed M. Elizabeth Price (lc); signed on the reverse M. Elizabeth Price and inscribed 140 W. 57 N.Y, / Flower Border II / BORDER
Oil with gold, silver and copper leaf on board
50 x 19 1/2 inches
Provenance for both:
Arthur G. Altschul, New York
Betty Wright Landreth, New York
New York, The American Women's Association, Inc., Exhibition of Work of Members, n.d.
The daughter of a Quaker family with roots in the Shenandoah Valley, Mary Elizabeth Price is best known for her highly decorative paintings of floral panels, often with metal leaf backgrounds. Born in West Virginia, at a young age she moved with her family to a home in Solebury, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she eventually developed close ties with the vibrant artists' community there, and where she returned in the late 1920s. After attending the Friends Central School and the Philadelphia School of the Industrial Arts, Price studied still life painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where her works were exhibited for more than twenty years. She studied with Hugh Breckenridge and Daniel Garber, and took private lessons from William Langson Lathrop.
In 1917, Price was hired to teach art to public school children in New York City, in a program funded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. By 1921 she was exhibiting at the National Academy of Design. Earlier works appear diverse in subject, bearing titles such as City Lights, The Old Storehouse, and Spanish Galleon. By 1928, floral themes dominate: Mille Fleurs, Echinops and Phlox, Mallows, Delphinium Pattern.
For a number of years, Price lived at 140 West 57th Street, a building constructed in the early 20th century to provide studios and residences for artists. However, by the late 1920s, she returned to Bucks County, living in an old stone cottage that she named the Pumpkin Seed. Her flower garden of irises, mallows, peonies, poppies, lilies, delphiniums and hollyhocks appears in the paintings for which she is best known: elaborate floral panels such as the present works, executed over backgrounds of as many as sixteen tones of metal leaf. Inspired by Tuscan Renaissance artists, she employed a sharp tool to incise her designs in gilded gesso, subsequently adding an array of perennials in brilliant hues. A New York Times critic wrote, "Her work combines a Sienese delicacy of line with a modern freedom in the use of color."
Flower Border II, an exquisite composition that epitomizes Price's best work, appears to have been conceived and shown as a diptych. It was exhibited in a member's show at the American Women's Association's new clubhouse at 353 West 57th Street, completed in 1929. The organization, of which Price was an officer, had been founded to enable professional women to network their way to success in the business world. In 1931 she, along with fellow painter Lucille Howard, painted a series of murals inspired by stitchery -- traditionally considered "women's work" -- for the new headquarters.
Mary Elizabeth Price was part of a family with close ties to the art world in both Pennsylvania and New York. Her brother F. Newlin Price owned Ferargil Gallery, which sold the work of many Pennsylvania Impressionists in New York. Another brother, Reuben Moore Price, was an artist, framemaker and art dealer in Pennsylvania, and a sister, Alice, also an artist, married another New Hope painter, Rae Sloan Bredin.
C Property from the Estate of Betty Wright Landreth
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