M. Elizabeth Price (1877-1965), The Wine Shop, Quimperle, Brittany, c.1920, Oil on canvas, H. 19.75 x W. 15.25 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Michener Art Endowment Challenge, Gift of Mrs. Mary Carter VanZanten.

“Art appreciation is a hobby of mine.” – New York Sun, March 6, 1930

About The Painting

Although best known for her lush floral still lifes, M. Elizabeth Price also created scenes of village and farm life like The Wine Shop, Quimperle, Brittany. During her artistic career, Price had taken a trip to France and Italy with Eleanor Abrams and Edith Lucille Howard, fellow members of The Philadelphia Ten. In 1921, Price and her studio mates Howard and Abrams shared a three-person exhibition, Little Paintings of Italy and France, at her brother’s Ferargil Art Gallery. This painting was featured in this group exhibition.

Quimperle, a small town in Northern France, is a small town close to Quimper. Quimper known for the faience pottery it has produced since the 17th century. It is also close to Pont-Aven, the village made famous by Paul Gauguin and fellow Symbolist painters in the late 19th century. Like Gauguin’s work, Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), Price has included Breton women wearing the distinctive regional costume, including wooden sabots and white bonnets in her composition. Price focused on a simple street scene along with delighting in the patterns and colors she found in the village architecture – walls of warm creamy ochre, roof tiles in blues and greens accented by orange-red and ramshackle shutters of pale green. The application of the paint is loose and broken in an impressionist style, unlike the floral compositions she is well-known for. Small indications of her canvas peek through the bright, colorful brushstrokes. The figures look out at the viewer as if to welcome you into their village.

Looking Questions

  • Describe what you see in this painting. Create a list of all the details you can find.
  • Is there a focal point in this artwork? If so, what draws your eye to this location?
  • What colors do you see? How would you describe Price’s use of color?
  • How would you describe the use of texture in this painting? What effect does it create?
  • As the viewer, where are you standing in this painting? If you viewed this scene from a different perspective, what would change or stay the same? Explain.
  • Pick one of the people in this scene. Describe what it would feel like to be this individual. What would they say to you? Explain your answer.
  • What is the mood of this work? What elements of the work create this mood?
  • If you could give this painting a different title, what would you call it? Explain.
  • If you could tell a story about this work, what would it be?

About The Artist

A dedicated and energetic artist and promoter of the arts, M. Elizabeth Price was well known as a painter, lecturer, and art teacher. Price painted a wide range of subjects including landscapes, townscapes, genre scenes, figure studies, street scenes and floral still lifes. She made her reputation painting decorative floral panels. Her most distinctive works were paintings executed on a background of gold and silver leaf, imitating the technique of primitive Italian Renaissance artists of Florence and Siena. These wooden panels were coated first with a mixture of gesso and red clay. Then, she applied gold or silver leaf on the surface, followed by the image in oil paint. She worked in an impressionist style, influenced in part by fellow members of the New Hope Art Colony, Daniel Garber and Rae Sloan Bredin.

Price was born in 1877 near the town of Martinsburg, West Virginia. Her parents were Quakers who moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania where her mother had been born. Price spent the rest of her childhood on the farm in Solebury Township, just north of New Hope.

Price came from a family of artists. Her brother, Frederic Newlin Price, owned the successful Ferargil Art Gallery on West 57th Street in New York. From 1914 to 1943, many of the leading American painters including the Pennsylvania Impressionists and members of The Philadelphia Ten sold their work through this gallery. Another brother, R. Moore Price, was an art dealer and an accomplished framemaker. He crafted beautiful frames for several painters in the New Hope Art Colony as well as standing screens for Price’s paintings. He was married to Elizabeth Freedley Price, who was also a painter of flowers. Alice Rachel Price, M. Elizabeth Price’s sister, married the painter, Rae Sloan Bredin, who was a member of the New Hope Group. A third brother, Carroll Price, remained on the family farm in Solebury with his wife, Edith.

Price attended The Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts) along with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in the early 1900s where she studied with Daniel Garber. Price also studied independently with painter William Langson Lathrop. In 1917, Price moved to New York City where she painted, exhibited and taught. She established several innovative teaching programs, including her “Baby Art School” sponsored by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney. The idea was so successful that the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asked her to stage an exhibition of the children’s work in the winter of 1919-1920, in conjunction with an art education campaign for teachers and supervisors in art.

In 1914, Price exhibited at the Corcoran Biennial in Washington, D.C. for the first of seven times. That same year also marked her first exhibition at PAFA, where she showed again in 1917, 1918, 1923, 1926, and from then on every year until 1943. She exhibited her work at the National Academy of Design, New York, a total of sixteen times between 1921 and 1943. She received the Carnegie Prize for best oil painting by an American artist in 1927.

In the late 1920s Price returned permanently to Bucks County, PA purchasing the cottage that she and her brother, F. Newlin Price, had been renting for a number of years. She named it Pumpkin Seed, and spent the rest of her life there. She stated, “When I first saw the original cottage it was painted such a vivid yellow that I instinctively thought of a pumpkin; and it was so small that I named it ‘Pumpkin Seed’ more in derision than anything else. But the quaintness of the name grew on us so that we’ve learned to love it.” The garden at Pumpkin Seed inspired her paintings. The lilies, delphiniums, hollyhocks, mallows, irises, peonies, gladioli, and poppies that she grew in her cottage garden became frequent subjects. Price died on February 19, 1965, at Mercer Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey at the age of 87.

Art Advocate and Educator

M. Elizabeth Price distinguished herself for cultivating women’s and children’s involvement in the arts and fostering art appreciation for the general public. Price lectured widely and organized several exhibitions across America. In attempt to boost women’s confidence in their appreciation of art, Price lectured to women’s groups, delighting them with canvases by her illustrious friends.

In an attempt to encourage creativity and an eye for beauty in children, Price founded the Neighborhood Art School in New York City in 1917. As an art educator, Price must have drawn upon the childhood experience that shaped not only her own, but also her siblings’ extraordinary devotion to the arts.

Dedicated to advancing the careers of female artists, Price chaired national associations of women artists. From 1920 to 1927, Price was chairman of exhibits for the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. In this capacity, she arranged exhibits of women artists across the United States, in South America, and in Hawaii. This was followed by the chairmanship of the Art Committee of the American Women’s Association where she arranged exhibits for its members. Price’s tireless efforts on behalf of the arts earned her a place of honor even in an artistic family as distinguished as her own.

The Philadelphia Ten

The group known as “Ten Philadelphia Painters”, “The Philadelphia Ten” and, later, simply “The Ten”, was an alliance of female painters formed for exhibition purposes. It was comprised primarily of students from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art & Design). Having been blocked from exhibiting at a number of public institutions, The Philadelphia Ten’s primary objective was to expose their work to the world. The group exhibited annually in Philadelphia and sent exhibitions to women’s clubs across Pennsylvania, as well as to museums and galleries on the East coast and the Midwest. Each member of the group was a financially independent artist.

Price’s first exhibition in 1921 with The Philadelphia Ten was the group’s second exhibit. She contributed 15 paintings which were the result of a trip taken the previous spring with Lucile Howard and Eleanor Abrams to Brittany, the Riviera and the Lake Region of Italy. Price remained an active and a prolific participant of The Philadelphia Ten through their final exhibition in 1945.

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