Elizabeth O’Neill Verner (1883-1979)
We are especially interested in buying artwork by Elizabeth O’Neill Verner.
A native of Charleston, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner was an artist, teacher, and preservationist who became one of South Carolina’s best known practitioners of the early twentieth century. Pastels and printmaking were her preferred media, and her images of residences, churches, and street scenes were widely recognized for their skill and authenticity, and for capturing the romantic sensibility of Charleston.
She began her art training under the guidance of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith and then continued at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, beginning in 1901 for two years with noted instructor Thomas Anshutz. Following her time at the academy, she taught art in Aiken, South Carolina, before returning to Charleston. In 1907, she met and married E. Pettigrew Verner and raised their two children. She resumed her studies with Smith and turned her attention to depictions of her hometown, which she infused with the charm and local color that distinguishes Charleston. In land- and cityscapes, Verner often focused on the architecture and environment while deemphasizing any human presence. She eventually expanded her range to become an able portraitist and figurative painter.
During this period, Verner pursued art in her spare time, but only as an avocation. In 1923, she began etching and soon opened a studio where she produced prints of the city that earned recognition. The unexpected death of Verner’s husband in 1925, however, necessitated her finding a steady means of support, which she did by seeking out commissions. One such assignment was dedicated to the historic preservation of Savannah, a cause for which she became an ardent advocate throughout the South. Several other municipalities and institutions hired her to document the beauty of their buildings and grounds, including: the Mount Vernon Ladies Association; Rockefeller Center; Historic Williamsburg; the City of Fayetteville; Harvard Medical School; the United States Military Academy; Princeton University; and the University of South Carolina.
Verner continued to edify herself: in 1930, she studied etching at the Central School of Art in London and, in 1937, visited Japan where she learned sumi painting (brush painting with black ink). After seeing a 1934 exhibition in Boston of the floral pastels of Laura Coombs Hills, she began to pursue that medium, eventually devising a particular technique of working in pastel on raw silk that is mounted on a wooden support. Later travels took Verner back to Europe and to the Caribbean and Mexico, and she faithfully recorded scenes from these trips. Her other accomplishments include her role as a book illustrator, as well as her leadership as a founding member of both the Charleston Etchers Club and the Southern States Art League.
Considered a matriarch of the Charleston Renaissance, which flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, Verner—along with Alice Smith, Anna Heyward Taylor, and Alfred Hutty—were the nucleus of a veritable art colony in Charleston. Her works are represented in the collections of national institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as leading museums across the South.