AN ILLUMINATED WATERCOLOR ON PAPER, WITH GOLD HIGHLIGHTING.
(ca. 1920). Image: 150 x 225 mm. (5 7/8 x 8 7/8"); frame: 255 x 330 mm. (10 x 13").
Attractively matted and framed. A BEAUTIFUL FULL-PAGE ILLUMINATION DEPICTING THE FOUR SEASONS, personified and surrounding a central figure with halo and wings, decorative surroundings incorporating elemental motifs reminiscent of stained glass techniques, embellished with gilt, the whole enclosed by a decorative gilt border. Signed by the artist in the lower right corner. See: Cynthia Norman, "Biography of da Loria (Belle Elkin) Mitchell Norman," reproduced on askART. ◆IN PRISTINE CONDITION.
This is a memorable illuminated scene from a versatile artist of the Arts & Crafts movement, a woman lauded by her contemporaries, and with a style highly reminiscent of that of William Blake. Although Norman worked in numerous media, including oils, watercolor, needlework, and murals, she was best known for her exquisite illuminations. The present work is an outstanding example of her fine work in that medium, possibly executed with a book in mind, or perhaps created as a stand-alone painting. It illustrates the four seasons as nymph-like beings, swirling around a central angelic figure. The four elements are also represented in a beautiful array of patterns framing the central image; the whole seems to have been inspired by Medieval enamelwork. Like much of Norman's output, this image is decidedly poetic in appearance: precisely executed, everywhere in motion, and an abundant source of pleasure for the eye. Our artist's major commissions were illuminations of a similar type, including a copy of the Chiswick Press "Confessions of St. Augustine" for William H. Clark, as well as vellum copies of "Ecclesiastes" and "Song of Solomon" for the New York Public Library. Her work was also sought after by binders like Riviere & Son, for whom she decorated bindings and illuminated a copy of the "Rubaiyat" of Omar Khayyam. Norman's artistic proclivities are often compared to William Blake's; in addition to obvious stylistic similarities and love of expressive imagery, both found inspiration in the internal experience of their religion and even claimed to have had visions. Entirely self-taught, Norman was praised by several prominent contemporary figures in the art world for her precocious talent. Walter Crane called her "an artist of remarkable imaginative feeling . . . doing distinguished work in both painting and decorative design." Sir William Blake Richmond, responsible for the mosaic decoration in St. Paul's Cathedral, said, "So highly do I esteem her decorative designs that I put them side by side with the best work of that nature." Despite being one of the only successful female book illuminators in the early 20th century, sought after by top-tier private and institutional clients alike, Norman's work is surprisingly unknown today and well deserving of rediscovery. (STCJW1801)