The March DIHS meeting was a tour of the Charleston Renaissance…the period between World War I and World War II when Charleston, and its arts community, finally began a comeback from the ravages of the Civil War and the decades of hurricanes, earthquakes and fires that followed it.
Our guide Tuesday night was Charleston native Mary Webb, currently a history teacher at Ashley Hall.
Webb focused on three prominent Charleston artists of the era….Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith and Anna Heyward Taylor as well as Yankee transplant Alfred Heber Hutty.
Webb stressed how the glowing picture (pun intended) of Charleston conveyed by these artists was one of the catalysts for the beginning of the tourist industry and served to help generate the preservation ethic that continues today. Webb didn’t pull any punches saying that much of the painting of the Renaissance era was idealistic and helped reinforce the idyllic and idealized version of life in the South.
Lese Corrigan of downtown’s Corrigan Gallery was scheduled to appear with Webb but bowed out because of illness. Webb urged the attendees to visit the Corrigan Gallery which has many original examples of Charleston Renaissance art.
She also put in a heavy plug to get downtown and see real life Charleston today with a particular recommendation to get a little bit off the commercial circuit and visit Legare Street.