Artist Spotlight: Edwin Harleston (American, 1882 – 1931)

Boone Hall Plantation, ca. 1925, by Edwin Harleston (American, 1882 – 1931). Oil on canvas. Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. Harleston Fleming (1997.009).

Boone Hall Plantation, ca. 1925, by Edwin Harleston (American, 1882 – 1931). Oil on canvas. Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. Harleston Fleming (1997.009).

This summer the spotlight is on Charleston’s early twentieth-century artist, Edwin Augustus Harleston (1882–1931). Six paintings by Harleston are now on view in Gallery H. The works represent both his acclaimed portraiture and his landscapes of the South Carolina Lowcountry. This spotlight exhibition was inspired by the recent loan of Edwin Harleston’s magnificent 1921 portrait of Reverend Ceasar Ledbetter, pastor of Chaleston’s Plymouth Congregational Church. Rarely exhibited, this painting has not been on public view since the 1980s and has been generously loaned to the Gibbes by the Ledbetter family. This striking portrait of Reverend Ledbetter is among Harleston’s finest work.

Gallery Installation View (left to right): The Nurse, 1917; Portrait of Reverend Caesar S. Ledbetter, 1921; and The Honey Man, ca. 1929, all by Edwin Harleston (American, 1882 – 1931).

Gallery Installation View (left to right): The Nurse, 1917; Portrait of Reverend Caesar S. Ledbetter, 1921; and The Honey Man, ca. 1929, all by Edwin Harleston (American, 1882 – 1931).

Harleston was a graduate of Avery Normal Institute in Charleston, Atlanta University, and received his art training at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Despite his artistic talent and prestigious training, as an African American, Harleston was banned from entering many of Charleston’s cultural sites and was shunned by the city’s white, art community. Nevertheless, his work received national attention and by the mid 1920s Harleston was offered exhibition opportunities and commissions from patrons in Atlanta, Boston, Washington D.C., and New York. The Gibbes currently owns six works by Harleston, including his renowned Portrait of Aaron Douglas, also on view.

Visit the Gibbes Museum of Art through August 29, 2010, to see this exhibition.

See the Gibbes Museum online database to view other works by Harleston in the museum’s collection.

One Response to “Artist Spotlight: Edwin Harleston (American, 1882 – 1931)”

  1. on 23 Sep 2010 at 2:47 pmAnne Williams

    I feel privileged to have viewed the work of this artist.

    Having read the life story of Edwin A.Harleston, I feel humbled by his struggle and perseverence during the hardest of times in America and by his continued fight against racism and who never lost sight of his dream to be a painter!

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