|The artwork collection at the South Caroliniana Library was expanded recently by the generous donation from Mr. Fred C. Holder of ten pieces by Margaret Moffett Law (1871-1956). Law was born in Spartanburg, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister. She graduated from Converse College in 1895 and continued her studies at Cooper Art School, the Art Students' League, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She studied under William Merritt Chase, Charles Hawthorne, Robert Henri, Andre L'Hote, and others. The influence of Robert Henri and the Ashcan School is evident in the theme of her works and their titles.|
Three Men With Picks
Etching on paper, signed.
| Law's Road Pickers and Camp Meeting and depiction of women working in a field reflect her devotion to the American scene, especially African Americans. While teaching art at Bryn Mawr College in Baltimore after World War I, Law began to incorporate modernism into her works by using repetition of forms, simple composition, and vibrant color. Law worked on-site with a palette knife, then refined the study in her studio. She also created works using watercolors, linoleum blocks, lithographs, and etchings.|
Leaving Maryland in 1936, Law returned to Spartanburg where she taught art and became art supervisor for the Spartanburg School District. She also taught adults in the Spartan Mills Community. Law's philosophy of teaching was not to espouse theory or force a "school" of painting. Rather, she taught taste and technique by allowing the student to have fun and use the imagination while she gently guided them to an appreciation of art. Her success was evident in several shows of her students' work, including the Brooklyn Museum's children's exhibit in the spring of 1936. Perhaps Law's highest compliment came from her former teacher, Robert Henri, when he wrote:
I congratulate you on the life and humor of your children's drawings. It is a big thing you are doing for them, and you must have a great deal of pleasure in the doing of it … The freeing of children will eventually revolutionize the world. You are much more of a revolutionist than the man with a gun.|
|The subjects of the untitled works include an orchestra, women in the field, men swinging picks, woman and baby, and a cabin. The collection shows her eye for the ordinary, her expression of movement, and her ability to see beauty and humor where few do. Law is represented also in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Print Club, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the South Carolina State Museum, the Spartanburg Arts Center and the Historical Association, and the Regional Museum in Spartanburg.|
Note: Information compiled from the following sources: Worksong (Greenville County Museum of Art, 1990), "My Aunt Margaret, the painter," by William Law Watkins in Carologue, Autumn 1997, and Newsview, 1 August 1936.