Edmund Marion Ashe was born in New York City in 1867. His main claim to exhibition fame, is that he was one of the exhibitors at the history-making Armory Show* in New York City in 1913. He studied at the Art Students League* with John Warde Stinson. A painter, illustrator and teacher, Ashe created work that varied from serious and expressive realistic paintings of factories and the world of manufacturing and labor, to posters for World War I bond drives ("Lend the way they fight, buy bonds to your utmost"), and watercolors of the famous fashion ideal of 1900, the Gibson Girl.
Ashe created a number of paintings of industry and the workmen who make it function: the making of steel with fiery open hearth furnaces, glass blowing and oil well drilling. Work
, oil, 48 x 48, is a depiction of a tired, but lean and muscular laborer wearily following other workers heading to their jobs against the backdrop of a world become inhospitably industrialized.
His The Cast
, 83 x 72, shows the flow of white hot liquid steel channeled into a form, and is a nearly hallucinatory image of flame, shadow, blinding light, billowing smoke and the mysterious, looming dome of the furnace. This painting is one of three murals, along with Changing the Bit
(oil drilling) and Changing the Shift
(coal mining) that were commissioned in 1938 for the rotunda and central corridor of the Steidle Building, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park.
The three images represented the industries of Pennsylvania: steel, coal, and petroleum. A photograph of Changing the Bit
, and an article about the installation of the murals appeared in the October 15, 1939 issue of The New York Times. Harper's Magazine, Collier's, St Nicholas Magazine,
and Scribner's Magazine
published Ashe's drawings.
He also illustrated books: In Camp with a Tin Soldier,
by John Kendrick Bangs, in 1892; and Richard Harding Davis works, Her First Appearance
, 1901, Ransom's Folly
, 1902, and The Bar Sinister,
Early in the century, Ashe combined teaching at the Art Students League* in New York with his role as artist-correspondent in Washington, D.C. at the White House. It is reported that he often scooped his rivals because of his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt during the first ten years or so of the century. In 1920, Ashe moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he taught at the Carnegie Institute of Technology until his retirement in 1939, becoming Head of the Department of Painting and Design.
Edmund Ashe was one of the founders of the Silvermine Artists* Guild, in Norwalk, Connecticut, as well as a member of the Society of Illustrators, and New York Watercolor Club.
Ashe exhibited in New York in the early 1920s. In 1929, the Ferargil Galleries there exhibited his paintings of Cumberland Mountain people, about which a reviewer commented, "Possibly no finer record of the mountaineers has appeared than Mr. Ashe has created." In 1931, Ashe exhibited at the Carnegie Institute with other faculty there. In 1932, 1935 and 1939 he was chosen by the Carnegie Institute for their exhibitions of Pittsburgh artists. Ashe was also a regular exhibitor with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh.
After his retirement from the Carnegie Institute in 1939, Ashe went to Charleston, South Carolina before returning to his home in Westport, Connecticut, where he died in 1941.
Posthumous exhibitions in which Edmund Ashe's work appeared include, in 1986, "American Illustration 1890-1925: Romance, Adventure & Suspense," Glebow Museum, Calgary, Canada; and, in 1998, "When Coal Was King: Paintings from the Steidle Collection," Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
A bibliography of writings about Edmund M. Ashe include:
Ashe, Edmund M., "Pittsburgh's Best," with portrait of Ashe, Carnegie Magazine, vol. 10, February 1937, 273-280.
"Exhibition in the New York Galleries," Art News, vol. 28, October 12, 1929, p. 12.
"Exhibition of Paintings by the Tech Fine Arts Faculty," with Crab Houses at Christfield illustrated, Carnegie Magazine 5:4, April 1931.
Falk, Peter Hastings (edit.). Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1985.
"Heppenstall Donates Painting to Art Gallery," Mineral Industries, vol. 8, no. 1, October 1938, p. 3.
Larson, Judy. American Illustration 1890-1925: Romance, Adventure & Suspense. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Glenbow Museum, 1986.
"New Mural at Pennsylvania State," The New York Times, Sunday, October 15, 1939.
O'Connor, John Jr., "Presenting Pittsburgh Artists," with Sunday, Day of Rest illustrated, Carnegie Magazine, vol. 9, June 1935, pp. 67-71.
"Paintings by Pittsburgh Artists," with Anne illustrated, Carnegie Magazine, vol. 13, June 1939, pp. 79-80.
Reed, Walt and Roger. The Illustrator in America 1880-1980: A Century of Illustration. New York: Madison Square Press, Inc., 1984.
Saint-Gaudens, Homer, "Exhibition of Paintings by Pittsburgh Artists," Carnegie Magazine, vol. 6, May 1932, pp. 38-42.
* For more
in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary
A native of Staten Island, New York, Edmund Ashe studied at the
Metropolitan Art School and at the Art Students League with Charles
Vanderhoof and John Stimson. Described as a "darn fine pen and ink man
who later took up painting" (Tarrant, p. 11), he began his career as an
illustrator, producing drawings for various magazines, including Colliers, Harper's, Scribner's, and St. Nicholas. Ashe also painted "Gibson Girl" watercolors and provided illustrations for such books as In Camp with a Tin Soldier by John Kendrick Bangs (1892); and Richard Harding Davis's works, Her First Appearance (1901), Ransom's Folly (1902), and The Bar Sinister (1903).
1896 until 1909, during the administrations of William McKinley and
Theodore Roosevelt, Ashe served as the White House artist-correspondent
for Leslie's Weekly, the New York Tribune, and the New York World.
During this period, he also taught at the Art Students League and at
William Merritt Chase's New York Art School, where he met and
befriended Robert Henri. In 1905, Ashe moved to Westport,
Connecticut and, together with George Hand Wright, was a founder of the
art colony that developed there. He was also instrumental in the
establishment of the Silvermine Guild in Norwalk. Active in several
arts organizations, including the New York Watercolor Club and Society
of Independent Artists, Ashe was one of the first members of the
Society of Illustrators, having joined in the first month of the club's
founding in 1901.
Ashe taught illustration at the Carnegie
Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh from 1920 until 1939, eventually
becoming Head of the Department of Painting and Design. During
off hours, he applied himself to genre scenes of the local steel
industry, creating a number of expressive, nearly hallucinatory images
of the workmen and their powerful machinery. Credited with
capturing the "extraordinary picturesqueness of the Pittsburgh
community" (quoted in Schruers, p. 2), he was a regular exhibitor with
the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. Ashe's work was also highlighted
in faculty shows. Shortly before his retirement, he painted
murals representing the main industries of Pittsburgh—steel, coal, and
petroleum—for the rotunda of the Steidle Building at Pennsylvania State
University in University Park. His work is also represented in the
Steidle Collection, established by Edward Steidle in 1929.
earliest oils, such as Capital, were rendered in an impressionist
style. During the first decade of the twentieth century, however,
he adopted a more progressive realist approach. Thereafter, his
paintings assumed a darker tonal range and broader brushstrokes,
reminiscent of the work of Robert Henri and the Ashcan school.
his 1939 retirement to Charleston, Ashe continued to spend the summer
months in Westport, traveling with George Wright and others to various
locations, including the Maryland shore, where he made sketches for
Boat in from Baltimore. He also continued to exhibit in New York.
In 1929, a selection of his paintings of the people of the Cumberland
Mountains was shown with great success at the Ferargil Galleries, his
principal dealer there. A reviewer wrote: "Possibly no finer
record of the mountaineers has appeared than Mr. Ashe has created. . .
. They are drawn as a skilled photographer might catch them and placed
in settings chosen by an eye trained to harmonious color and
well-proportioned design" (quoted in Schruers, p. 2). While all of
these pictures were well received, Useless, a sober portrait of a young
Cumberland boy, seems to have been one of the artist's favorites, for
he showed it in Pittsburgh two years later, in an exhibition
highlighting the work of the faculty of the College of Fine Arts, the
first time the staff had been invited to exhibit as a group. In that
exhibition, the canvas was titled Useless: A Mountain Boy (Exhibition
of Works, p. 1).
Nancy Rivard Shaw
of Works By the Faculty of the College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute
of Technology, February 8 to February 26. No year given; probably 1931.
Schruers, Eric John. www.ems.psu.edu/museum/Steidle/artists/Ashe.html
Tarrant, Dorothy. A Community of Artists: Westport-Weston, 1900-1985. Connecticut: Westport-Weston Arts Council, 1985.