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 Cora Augusta Emme  (1887 - 1978)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey/Iowa      Known for: Still life, landscape and city scene painting

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Cora Augusta Emme
An example of work by Cora Augusta Emme
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This following biography was researched, compiled, and written by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director, Southold Historical Society, Southold, NY.

CORA AUGUSTA EMME (January 29, 1887 – June 1978)

Painter.  Born in in Newark, New Jersey  to Lillie M. Williams (1866-a. 1940) and Henry F. Emme (1862-1941).  Her mother was a professional photographer who worked in the Sunnyvale area of California.  Her father was an engineer and former manager of Gould & Eberhardt machine tool manufacturers in Newark; in California he managed the Goldy Machine Company; and in Iowa he served as the manager of the White Lily Manufacturing Company.

Cora Emme was raised in Newark and moved with her parents to California in 1903 when her father took a job at the Goldy Machine Company of Sunnyvale.  The family moved to 11 Miller Street, San Jose, in 1904 and were living there at the time of the April 1906 earthquake that rocked California.  Henry Emme wrote of the experience in a letter to his parents:  “It was 5:15 in the morning, and the day was beautiful and clear.  I lay calmly on my couch as it slid around the room, making calculations as to the time it would take before the house fell.  I look[ed] over to Lillie’s bed, and saw that she had covered her head, so no falling plaster could strike her …  …‘Look after Cora!’ Lillie called to me, so I rushed to her room; and there she and Mr. Goldy stood, bracing themselves in a doorway, and smiling.”  The family was forced to travel by horse and cart to a cottage they owned in Sunnyvale until order was restored.

Emme was apparently interested in art from an early age.  In her youth she would send letters back to her grandparents in New Jersey from California in envelopes decorated with hand drawn and hand colored cartoons and illustrations.  She also wrote short stories.  Cora Emme left for the east, presumably to study and attend college, in 1909.  In 1910 her parents moved to Davenport, Iowa where her father took a new job working for the White Lily Manufacturing Company (which was known for its washing machines) and the Animatograph Company.  The Victor Animatograph Corporation was an early manufacturer of film projection equipment founded in Davenport the year of Henry Emme’s arrival.  The Emme’s first lived at 164 S. Pine Street, but soon undertook the construction of a lavish new residence located in McClellan Heights.  Cora Emme followed her parents to Davenport around 1912.

During her time in Davenport, Emme began to study and exhibit with the Tri-City Art League of Davenport, Iowa.  Located at 2221 1/3 Main Street, the league was organized in 1915 as the “Art League Students,” and held their annual exhibitions in three different cities (Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline) each year.  Most exhibitions were held in public libraries in those cities.  The league’s headquarters housed their studios and offices, as well as those of the “Tri City, Architectural, and Camera Clubs.”  The league was an official chapter of the American Federation of Arts and was known for bringing notable American artists to Davenport to teach courses.  It was the pre-cursor to the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery which later became the Figge Art Museum.

The family remained together in Davenport until 1923, when Emme’s parents moved to Lakewood, New Jersey.  Cora Emme remained in Davenport until about 1930, when she too, returned to New Jersey.  Following her father’s death in 1941, she and her mother converted Henry Emme’s “Seven Stars Garage,” located at the corner of River Avenue and Locust Street, into “The Blue Churn at Seven Stars” antiques shop, which specialized in general antiques and pressed glass.

Cora Emme painted primarily in oil and depicted colorful, floral still-lifes, as well as some landscapes and city scenes.  As can be seen by her early drawings and cartoon work, she also appears to have excelled in the area of illustration, though it is unclear if she ever submitted works for inclusion in printed works.  During her time in Davenport, she acquired her supplies, in part, from Charles Naekel’s Sons Paint House, located in the 400 block of the city.  Like so many female artists of the period, art did not pay the bills, and so for much of her life Cora Emme worked as a secretary and stenographer.

Cora Augusta Emme died in New Jersey in June of 1978 at the age of ninety-one.  Her burial place is currently unknown, but it is likely in the Clinton Cemetery in Irvington, New Jersey, where her parents are known to be buried.

The number and variety of exhibitions in which Cora Emme participated in is not known at present (2012).  It is also unknown at this time if any of her works are in any public collections, though a number reside in private hands.

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