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 Esther Topp Edmonds  (1893 - 1954)

About: Esther Topp Edmonds


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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/District Of Columbia/South Carolina/C      Known for: industrial genre, mural

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following biographical information was brought to the attention of by Steff Antaki, who alerted us to the artist's web site developed by Eric John Schruers:

Esther Topp Edmonds, distinguished painter and art teacher of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was born November 17, 1893 in Pittsburgh and spent her childhood there. She attended Cornell University and the College of Fine Arts at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. After her graduation with honors in 1918, she was granted a two-year fellowship in the College of Fine Arts, and in 1921 she joined the teaching staff of that College in the Department of Painting and Design.

She also studied in New York, Provincetown, and Paris, and traveled to and painted in Norway, native land of her mother and father, a distinguished Pittsburgh architect. She married James G. Edmonds ca. 1930-32, becoming Mrs. Esther Topp Edmonds.

She was a member of the Pittsburgh Watercolor Society and the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. Her work had been shown in almost every exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh from her first in 1921 through 1946, and was presented with Jury Awards in 1923, 1924, 1926, 1929, 1930, and 1945. She was selected for the Carnegie Institute's first "Exhibition of Paintings by Pittsburgh Artists," an exhibit of what were considered to be the eighteen best artists of the 1932 exhibition of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh.

Three of her paintings are in the One Hundred Friends of Pittsburgh Art collection, and a mural by her at the Mary Biesecker Public Library in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Esther Topp Edmonds was invited to show at the Carnegie Internationals of 1933 and 1940-46. Her work was included in the 2nd and 7th Carnegie Institute exhibitions of selected artists from the 1935 and 1940 Associated Artists exhibition, and in the 1944 exhibition "Painting in the United States."

By 1945, Esther Topp Edmonds had been promoted to Associate Professor at the Carnegie Institute. In that year she was chosen as the artist for the Carnegie Institute's annual one-man show. Beginning in 1934, the Carnegie Institute inaugurated an annual series of one-man exhibitions featuring Pittsburgh artists. Each year the Institute selected a painter who was considered an outstanding figure among his or her peers, and presented them in a one-man exhibition. As the Institute's 1945 selection, Edmonds had thirty-six canvases displayed. Arranged chronologically from her earliest works of 1921 up through her just-completed paintings of 1940s, the show presented the range of subject matter the artist covered, including landscapes, portraits, figures, and still-lifes.

Edmonds was still exhibiting in the early 1950s. In 1951 her work was included in the Carnegie Institute's show of work by its faculty.

An example of her painting is "Coal Picking Tables," comprised mainly in tones of grays and black, with only a hint of color in the clothing of the faceless workmen. It depicts the monotonous task of hand-separating coal and slate. Set in the interior of a coal breaker, one sees the men at work, almost frozen in time, while conveyor belts continuously move material past them. To either side of the workers are the great chutes that carry away the slate and refuse from the coal that was extracted from the mine below. A strong composition, the artist unfortunately appears to have had a little trouble with the placement of a light fixture in the foreground. Following it down from the top of the canvas, the light it is bent towards the right in an effort to not have the shade placed in the same location as the workman's head. Nonetheless, the artist has succeeded in capturing the activity and hard labor of work in the coal industry.


"Exhibition of Paintings by Pittsburgh Artists," Carnegie Magazine, vol. 6, May 1932, pp. 42.

O'Connor, John Jr., "Presenting Pittsburgh Artists," Carnegie Magazine, vol. 9, June 1935, pp. 67-71. Park in Capri reproduced in Carnegie Magazine, vol. 11, June 1937, p. 85.

O'Connor, John, Jr. "Presenting Esther Topp Edmonds," Carnegie Magazine, vol. 19, April 1945, pp. 19-20.

Falk, Peter Hastings (edit.). Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1985.

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