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 Edward Norton Griffith  (1858 - 1948)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey/Florida      Known for: trompe l'oeil still life painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Edward Norton Griffith   (1858-1948)

Edward Norton Griffith, a noted yet almost unknown trompe l'oeil* life artist, was born February, 1858, in New Jersey, the son of Edward and Marietta K. Griffith. His father was a Methodist minister.  By the time of the 1880 census, Rev. Griffith was semi-retired and the family was living in the village of Hilton, Essex, New Jersey.  Edward was listed as working on a farm. 

Absolutely nothing is known of his artistic education; yet he is listed and pictured as a member of the Irvington (New Jersey) Art and Camera Club, founded in 1892.  Further census information states that by 1895 Griffith is living in Irvington, New Jersey, where he was to reside for the next 34 years.  In 1900 his occupation was listed as artist, but in 1910 his occupation was shown as a  carpenter-builder and in 1920 as a house painter. 

The city directories for Irvington (Orange), New Jersey, list him as an artist from 1900 to 1905, and as a carpenter from 1910 to 1926 when he retired to Florida permanently.  He married Anna (age 50) in 1912 but by the time of the 1930 census he is widowed and living in Avon Park, Florida.  He died there in 1948.   

The artist was known to have exhibited for a number of years at the Society of Independent Artists* in New York, beginning with their initial show in 1917.  These exhibits were open to anyone wanting to exhibit their work and were without juries or prizes.  Griffith showed trompe l'oeil still-life paintings almost exclusively and most were noted as sold.  He exhibited there from 1917 to 1923 and from 1926 to 1929.

Dr. William A. Gerdts, in his comments pertaining to a trompe l'oeil still-life painting then in the collection of the Schwarz Gallery, stated that “Griffith took on the total iconography of (Michael) Harnett, but approached it in a manner not only painterly but really romantic, with an emphasis upon irregular outlines, and dynamic compositional lines seemingly incompatible with the school.”

Source:
Census Records;  Marlor, Clark S.  The Society of Independent Artists, Exhibition Record 1917 to 1944

* For references for these terms and others, see AskART Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx
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Following is the obituary of the artist from the Avon Park Sun, Friday, December 24, 1948.

Edward Norton Griffith (1858-1948)

Pioneer Resident Died Monday PM

Edward Norton Griffith, 90, one of Avon Park's oldest residents died Monday, December 20, 1948

Mr. Griffith was born February 26, 1858 in Belvedere, New Jersey.  He was married December 20, 1912 and he and his wife came to Avon Park October 1, 1920.  He bought property beyond King's Hill and built a nice home there.  His cousin, Mrs. Claire Vanderwende Wells, came to live with her aunt, Miss Esther Neely, who was housekeeper for Mr. Griffith after his wife died in 1923.
 
The deceased was a retired building contractor and ice dealer. He was also an artist, specializing in still life paints, and until a few years ago he had an art class here. He painted as a hobby that he loved.  He was a member of the Society of Independent Artists in New York and exhibited there and sold several pictures. His wife's failing health caused him to leave this career, and come to Florida. 

His fine painting of the gates of Old Fort Marion, St. Augustine, was given to the Public Library, and he donated others to the Woman's Club, Chamber of Commerce and friends. 

Mr. Griffith was loved by his friends and respected by all who knew him.  He will long be remembered as “a fine old Gentleman.”

All of the above information was submitted by Edward P. Bentley, Art Researcher, Greenville, Michigan


Biography from Schwarz Gallery:
There has been considerable confusion in the trade concerning a group of about ten trompe l’oeil still life subjects that date from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries that showed the strong influence of Harnett.

The fragmentary signatures (usually E. N. Griffith) led people to believe that they were by a woman named Ella N. Griffith or a man named Edward N. Griffith.  Recently such a work surfaced in a prominent New York City that bore the full signature Edward Norton Griffith. Further investigation determined that he was a native of New Jersey who lived in the vicinity of Philadelphia and died in Florida. Case solved!
 
 
R. W. Torchia, Ph.D.
Schwarz Gallery

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