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Richmond Remembers Artists & Architects

VCU James Branch Cabell Library

Meet a few of the brilliant artists whose work has helped make Richmond so beautiful.

Richmond's gorgeous architecture is just one of the many artistic disciplines where the city's native talent has flourished over the years. In this photo gallery, we meet a few of the brilliant sculptors, painters, photographers, architects, and other artists whose work has helped to make Richmond truly one of the most beautiful places in America.

In the early 20th century, one could find the illustrations of Richmond-born artist THELMA CUDLIPP (1892 - 1983) gracing the cover of Vanity Fair. But on at least one occasion, she found her own image inside the magazine, when she was included as part of a feature on Vanity Fair's young, female artists: "Thelma Cudlipp, Whose drawings are always a miracle of good humor. The other evening at the party, Miss Cudlipp was herself a miracle of good humor. She has recently had to move to New York... so great has been the demand for her amusing little posters, humorous sketches, and covers." (Read more)

JAMES PRESLEY BALL (1825 - 1904) was a prominent African-American photographer and abolitionist. Born in Frederick County, Virginia, Ball learned daguerreotype photography in Boston from a photographer who, like himself, was a free man of color. He then lived and worked across the U.S., from Richmond to Cincinnati to Helena (Montana) to Seattle and, finally, Honolulu. Ball's subjects included children, immigrants, and famous people of the day, among them P.T. Barnum, Charles Dickens, Frederick Douglass, the family of Ulysses S. Grant, Jenny Lind, and Queen Victoria. Pictured left to right: J.P. Ball and Frederick Douglass (photograph by J.P. Ball). (Read more)

MARCELLUS E. WRIGHT SR. (1881 - 1962) was a prominent local architect who was one of the eleven founding members of the Richmond Association of Architects. A pioneer of the Moorish Revival architectural style, Wright is best known for the Altria Theater (aka the Mosque, formerly the Landmark Theater, pictured), a collaboration with fellow Richmond architect Charles M. Robinson; the terminal building of the Richmond International Airport; the Wright Pavilion at the Blue Ridge Sanatorium; and several hotels including the William Byrd Hotel, the Chamberlin, and the Hotel John Marshall. (Read more)

THERESA POLLAK (1899 - 2002) was a nationally-known painter who helped to found VCU's School of the Arts. After graduating from John Marshall High School, Pollak attended Westhampton College at the University of Richmond, earning a B.S. in chemistry. She studied at the Richmond Art Club under Adele Clark and Nora Houston, before heading up to New York for further art study. Back in Richmond, the Art Department at the School of Social Work and Public Health (later the Richmond Professional Institute, now VCUarts) opened under Pollak's leadership. Pollak taught aspiring artists at the school for more than 40 years. (Read more)

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EDWARD VIRGINIUS VALENTINE (1838 - 1930) was a Richmond native and sculptor whose works are displayed in Virginia and throughout the South. He briefly headed the Valentine Richmond History Center, founded by his brother Mann S. Valentine II in 1898. The Valentine was Richmond's first museum and remains an important cultural institution today. (Read more)

ADELE GOODMAN CLARK (1882 - 1983) was an artist and one of the most prominent leaders of the women's suffrage movement in Richmond, co-founding the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia (later the Virginia League of Women Voters). Clark and her partner, artist Nora Houston, were also leaders in the Richmond arts community, opening Atelier (a studio that became a hub for Richmond artists such as Theresa Pollak) and creating the Virginia League of Fine Arts and Handicrafts (which later merged with Atelier to become the Richmond Academy of Arts). Later Clark served as the Virginia state director of the WPA's Federal Art Project and was instrumental in the foundation of the Virginia Art Commission. She also is considered to be one of the founders of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. (Read more)

CARL RUEHRMUND (1855 - 1927) was the architect who designed the historic Henrico County Courthouse, the former Hotel Stumpf on 8th and Main, and other notable turn-of-the-century Richmond buildings. (Read more)

ETHEL BAILEY FURMAN (1893 - 1976) was the earliest known African-American female architect in Virginia. Born in Richmond, she first learned about architecture and building from her father Madison J. Bailey, one of the first African-American building contractors licensed in the city. She studied architecture in New York before returning to Richmond, where she began designing houses for locals while raising her children and working additional jobs to supplement the family income. During her career, Furman designed over 200 churches and residences in Virginia, including the Fourth Baptist Church Educational Wing in the historic Church Hill district of Richmond. In recognition of her contributions to the field of architecture, Ethel Bailey Furman Park was dedicated in 1985. (Read more)

JOELLYN DUESBERRY (1944 - 2016) was a landscape artist who "trekked across land in America, Europe and Africa, hauling her human-sized canvases to help capture what her eyes saw," according to the Denver Post. But first she was a Virginian. Born in Richmond, Duesberry developed a love for the land growing up in rural Virginia: "All my life I think I've unconsciously tried to re-create the place where bliss or terror first came to me. Both emotions seemed so strong that I had to locate them outside of myself, in the land. This goes back to a childhood habit – of living in rural Virginia and seeking woods and creeks and lakes for solitary refuge; places where I could sketch and paint." (Read more)

CHARLES M. ROBINSON (1867 - 1932) hailed from Hamilton, Virginia, and spent his early architecture career in Pittsburgh and Altoona, Pennsylvania. But his most important work came after he relocated to Richmond in 1906. Robinson served as the supervising architect of the Richmond public schools for nearly two decades and collaborated with Richmond architect Marcellus E. Wright Sr. on the famous Altria Theater (formerly the Landmark Theater, aka the Mosque). He contributed significantly to the architectural makeup of not one but six Virginia institutions of higher learning: James Madison (pictured above), Virginia State, William & Mary, Mary Washington, Radford, and, of course, the University of Richmond. (Read more)

NELL BLAINE (1922 - 1996) was a highly regarded landscape painter, expressionist, and watercolorist. Born in Richmond, Blaine studied at the Richmond School of Art (now VCU) with Richmond artist Theresa Pollak. Blaine had a difficult childhood – her mother died in childbirth, her father could be abusive, she had vision problems, was malnourished, and was frequently bullied. Adult life would not be easy either, after she contracted polio in 1959 and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. But she found beauty in nature and solace in art. Of her childhood in Richmond, she once recalled, “We lived in a small, plain house that my father built himself... In the yard my mother, my father, and I each had a garden... but the glory of our yard was my father’s dahlias. They bloomed in wonderful, brilliant colors, and the blossoms were as large as dinner plates. I remember the care with which he sorted the bulbs and stored them in the basement over the winter.” (Read more

FREDERICK WILLIAM SIEVERS (1872 - 1966) was the sculptor who created the Virginia Monument at the Gettysburg National Battlefield. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sievers opened a workshop in Richmond after he was commissioned to create the Gettysburg memorial. Sievers stuck around RVA and produced many more monuments commemorating the Civil War and Confederate leaders, as well as statues of Patrick Henry, Sam Houston, and Presidents James Madison and Zachary Taylor. (Read more

ELEANOR LAYFIELD DAVIS (1911 - 1985) was born in Richmond and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. At 47, the mother-of-four began painting - first, mostly flowers and floral designs (she was already an accomplished flower arranger) and later portraits, landscapes, and seascapes in watercolors and oils. Her soft, impressionistic style, celebrated the beauty and expressiveness of everyday events and people, according to Carolina Arts News. Davis devoted herself to helping build the arts community in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she was a founder and president of Associated Artists of Winston-Salem. (Read more

Born in Richmond, MARIETTA MINNIGERODE ANDREWS (1869 - 1931) studied art at the Corcoran School in Washington, D.C., under artist Eliphalet Frazer Andrews (whom she would marry in 1895). In 1896 she became a founding member of the Washington Water Color Club. In addition to painting, she designed stained glass, published poetry, and created silhouettes. Her work can be found at the University of Virginia, the George Washington University, and the American Society for Psychical Research, among other places. (Read more)

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