( 1871-1956 )

Margaret Moffet Law

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Margaret Law was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister who was a former chaplain in the Confederate Army. Her family was a prominent one in upstate South Carolina, and Law was well-educated before she began her career as an artist and teacher. After graduating from Converse College in Spartanburg in 1895, she continued her studies at the Art Students League and later at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Among her teachers were William Merritt Chase, Charles Hawthorne, Robert Henri, and Andre L'Hote.

Her first job after World War I was as an art teacher at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. While living in Maryland, Law’s style became more expressive and spontaneous. Most of her work began on-site with a palette knife. These studies were then refined in the studio into finished prints or paintings. Though clearly devoted to the themes of American Scene painting, Law incorporated modernism into her work through her repetition of forms, simplified composition, and vibrant color.

A painting done in 1917, The Draftee, shows a black family waving goodbye to a son on his way to World War I.  Interest in real-life situations is common among students of Ashcan School founder Robert Henri. This interest is reflected in the titles of Law’s works, most of which were created long before the American Scene idealization of the worker during the 1930s and 1940s. Among these works, all exhibited with the Independents from 1917 to 1931, are Feeding Chickens, Gossip, Hoeing Cotton, The Roadmakers, Belzora Churns, Picking Time, and September Cotton.

In 1936 Law returned to South Carolina where she taught school and was eventually named art supervisor for the Spartanburg School District. Together with her colleague Josephine Sibley Couper, Law was instrumental in establishing the Spartanburg Arts and Crafts Club, now the Spartanburg Arts Center. Remembered by friends and family as a person of "boundless enthusiasm," Law frequently did what were considered outrageous things for a lady of her upbringing. During her seventies, she learned to tap dance, and she drove across Mexico alone. It is said that she would paint on anything available, including the cardboard from shirt packages.

In addition to works in the Arts Center, the Historical Association and the Regional Museum in Spartanburg, Law is represented in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Philadelphia Print Club; the Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina; and The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Taken from: Worksong, The Greenville County Museum of Art, 1990.

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This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
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