Do Savannnah

Telfair Academy features rediscovered works of Hattie Saussy

  • “Portrait — Girl in Red,” Hattie Saussy (1890-1978); 1935; oil on board; 24 x 20 in.; Morris Museum of Art, Augusta
  • “Peach Blossoms,” Hattie Saussy (1890-1978); 1938, oil on canvas; 18 x 24 in.; collection of Susan and Philip Snyder
  • ”Untitled (Wormsloe),” Hattie Saussy (1890-1978); oil on canvas; 20 x 24 in.; Telfair Museums

Telfair Academy features rediscovered works of Hattie Saussy

27 Jun 2017

Painter Hattie Saussy might not be immediately familiar to most art lovers.

Telfair Museums’ exhibition opening this week, “Hattie Saussy: Rediscovery of an Artist,” hopes to help change that. And though she’s not as widely known in the art world, she certainly has her share of admirers, especially in Savannah, her hometown.

“When word got out that we were doing the show, I received probably over a dozen phone calls from people in the community who have work by Hattie Saussy, love her work and want to know if I wanted to borrow their work for the show,” explains Telfair’s chief curator of collections and exhibitions Courtney McNeil. “In this case, because it was organized by another institution, the show came to us complete. It’s going to fill the four galleries upstairs at the Academy, so I didn’t need anything more.”

The exhibition was organized by John Daniel Tilford, curator of collections at Oglethorpe University Museum of Art in Atlanta. McNeil says that when she found out the exhibition would be touring, she wanted to make sure it came to Saussy’s hometown.

“The subtitle of the show is ‘The Rediscovery of an Artist’ and for us it’s a rediscovery as well because Saussy was incredibly important not just as an artist in her own right, but also as a volunteer, an advocate and a teacher here in the arts community in Savannah,” says McNeil.

Saussy came of age at a pivotal time for the arts in Savannah. She was a St. Patrick’s Day baby, born March 17, 1890, just a few years after the Telfair first opened its doors. The arts in Savannah were experiencing a surge and Saussy played an integral role in many ways.

She served on the Telfair board of trustees from 1933-34. She helped found the Association of Georgia Artists and served as vice president and president of that group from 1932-34. She was also active with the Savannah Art Club and exhibited at the Telfair Academy from 1923-58. She also served as president of the Savannah Art Club in 1936.

“Her career and her life is like a microcosm of so many of the interesting things that were happening in the Savannah arts community in the 20th century,” says McNeil. “She really does tie up a lot of Savannah uniquely in a lot of different ways.”

Saussy showcased “quite a talent,” McNeil says.

“This show features work from a broad range of her career, pretty evenly divided between portraits and landscapes, with the occasional interior scene or still life. She was sort of synthesizing aspects of impressionism and realism and had a knack for composition and color. Her brushwork is really lovely. She had quite a talent.”

As for why Saussy — variously referred to as “Cousin Saussy” or “Aunt Saussy” by those who knew her — didn’t gain more prominence in the wider art world, McNeil offers one explanation.

“Although there were a lot of opportunities for women artists in the early 20th century, there were not as many as there were for men. Although she was an independent woman and painting was her primary occupation in life, she still did not have the same access to education and exhibition opportunities.”

McNeil adds that she doesn’t want to blame Saussy’s lack of recognition solely on the fact that she was a woman, because that would be too neat of a box to wrap it up in, but it likely was a factor. McNeil points out that when Saussy went to Europe in 1913-14 to paint, her trip was cut short because of the outbreak of WWI, so she never ended up exhibiting in the larger art shows like the Paris Salon.

Whatever the case, there’s now a chance to become familiar with a Savannah talent who hasn’t yet received her due. John Daniel Tilford will give the opening lecture, not at the Jepson as is usual, but in the Academy’s rotunda, which should also be something of a treat.


What: “Hattie Saussy: Rediscovery of an Artist”

When: June 30-Sept. 24; members-only opening reception/lecture at 6 p.m. June 29

Where: Telfair Academy, 121 Barnard St.

Cost: Varies


Artist membership promotion: Telfair Museums will be running a special #art912 artist membership promotion during the opening lecture and reception June 29. To purchase an artist membership at the special rate of $25 and attend the lecture, present an artist statement, business card or an exhibition card at the event.