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Unplugged: Quietly powerful works by Hattie Saussy on view at Telfair

  • “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
 

Unplugged: Quietly powerful works by Hattie Saussy on view at Telfair

09 Aug 2017

As you walk into the second gallery of the Hattie Saussy exhibition at the Telfair Academy, you will find yourself staring into the eyes of a young woman in red.

Some of the facial features of Saussy’s “Portrait–Girl in Red” suggest the unnamed model was a teenager, but the mesmerizing eyes project a melancholy that we usually associate with someone older.

Like many of the works in the exhibition “Hattie Saussy: Rediscovery of an Artist,” the painting has a quiet power.

The longer you look at one of Saussy’s paintings, the harder it is to look away.

Saussy (1890-1978) was one of the most important Savannah painters of the 20th century. The current exhibition, which was organized by Atlanta’s Oglethorpe University Museum of Art and curated by John Daniel Tilford, presents 38 works spanning Saussy’s prolific career. Included are watercolors from her solo trip to Europe before World War I, a collection of striking portraits and a number of landscapes.

Saussy often used a muted palette, but some of her work contains small, intense clusters of color. Sometimes she employed sharp lines and developed the paintings tightly, but looser brushwork usually associated with Impressionism and other styles is evident in many of the pieces.

The landscapes are firmly grounded in Savannah and in the South.

The undated “Woodboo,” for example, depicts a sprawling marshscape with two towering trees, below which an African American woman, whose appearance and demeanor are evoked with just a few brush strokes, watches over two young white children racing around her.

A small painting of Forsyth Park that dates to the Depression era also seems to show a black woman watching over a pair of white girls.

The subtle landscapes of Wormsloe emphasize the horizontal growth of the branches of huge live oaks. “The Footbridge” captures a pastoral scene from a small, hilly north Georgia farm of the early 20th century.

“Hattie Saussy: Rediscovery of an Artist” continues until Sept. 24 at the Telfair Museums’ Telfair Academy. This rewarding collection is the first major exhibition of Saussy’s work in 30 years, so you don’t want to miss it.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email billdawers@comcast.net.

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