Southern Agenda

True Original

“When you think of the Charleston Renaissance, you think of artists like Alice Ravenel Huger Smith or Anna Heyward Taylor,” says Chase Quinn, a curator at the city’s Gibbes Museum of Art, of the movement that flourished there between the World Wars. “Their works are floral, romantic visions of Charleston, inspired by French impressionism or Japanese woodblocks.” So when Quinn studied one of their contemporaries, Edward “Ned” I. R. Jennings, he immediately noticed the difference in Jennings’s bold and stylized figures. Quinn deduced that Jennings was pulling inspiration instead from the British illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, as well as British Aestheticism, a movement in the late 1800s that emerged in response to the Industrial Revolution. In Something Terrible May Happen (through March 10), the Gibbes displays some forty works by Beardsley and Jennings. In Costume Design for the Princess’ Slip, Jennings caricatured a robed woman with fiery hair, glancing coquettishly over her shoulder, which, Quinn says, “embodies the themes of the exhibit like eroticism, decadence, and humor.”