Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Late Great and Unknown Virginia B. Evans

We ventured to Northern Virginia yesterday to attend a glass show, the first one I have been to in five years.  When we lived near Pittsburgh there were many glass shows in the region and this is the very best source for treasured "elegant glass."  This show did not disappoint and we came home with many pieces to add to our collection.  I was hoping to find Imperial Hunt Scene but not a single piece was to be seen.  But we did discover was a very unique piece made by the Ohio-based Imperial Glass.  When I came home I wanted to date the glass. I thought the piece was made in the 1930's but soon discovered the piece was part of a collection designed by Virginia B. Evans for Imperial starting in 1942.  

Virginia B. Evans was quite an accomplished woman by anyone's standards but given that she was born in Moundsville, West Virginia in 1894 makes her story even more remarkable.  Before she moved to glass she was a very good painter.  Here is a brief bio.

She was a very good impressionist artist somehow managed to garner an education that would be the envy of most artists today.  

Here is her self-portrait painted between 1920 and 1925.  She appears to be quite stylish.  If you have been to Wheeling, WV then you see that today it is a tired "rust belt" town but underneath you can also see how beautiful the city was once and likely when Evans grew up there it was a bustling city with some level of sophistication.  Some of the old buildings there are quite nice.

She graduated from the Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy in Wheeling, WV and then attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology School of Fine Arts and then the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.  In 1924, she received a fellowship to the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, which included a brief residency at Tiffany's Mansion, Laurelton Hall on Oyster Bay (Long Island), where Evans worked with leading painters such as Childe Hassam, Charles Webster Hawthorne and Gari Melchers.   From 1926 to 1931, Evans made four trips to Europe, including studying at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in France during the summer of 1926.  This was a time in which women typically married and had children and women rarely traveled alone.  One source reported that she traveled alone on a merchant ship with 30 sailors on one of her voyages because she wanted to study the sea.

In 1957, Evans moved to Orlando before relocating to Naples, Florida two years later. In Naples, she became a leading member and teacher at the Naples Art Association. but she returned to West Virginia in 1974 to spend the rest of her life with her family. She died in 1983 in Moundsville, West Virginia.

It is not clear how or why Evans' career shifted in 1942 when the Imperial Glass Corporation of hired her to design glass products for a new line. Her Asian inspired designs included dragon and butterfly motifs, used on a line of more than thirty Imperial Cathay Crystal items ranging from candle holders to ashtrays. One piece of Evans' Cathay Crystal glasswork was displayed at the Met during its April 1950 special display Twentieth Century Glass, American and European.

Evans also designed for Viking Glass, Fostoria, Imperial and Warwick, and other Ohio Valley glass companies.  Here is an advertisement for some of the pieces she designed for Imperial:


Here is another advertisement.  The piece that we found is on the right side, the two candle holders and the bowl, which is a matching set.  Ours is frosted glass and is in a deep cranberry color - a deep pinkish color.  It is quite lovely. 

Here is the set in a clear frosted color.  It is even more beautiful in the cranberry color.  There are some pieces of  Virginia B. Evans' Imperial Glass on Etsy and Ebay.


Some of her pieces are signed.  My find is not.

Here is color of the set I found but mine is frosted:

And I love this piece, currently on Ebay:

There is very little out there on Ms. Evans' sadly.  This book was written by a WVU professor and I will order it.

Collecting glass for the past 20 years has sent me down so many trails. I love the history of  it - the period, the glamour of the glass, the beauty and the lives it touched.  This part just never gets old for me.  There is another glass show next month in Pennsylvania that I will try to attend and a big one in March. Things to look forward and so much more to uncover and learn.....I would love to find one of Virginia B. Evans' paintings too.

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