Monday, 22 November 2010

Elisabeth Sawyer Norton

Elisabeth Sawyer Norton
American painter, printmaker and sculptor.

Returning one last time to the subject of the Aquarium world to share some very nice prints that are not very often shown.

Not many Western woodcut and linocut printers have taken the Aquarium world as a subject for their art. Luigi Rist (1888-1959) is an exception.

Aquarium with moonfish by Luigi Rist

Elisabeth Norton was also inspired by the aquarium or maybe just the goldfish in her fish tank. She made 3 !

On the other hand it is known that as a girl she was a frequent visitor of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo.

crowd at the penguins and polar bears at Lincoln Park Zoo Chicago 1900-1910

Later she became most famous and loved for her many dog and horse prints.

But she also printed the big cats, apes, parrots and elephants.

Leopard and elephants in Lincoln Park Zoo ,Chicago 1900-1910 that could have been the models for Elisabeths' later prints.

Most of her zoo animal prints signed and dated between 1920 and 1935 ans most probably she made them after sketches from her childhood visits to the Zoo in Chicago.

Domestic cats, chicken and ducks equally inspired her making prints. As did her surroundings in California where she lived until her death almost 100 years old !

Elisabeth Norton was born in Chicago 1887 and attended the AIC (Arts Institute of Chicago) in 1910 moved to New York and studied in the NAD (National Academy for Design) and entered the ASL (Arts Students League) to study further under impressionist painter and director Frank Vincent Dumond (1865-1951) and later in the 1896 founded Chase School, 2 years later, in 1896, renamed New York School of Art. Georgia O'Keefe and Norman Rockwell being two famous Dumond pupils.

In 1915 she travelled to San Francisco to attend the Panama Pacific International Exhibition and later returned to California in 1919 settling in Palo Alto. I have been searching for an inventory of the 1915 exhibition to see what she exhibited with but sofar without success.

Crowds at the PPIE, San Francisco, 1915

She was a founding member of the Palo Alto Art Club and exhibited during her lifetime. Her works are included in most major collections in America and therefore her prints are not easily accessible or obtainable to mortal and collectors on a budget.

In the pictures of her printings I've found editions were mostly a 100. Priced, when auctioned or offered in galleries throughout the world, around the $500 for a small b&w and to a $1000 and upwards for a colored one.

There is no book nor a catalogue on Elisabeth's career as a gifted printer with a love for animals and her nearby environment. The purpose of this Posting is to do Elisabeth Norton honor.

What began as a simple posting on 3 goldfish prints ended up in showing many of her prints together for the first time. I think. Because I have never found them together but collected them over a period of time and in many different places.

I am also convinced this posting isn't complete. I have borrowed pictures freely from art galleries, museum and auction catalogues. Accessible to everyone. If there are any objections using them in this context please let me know.

These two etching are also proof of her special talent and the love for what probably have been her companions during her long life.

If you have others examples of prints by Elisabeth Norton and would like to share them please send me a notice allowing me to do a follow up in a second posting on her print work if more examples show up.

You are invited to leave a comment if you enjoyed reading this posting as I did making it.


  1. She was quite a wag. The last two are my favourites. The rabbits are very clever. I mean it isn't easy to organise them at different angles like that. It's convincing. The cat is also funny, looking at the birds in the border, with the cream and dish below.

    You have quite enough here to give a good overall impression. I agree with this approach, as you know.

  2. Thanks Charles, it was fun creating this overview on her work. If I could afford one I would choose one of the goldfish prints or the rabbits quartet. A set of big cats wouldn't be a punsihment on my wall either. Sharp observation of the cats interest in the birds, I hadn't noticed earlier. Delicate hidden humor.

  3. I just purchased “Peter and Bruce,” drypoint of two spaniels, at The Old Print Shop in New York City. It is a gorgeous piece, one I just had to own the minute I saw it. __ S. Harte, Atlanta, GA.

  4. Lucky you ! That is a lovely print, and can understand your impulsive and instant decision. She is a very respected artist, as goes for the Old Print Shop were you bought it. Not many prints come on the market. Very nice on the wall and a clever investment in this wonderful artist. Thank you for visiting my humble weblog and taking the time and effort commenting. Very much appriciated.

  5. Thanks for putting this assemblage of Elizabeth Norton's works together. I have admired her artistry for many years, ever since I was fortunate enough to purchase one of her big cat pieces,"The Lioness". But I have never been able to find the number of different pieces in one place as you have done. Such a treat to be able to see the variety of her work. Many thanks again.

  6. Thank you, it has been my pleasure looking for and finding all these great examples by this artist and creating this posting. I think she's great too and deserves all the attention. She's among the great Modern Printmakers.