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Original works of art

Marguerite Kirmse
(American, 1885 -1954 )

Marguerite Kirmse was a versatile and dedicated artist, and although her reputation is deservedly based on her many etchings, she also worked in pencil, pastel, oil and executed a series of bronzes which have become increasingly rare.

Born in Bournemouth, England in 1885, Kirmse trained as a harpist and graduated from The Royal Academy of Music. Offered a position as a harpist with an orchestra in America, Kirmse emigrated to America. She had studied both music and art in England, but it was in America that she developed her talent for the visual arts, creating drawings, pastels and oil paintings. Her love of dogs and her artistic talent were a winning combination and by the 1910’s she had established herself as a canine artist of note.

Kirmse loved the visual arts, but her first love was music. Born in Bournemouth, England in 1885, she trained as a harpist and graduated from The Royal Academy of Music. Offered a position as a harpist with an orchestra in America, Kirmse emigrated to America. She had studied both music and art in England, but it was in America that she developed her talent for the visual arts, creating drawings, pastels and oil paintings. Her love of dogs and her artistic talent were a winning combination and by the 1910’s she had established herself as a canine artist of note.

Marguerite Kirmse’s first etching Brushwood Boy, was executed in 1921. It was done as an experiment for her own amusement. But it was to be one of many, for she found that she had a talent for creating etchings. Typically first sketching her subject in pencil, Kirmse reproduced her work by incising lines on a copper plate, using a diamond-pointed pencil. After painstakingly working up the image on the plate, it was then taken to a printmaker, who, under the artist’s supervision, would “pull” from just a few to almost one hundred images.

Kirmse experimented with etching after her initial attempt and she eventually came to specialize in the medium. Beginning in the 1920’s, she typically created two collections of prints each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Each collection contained five or six images. Her work became very popular indeed and while the Harwood Galleries in New York was her primary dealer, her etchings were received by an eager audience around the world.

What had started out as an experiment had now developed into an successful vocation, for there was a strong demand for her work. Nor did she lack appropriate subject matter. The Scottish Terrier was her favorite breed and she often depicted their comical antics . As quoted in “The American Magazine” of 1929, Kirmse herself noted, “Sometimes, I’ll be working in the garden and one of my puppies will assume an amusing position. Or I may wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that seems to have possibilities for an etching. I always keep a pen and a pencil by my bedside for just such moments.” “My Scotties,” was just such an etching. It charmingly depicts nine of her Scottish terriers coming down the driveway of her Connecticut home. As it is winter, and the dogs have been plying in the snow, the dogs’ black muzzles are covered in white. This is typical of her work, for she did not include a lot of detail in her etchings, but used the white ground of the paper to her advantage, in this case representing her snow-covered front yard.

Kirmse’s love of the Scottish Terrier was solidified when she met and later married George W. Cole in 1924. Cole was an avid Scottish Terrier fancier and for a time the president of The Scottish Terrier Club of America. While Kirmse eventually maintained an artist’s studio in New York City, the married couple also had a farm near Bridgewater, Connecticut. It was here at Arcady Farm that she bred dogs for the show ring, under the kennel name of Tobermory.

The Tobermory Kennels could house between fifty and sixty dogs and among the breeds she had were Airedales, Irish Terriers, English Setters, English Pointers, a variety of Spaniels, and of course Scotties. While Kirmse is certainly best known for her Scotties, her etchings of Setters and Pointers are among her most accomplished. She and George Cole maintained a second home in the Carolinas where they would travel for small game hunting. Kirmse and her husband were also very active in field trials, both in the South and the North. Not only did she run her dogs, but she also shot over them, winning many trophies at field trials.

It is uncertain what prompted Kirmse to start working in three dimensions, but in the late 1920’s, she had produced a series of dog bronzes: a Dachshund, English Pointer, Sealyham, Setter and of course a Scottish Terrier. Of the smaller Scotties, three versions were made: the seated, the crouching and the more rare of the three, the standing show pose. There were evidently thirty produced of each model. Finely modeled, they only rarely come on the market and are considered among the most desirable of her works.

While working on her etchings, she continued to draw in pencil and pastel and even competed the aforementioned series of highly collectible bronzes. She also illustrated many books including Collected Dogs Stories by Rudyard Kipling, as well as several books by Dorothy L’Hommideau and the more well known, Albert Payson Terhune. Among the most collectible of the books, however is her Dogs, published by The Derrydale Press in 1930 in a limited edition of 750. It contains an original etching of a Scottie , entitled, Hello There!. Dogs in the Field, limited to 685 copies, was also produced by The Derrydale Press and the boxed book includes an original, signed etching and a small portfolio of reproductions. All three books are in the collection of the American Kennel Club Library. Wedgewood also produced in number of decorative plates which reproduced her etchings. What ever the medium, Kirmse has left an extraordinary trove of canine works of art.

 

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