Cadmus Saw Harmonia
14 1/4 x 10 3/4 in. (36.2 x 27.3 cm)
Medium and Support:
Gouache, pen and ink on illustration board
Purchased with funds from the Art Angels
"Cadmus beheld a female figure, wonderfully beautiful"
Frontispiece to "Tanglewood Tales" by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Philadelphia: Penn Publishing, 1921)
Label from American Originals: Works on Paper from the Permanent Collection, La Salle University Art Museum, December 16, 2015 through March 4, 2016:
From early on in life, Sterrett had a passion for art. While in high school she received a scholarship to attend the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her first commission from the Penn Publishing Company to illustrate Old French Fairy Tales (1920). She was 19 years old and had recently been diagnosed with tuberculosis. She was soon commissioned to make illustrations for another book, Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Unfortunately, while her art was on the rise, her health was on the decline; and her illness greatly affected the rate at which she could complete her drawings. She left commissions uncompleted at her death in 1931.
Sterrett’s illustrations for the Tanglewood Tales reveal the influence of European design styles such as Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Art Nouveau (also known as Jugendstil), which reached the height of its popularity from 1890 to 1910, was inspired by organic forms, such as plants and flowers, and emphasized harmony with nature. In contrast, the Art Deco style, which developed around 1915 and became influential in the 1920s and 1930s, employed a more geometric visual language celebrating industrial order and embracing modern technologies. In Cadmus Saw Harmonia, the vertical columns and the checkerboard-patterned floor emphasize the ordered nature of Cadmus’ palace, while the flowers on Harmonia’s cloak and on the curtain of the arched doorway highlight the beautiful appearance of this royal stranger described in Hawthorne’s story of “The Dragon’s Teeth.”