The Influence of Mary Mowbray-Clarke: A Live Zoom Art Event with Justin Duerr

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The Influence of Mary Mowbray-Clarke
A Live Zoom Art Event with Justin Duerr
Thursday, May 28: 8:00-9:00pm 
$10
Mary Mowbray-Clarke (1874–1962) was a Rockland County woman whose influence on art and culture was vast and profound, though usually undertaken "behind the scenes," and therefore often neglected or omitted in official histories. 
The Influence of Mary Mowbray-Clarke
A Live Zoom Art Event with Justin Duerr
Thursday, May 28: 8:00-9:00pm 
$10
Mary Mowbray-Clarke (1874–1962) was a Rockland County woman whose influence on art and culture was vast and profound, though usually undertaken "behind the scenes," and therefore often neglected or omitted in official histories. Born Mary Horgan, she came from a large working-class Irish Catholic Nyack family, her father a landscape architect, gardener, and later grocery store owner. Her brother Stephen, born in 1854, was the inventor of the half-tone printing process, which enabled the printing of photographs in newspapers. 

Enrolling in classes at the Art Students League in 1890, when she was only 16, Mary was one of the few female alumnae of the League to have found work as a professional illustrator, drawing battleships for the Boston Herald during the Spanish-American War. She met Jamaican-born British sculptor John Mowbray-Clarke while teaching art at the Finch School on the Upper East Side in 1904. They married in 1907 and in 1908 purchased a farm in Rockland County which they named "The Brocken" in reference to a local folk-tale about Rosicrucian miners from the Harz mountain range in Germany, of which the Brocken is the highest peak, who had disturbed evil spirits which had been trapped within the High Tor Mountain.

The Brocken quickly became a nexus for creative visitors, with Mary and John creating a very informal "art colony" inspired by the philosophies of artist/socialist William Morris and the anarchist intellectual Peter Kropotkin, among others.

In 1913 the couple was centrally involved in the planning and execution of the 1913 "Armory Show" which introduced the United States to the advanced and "shocking" Modernist artwork from Europe and America.

In 1916, Mary and her author friend Madge Jenison began a bookshop in New York called the Sunwise Turn. The shop sold the most "advanced" literature as well as hosting authors' readings, art exhibits, and musical performances. It quickly became a hub for the creative, intellectual, and radical circles of the era. The first author's reading was Theodore Dreiser, and they were involved in the distribution of James Joyce's controversial experimental novel Ulysses, having initially considered publishing it themselves. A 21-year-old volunteer intern named Peggy Guggenheim was inspired to begin collecting art through Mary's mentorship, describing Mary as "a sort of goddess" in her memoir. The shop also launched the career of artist Charles Burchfield, with Mary hosting his first New York art show on the walls of Sunwise Turn and acting as his de facto manager through the mid-1920s. In 1920 Mary's husband disappeared, eventually returning to England with one of the young students from the Finch School, artist Joanna Mairs. Mary never heard from him again and was left to raise their son Bothwell aka "Bumper" on her own at the Brocken.

After the closure of the shop in 1927, Mary undertook several ambitious writing projects but could find no publishers willing to take a chance on her complex and meandering tomes. Beginning in December 1933 she became the only woman to head a major WPA landscaping project, overseeing a crew of bricklayers, masons, and laborers to create Dutch Gardens, which still stands in New City, located behind the County Courthouse.

Upon Mary's death in 1962, thousands of papers in her archive variously squirreled away in crawlspaces and crannies at the Brocken and the adjacent studio began to drift off to the four corners of the earth. Some were burned, some were salvaged and placed in academic archives, some were saved by family or neighbors, and some were left to decay. The research for my biography, which will likely need to be a multiple volume set, draws upon all of these sources. This lecture will give an overview of Mary Mowbray-Clarke's life-work and her social circles and will include dozens of unseen letters, photographs, artworks, and diary excerpts. I hope you'll tune in!
Zoom information will be sent to you by email upon registration. 
To ensure you can join on time, please use the zoom link to register at least a few minutes before the start time. 

About Justin Duerr
Self-taught artist, musician, and art-historical researcher. Mr. Duerr’s artwork has been featured in gallery and museum exhibits across the US, and he has toured as a musician throughout most of the continental US. His research work can be seen in the documentary film, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, which won the award for best director at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and has had a wide release in art-house theaters and on online streaming platforms. His first book, The Temple of Silence: Forgotten Works and Worlds of Herbert Crowley, was published by Beehive Books. Justin is currently researching and writing a biography/art book centered on the multi-faceted artist and counter-cultural maven Mary Mowbray-Clarke
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