On December 2nd, 1918; Ellsworth Woodward, well renowned artist and director of the Newcomb School of Art, wrote an article in The Times-Picayune about the public need to invest in the arts. The op-ed discusses the impact of art on industrial and economic development; an idea which still is discussed today. Woodward, a proprietor of the Arts and Crafts movement, was concerned with the effects of industrial manufacturing on aesthetics. In this news article, Woodward emphasizes the importance of design in the production process, which at the time was overlooked as a result of an emerging focus on mass production.
Ellsworth Woodward was originally from Seekonk, Massachusetts, but he moved to New Orleans with his brother and ended up spending most of his adult life in the south. In spite of his New England upbringing, he would become one of the most influential artists in southern art throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One unique aspect of Woodward’s art career was that it developed when southern art was in a state of decline following the devastation of the civil war. Woodward recognized this in a letter to the Association of American Colleges where he wrote, “Of course the South has no art. How should it have any when for fifty years life was a struggle for bread and shelter?”. Given the circumstances, Ellsworth Woodward would come to believe in the necessity of local art in society, and his paintings would subsequently reflect such beliefs.
From 1887 to 1931, Woodward served on the staff at the Newcomb School of Art, where he is best known for starting the Newcomb Pottery movement and by extension, the Arts and Crafts Movement. He frequently used his position in the college to advocate for the arts and influence the New Orleans community. An example of this is when Woodward founded the New Orleans Art Association, which after twelve years would chair the committee at what is now the New Orleans Museum of Art. Overall, Ellsworth Woodward’s impact on the art world and New Orleans is something that one can see in the present day.