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Art and Letters

The journal "Art and Letters" played a significant role in the development of the late-nineteenth-century New Orleans arts community.

Art and Letters

Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

"Art and Letters - vol 1 no 5". Unidentified

Though short-lived, the bimonthly journal Art and Letters played a significant role in the development of the late-nineteenth-century New Orleans arts community. Initially affiliated with the Artists’ Association of New Orleans, the journal featured fiction, poetry, travel articles, book reviews, and essays, as well as art. The first issue appeared in February 1887 and the last in December of that year. Though the endeavor ceased production after six issues, the quality of the essays and artwork was promising.

The principal figures involved in the production were the editor Mary Ashley Townsend, and the artists: Swedish marine painter Bror Anders Wikström, Massachusetts-born artist-teacher Ellsworth Woodward, and Spanish-Italian artist Andres Molinary. Wikström executed the cover design and published artwork in all six issues.

Wikström, Woodward, and Molinary were affiliated with the Artists’ Association of New Orleans, which published the first issue. By the second issue, published in April, the principals had formed the Art and Letters Association. Eventually the group settled into offices at 138 Gravier Street, in what is now the Central Business District of New Orleans. There are no known records indicating the circulation of this periodical, but it was supported with advertisements for the Artists’ Association, Tulane University, William E. Seebold’s art dealership, and Gideon Townsend Stanton’s stock brokerage. All of these advertisers had direct relationships with the principals. For reasons unknown, the last two issues contained no advertisements.

Other artists whose work was published in Art and Letters included Amy Bemiss, George Henry Clements, Robert Stark Day, and Frank Waller. The last issue contained a photograph of a Louisiana landscape by William Henry Buck. Tulane University president William Preston Johnston, and professors John Morse Ordway, John Ficklen, and William Woodward, contributed essays to the journal, while Townsend, James Ryder Randall, Molly Moore Davis, Grace King, and Jennie A. Dickson published poetry and/or fiction in its pages.

Following the journal’s demise, there were several efforts to produce similar periodicals. Men and Matters, published from about 1894 until 1909, was perhaps the most successful. It, too, drew on contributions from Artists’ Association members. The establishment of journals such as Art and Letters and Men and Matters suggests the increasing professionalization of the arts community in late-nineteenth-century New Orleans.