Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sarah Wyman Whitman

Sarah Wyman Whitman is a name mentioned in the Norton Anthology headnotes for Sarah Orne Jewett. I was curious to find out who she was. So of course, I asked our trusty instructor. Since he seems to know of all that is literary, I figured that he would surely know who she was. Unfortunately, it seems that even he was puzzled by the woman so briefly mentioned in passing. So of course, I took Dr. Lankford's well-given advice and quickly looked her up on Google once I got home. I was fascinated by what I found- and also by what I did not find. I was able to find (just from deduction, unfortunately) that not only was Sarah Wyman Whitman a close friend of both Annie Fields' and of Sarah Orne Jewett's, but she also was an artist of many different talents. Whitman's works were most commonly found on the covers of books that were made for many authors, some of which included Sarah Orne Jewett, Henry David Thoureau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Bret Harte, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and many others. This craft of hers came along during a time when bindings and bookcovers were becoming overwraught with ornate decoration, so much that it was becoming a bit much for many authors and publishers. It seemed to be a bit of a challenge to find a book cover artist who was able to express the author's intended beauty while preserving the mystery of what would appear on the interior pages.

While Whitman's talent was quite visible on the exteriors of some of the most famous literary works, she found other ways to express herself as well. Whitman's ability to capture beauty in many differnt types of media made her more accessible for the everyday person. Whether it be oil on canvas, pastel on board, or (amazingly so) stained-glass monuments, Whitman found many different ways to capture light and beauty and to share these with her fellow humankind. To read some of Sarah Wyman Whitman's correspondance with Sarah Orne Jewett (and many other personal letters), please visit The Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project. You will find many other interesting topics on Sarah Orne Jewett at the main page for the project, as well.


Scott said...

Wow, Whitman was really quite an amazing artist. I think her book covers are just beautiful!