Flagler student curates local art exhibit on famous painter
This October marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of St. Augustine’s most beloved “plein air” painters, Emmett Fritz.
To commemorate this centennial, Flagler student Bailey Poole has curated an exhibit titled “Emmett Fritz: A Centennial Collection,” which will be presented at the St. Augustine Art Association between Nov. 3 and Dec. 31.
The exhibit will not only offer a glimpse into Fritz’s life, but will also include new acquisitions by the artist from the art association’s Permanent Collection, as well as paintings on loan from local and regional art collectors.
Poole, a senior majoring in Public History, said she stumbled upon Fritz’s centennial anniversary while combing through gallery archives.
“His anniversary had nearly been overlooked,” she said. “Thereafter, this exhibit slowly began to develop and I took on full management of the project, including everything from the initial background research to contacting local private art collectors who had Emmett Fritz pieces.”
Fritz was an iconic figure in the local art community during the mid-20th century. He was likely St. Augustine’s most collected and prolific artist, having produced more than 10,000 paintings during his career.
“Fritz is an artist who spent every moment he could with a paintbrush, and so he created an astounding diversity of works,” Poole said. “But, in the end, he was most known for his landscape paintings. And, as the show holds this focus on Fritz's long-lasting legacy, it seemed fitting to showcase those pieces above the rest.”
Born in Missouri, on October 13, 1917, Fritz grew up in New York, studying at the Pratt Art Institute and briefly under the tutelage of Norman Rockwell. His successful career as a commercial artist was temporarily put on hold when he joined the service at the outbreak of World War II.
It was in 1950, after the war, that Fritz first arrived in St. Augustine and settled into a studio in the Riberia House on St. George Street. The artist was drawn to the European atmosphere of St. Augustine, which reminded him of his time spent in Italy during the war, according to Robert Torcia, author of “The Lost Colony: The Artists of St. Augustine, 1930-1950.”
“After so much time spent researching and speaking with those who had personal connections to Emmett Fritz, I can only wish that I had gotten the chance to know him before he passed in 1995,” Poole said. “His works are inspiring and impressionable to working artists today, but his deep love for St. Augustine is what truly strikes me the most.”
The commemorative exhibition is free and open to the public. The gallery hours of the St. Augustine Art Association, located at 22 Marine Street, are Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m., and on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 904-824-2310, or log on to www.staaa.org.