Winter Wonderlands

Snowscapes by Kerr Eby, 1889-1946

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Day’s End, Driftway. 1939. Etching and aquatint by Kerr Eby
The Connecticut Historical Society, 1987.71.3
A Connecticut Valley. 1935. Etching by Kerr Eby
The Connecticut Historical Society, 1999.21.1
Cider Mill. 1940. Etching by Kerr Eby
The Connecticut Historical Society, 1991.23.1
The Cow Shed. 1946. Etching by Kerr Eby
The Connecticut Historical Society, 1991.23.2

The Canadian-born printmaker Kerr Eby is best known for his depictions of combat during World War I and World War II.  He is one of a very few artists who served during both conflicts.  Less well-known but equally impressive are Eby’s stark and lovely landscapes of Connecticut in the winter.

Eby first got to know Connecticut when he spent several summers at the artist’s colony at Cos Cob immediately before the First World War.  There he became friends with the American Impressionist artist Childe Hassam, who was almost thirty years older than Eby.  Eby and Hassam had a close working relationship, with the younger artist providing the older artist with technical advice on etching and the use of his etching press.

Following the War, Eby married Frances Sheldon, whom he had met in Cos Cob, and the couple eventually settled in a pre-Revolutionary War saltbox house in Westport, Connecticut.  Eby immediately began producing etchings depicting the New England countryside, especially snow scenes. They include classic New England subjects, such as the covered bridge that is the central feature of A Connecticut Valley and Cider MillDay’s End, Driftway is an evocative view of the artist’s home at twilight on a winter’s evening.  The Cow Shed, one of Eby’s last works, is a celebration of rural labor worthy of Millet or Corot.

Eby became ill while covering the Second World War in the Pacific and returned home to Connecticut to die.  His friends always remembered his great love of nature.  One of them recalled him “standing outside in the twilight… looking out at the twinkling lights in the valley, at the bulk of his old house and the maple branches etched black against the sky. ‘God,’ he’d always say, ‘Isn’t it swell?’”