E.I.R. Jennings - better known as Ned - was born to Edward Herbert Jennings and Annie Turpin Jennings in Washington, D.C., in 1898. The family moved to Charleston shortly thereafter where his father served as deputy collector at the Customs House, Postmaster and promoter of Folly Beach. Ned attended what is now Porter-Gaud here in Charleston, going on to study at Columbia University in New York and and the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He was one of the younger artists associated with the Charleston Renaissance and was mentored by John Bennett and Laura Bragg (then director of the Charleston Museum). Ned was very active - as can be said of any of the Renaissance artists - in all the creative facets of Charleston life. He designed sets for the theater and created dioramas for the Charleston Museum as well as belonging to the Poetry Society. He was one of the few to explore the modernistic (or fanciful, if you will) approach to art to which these pieces allude. Sadly, he committed suicide in 1929, leaving us only a small legacy of his talent.
These pieces were purchased by the Museum in April of 1923, likely by the director at that time, Laura Bragg. They appear to be from a set of costume designs, by Jennings, for the Marine Ballet. All three are gouache, 18”X13” on cardstock.
While we do not have a photo of Ned in our archives, there is a nice image of him here. The Gibbes Museum of Art has several of his pieces in their collection. Also, Ned is the inspiration for the character Ned Grimke in Harlan Greene’s 1984 work of fiction, “Why We Never Danced the Charleston”.
EPHEMERA FRIDAY: Each Friday we post a selection or small collection from our Archives. Some items may be on exhibit, some may be too fragile to display and some may be too unusual to fit into our typical Lowcountry exhibit themes. We will occasionally ask for help identifying people or places in photographs that have come to us with little or no information. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on EPHEMERA FRIDAY.