Original works of art
| Marguerite Kirmse
|(American, 1885 -1954 )
Marguerite Kirmse was a versatile and dedicated artist, and although her reputation
is deservedly based on her many etchings, she also worked in pencil, pastel,
oil and executed a series of bronzes which have become increasingly rare.
Born in Bournemouth, England in 1885, Kirmse trained as a harpist and graduated
from The Royal Academy of Music. Offered a position as a harpist with an orchestra
in America, Kirmse emigrated to America. She had studied both music and art
in England, but it was in America that she developed her talent for the visual
arts, creating drawings, pastels and oil paintings. Her love of dogs and her
artistic talent were a winning combination and by the 1910’s she had established
herself as a canine artist of note.
Kirmse loved the visual arts, but her first love was music. Born in Bournemouth,
England in 1885, she trained as a harpist and graduated from The Royal Academy
of Music. Offered a position as a harpist with an orchestra in America, Kirmse
emigrated to America. She had studied both music and art in England, but it
was in America that she developed her talent for the visual arts, creating drawings,
pastels and oil paintings. Her love of dogs and her artistic talent were a winning
combination and by the 1910’s she had established herself as a canine
artist of note.
Marguerite Kirmse’s first etching Brushwood Boy, was executed in 1921.
It was done as an experiment for her own amusement. But it was to be one of
many, for she found that she had a talent for creating etchings. Typically first
sketching her subject in pencil, Kirmse reproduced her work by incising lines
on a copper plate, using a diamond-pointed pencil. After painstakingly working
up the image on the plate, it was then taken to a printmaker, who, under the
artist’s supervision, would “pull” from just a few to almost
one hundred images.
Kirmse experimented with etching after her initial attempt and she eventually
came to specialize in the medium. Beginning in the 1920’s, she typically
created two collections of prints each year, one in the spring and one in the
fall. Each collection contained five or six images. Her work became very popular
indeed and while the Harwood Galleries in New York was her primary dealer, her
etchings were received by an eager audience around the world.
What had started out as an experiment had now developed into an successful vocation,
for there was a strong demand for her work. Nor did she lack appropriate subject
matter. The Scottish Terrier was her favorite breed and she often depicted their
comical antics . As quoted in “The American Magazine” of 1929, Kirmse
herself noted, “Sometimes, I’ll be working in the garden and one
of my puppies will assume an amusing position. Or I may wake up in the middle
of the night with an idea that seems to have possibilities for an etching. I
always keep a pen and a pencil by my bedside for just such moments.” “My
Scotties,” was just such an etching. It charmingly depicts nine of her
Scottish terriers coming down the driveway of her Connecticut home. As it is
winter, and the dogs have been plying in the snow, the dogs’ black muzzles
are covered in white. This is typical of her work, for she did not include a
lot of detail in her etchings, but used the white ground of the paper to her
advantage, in this case representing her snow-covered front yard.
Kirmse’s love of the Scottish Terrier was solidified when she met and
later married George W. Cole in 1924. Cole was an avid Scottish Terrier fancier
and for a time the president of The Scottish Terrier Club of America. While
Kirmse eventually maintained an artist’s studio in New York City, the
married couple also had a farm near Bridgewater, Connecticut. It was here at
Arcady Farm that she bred dogs for the show ring, under the kennel name of Tobermory.
The Tobermory Kennels could house between fifty and sixty dogs and among the
breeds she had were Airedales, Irish Terriers, English Setters, English Pointers,
a variety of Spaniels, and of course Scotties. While Kirmse is certainly best
known for her Scotties, her etchings of Setters and Pointers are among her most
accomplished. She and George Cole maintained a second home in the Carolinas
where they would travel for small game hunting. Kirmse and her husband were
also very active in field trials, both in the South and the North. Not only
did she run her dogs, but she also shot over them, winning many trophies at
It is uncertain what prompted Kirmse to start working in three dimensions, but
in the late 1920’s, she had produced a series of dog bronzes: a Dachshund,
English Pointer, Sealyham, Setter and of course a Scottish Terrier. Of the smaller
Scotties, three versions were made: the seated, the crouching and the more rare
of the three, the standing show pose. There were evidently thirty produced of
each model. Finely modeled, they only rarely come on the market and are considered
among the most desirable of her works.
While working on her etchings, she continued to draw in pencil and pastel and
even competed the aforementioned series of highly collectible bronzes. She also
illustrated many books including Collected Dogs Stories by Rudyard Kipling,
as well as several books by Dorothy L’Hommideau and the more well known,
Albert Payson Terhune. Among the most collectible of the books, however is her
Dogs, published by The Derrydale Press in 1930 in a limited edition of 750.
It contains an original etching of a Scottie , entitled, Hello There!. Dogs
in the Field, limited to 685 copies, was also produced by The Derrydale Press
and the boxed book includes an original, signed etching and a small portfolio
of reproductions. All three books are in the collection of the American Kennel
Club Library. Wedgewood also produced in number of decorative plates which reproduced
her etchings. What ever the medium, Kirmse has left an extraordinary trove of
canine works of art.