Louis Orr Biography

Louis Orr





Louis Orr was born in Hartford, Connecticut on May 19, 1876. Orr’s father, uncle and grandfather were all engravers and printers and, despite their efforts to discourage him from the difficult life of an artist, Orr was inspired to study at the Hartford Art School where he studied with Walter Griffin.  His family moved to New Jersey but after the unexpected death of his father in 1892 he briefly worked as a printer in New York before returning to Hartford.

In 1911, with a $350.00 scholarship, he went to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian in Paris with Jean-Paul Laurens. He returned to New York 22 months later to study at the Art Students League, but soon returned to Paris for further study.

It was in Paris in 1913 that Orr met and married his wife, Gabrielle Chaumette, a fellow student of Laurens (1838-1921). During the First World War, he joined the French Army as an official artist and it was in this capacity that he produced – at much risk to life and limb – the etchings of Reims Cathedral that launched his career and brought him widespread international recognition. In 1919, Orr was made a Chevalier (knight) of the French Legion of Honor, and in 1930 became an Officier. The artist proceeded to build a strong reputation as a print maker, specializing in architectural subjects such as the beautiful bridges and cathedrals of Paris.

Also while in Paris, Orr met North Carolinian lawyer/legislator Robert Lee Humber, founder of the Movement for World Federation and together they envisioned a large series of etchings of North Carolina landmarks.

In 1940, Orr returned from Paris and settled in North Carolina where, over the next twelve years, he would complete this monumental series of 50 plates of historical sites, landscapes, houses and plantations around the state. The etchings were release in portfolios of five each year and were collected by institutions and private collectors alike. Orr chose mostly frontal and eye-level views of his North Carolina series, and he also preferred to work closely from his drawings rather than directly on the plates.

The artist returned to Hartford Connecticut after completing the North Carolina series and lived in his hometown for the final decade of his life. Louis Orr achieved great success and recognition with his etchings both in Europe and the United States. Many works were purchased by museums including the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Boston Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institute.

Louis Orr died in February 18, 1966 at his apartment in Paris, France. He was buried in Nimes, France beside Gabrielle.