Edith Bry Biography

Edith Bry




Fused glass artist, painter, printmaker, and assemblage artist Edith Bry was born November 30, 1889, in St. Louis, Missouri, the middle of five children born to Louis and Melanie Bry. Her family relocated to Manhattan around 1906, where Louis Bry opened a successful clothing manufacturing company with his brother. The family's prosperity allowed them to travel several times to Europe before the outbreak of World War I, excursions which inspired young Edith pursue art after exposure to the work she saw in museums in Paris and Madrid. She began teaching herself how to draw by copying the postcards she brought home, and at the age of fifteen, while still in high school, she worked in a batik studio.

After high school graduation she enrolled in courses at the Art Students League, studying under Alexander Archipenko, J. Alden Weir, Guy Pene du Bois, and more. With the end of the war she traveled to Germany and studied briefly with Hermann Struck and Siegried Laboschin. On her return to the U.S. she sought out private lessons from artist Abe Rattner - but again, only briefly. Her personal theory on learning kept her from staying with one teacher for too long, not wanting to simply copy the style of her mentors. 

In the late 1920s she had solo show of abstractions and portraits in Corsicana, Texas, and the following year two of her works were included in a show at the Opportunity Gallery, with whom she would exhibit frequently over the next few years. She married Maurice Benjamin in 1929 and they had one son, who they named Bry Benjamin. Together with archtiect Ely Jacques Kahn she designed an Art Deco-style apartment, considered one of the best preserved examples of the style on the East Coast. She joined the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors in 1934, and in 1935 she held a solo exhibition of drawings at the National Association's Argent Galleries to critical acclaim. 

As the Second World War approached, Bry was involved in organizing fundraisers for overseas relief efforts, and in 1938 she spearheaded the sale of 130 donated works of art to help European Jews escape Nazi Germany. A lithographic work titled "Exiled" was put on view by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1940, despite earlier criticism by the Los Angeles Times as to its "grim" nature, and it was met with praise. She joined the artists' advocacy group, the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, in 1941 and continued to exhibit throughout the war while also volunteering her time teaching art to war-wounded soldiers and painting realistic irises for artificial eyes. 

After the war Bry became less focused on representation and more on capturing emotion, creating landscapes drenched in light and color and working in new mediums such as fused glass, enamel, and collage. She traveled globally, visiting Mexico, Central and South America, Spain, and the African continent. In the 1960s and '70s she focused on fused glass religious pieces. In 1983, a retrospective of her work was held at the Loeb Art Center in New York. She continued to live and work in New York until her death on January 19, 1991. 

Selected Collections:
Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Carnegie Hall, New York; New York Public Library; the New York Historical Society; the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C.; the Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee; and the Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia, among others.

Selected Exhibitions:
1927: "Imaginative Creations", Corsicana, Texas (gallery not stated)
1928 - 1932: Opportunity Gallery, New York
1932: G.R.D. Gallery, New York
1934 (and various): National Association of Women Painters and Scupltors exhibitions
1935: Argent Galleries, New York
1936: Grant Gallery, New York (solo show)
1937: Interntaional Print Makers Exhibition, Los Angeles Museum; Studio Guild (member), New York
1939: Studio Guild, New York
1940: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
1941 (and various): Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors (member) exhibition, New York
1960: Provincetown Art Association, "Second Show"; Solo exhibition, St. Louis, Missouri (gallery not stated)
1966: National Association of Woman Artists' Annual Exhibition, National Academy Galleries, New York
1976: Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors 35th Annual Exhibition
1983: Edith Bry: Retrospective, Loeb Art Center, New York