The Gambler (Joe Johnson)
by Ethel Myers
Myers_The Gambler-BarryandHeleneTaubeDownes- Joe Johnson (Downes)
Ethel Myers (American, 1881-1960), The Gambler (Joe Johnson), 1912. Plaster, h. 9 in. Mr. and Mrs. Barry Downes

Ethel Myers (1881-1960)

Born Lillian Cochran in Brooklyn, New York, Ethel Myers was orphaned as a child and adopted by Michael and Alfiata Klinck, who renamed her Mae Ethel Klinck. From 1898 to 1904 she studied at the Chase School of Art (later the New York School of Art), where she worked under William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, and Kenneth Hayes Miller, and was later employed as the assistant director of the school. Inspired by Henri, Myers embraced the philosophical outlook of the Ashcan School and began making spirited sketches of contemporary life on the Lower East Side. In October 1905 she married the urban realist painter Jerome Myers and they devoted themselves to making art that captured the vitality of the city.

After the birth of their daughter Virginia in 1906, Ethel gave up painting and began creating the small-scale statuettes for which she is best known. Modeled in wax or clay, her subjects included society women who commissioned portraits, as well as various urban types—shop girls, performers, matrons, cleaning women, and fashionable ladies about town. She sometimes cast her works in bronze, but because the process was expensive, she often simply painted her plaster casts in blue-, green-, and brownish tones. Her work was popular with the critics. In 1912 a writer for The Craftsman wrote: “In the past Mrs. Myers has been better known to the artist world as a painter of courage and skill, for the future she must rank, whether she will or no, as a sculptor with the power of presenting through her work a knowledge of life and understanding of human psychology as rare as it is interesting.” [1]

After the Armory Show the family went to Europe, but the outbreak of the war prompted their early return to New York. Ethel Myers spent the following decades working as a teacher and a clothing designer to support her family. After her husband’s death in 1940, she devoted herself to promoting his legacy.

[1] “At the Folsom Galleries,” The Craftsman, vol. 23, no. 6 (March 1913),726.

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