Ports of America Commission
In 1928, Louis Orr was commissioned to produce etchings of fourteen ports in the United States. The Ports of America series portrays harbor-side views from the Atlantic, Pacific, Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico, creating a snapshot of important locations during a significant era. Ports of America is one of Louis Orr's most celebrated series of prints.
TIMELINE OF THE LIFE AND CAREER OF LOUIS ORR
1876-1913: Early Life in the USA
Travelled to Paris, where he attended the Academie Julian and studied under Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921) and met fellow student and future wife, Gabrielle Chaumette.
Moved to New Jersey but moved back to Connecticut after the death of his father in 1892. In New York, he had worked as a printer before returning to Hartford.
Born May 19th, 1876 in Hartford, Connecticut. Louis Orr was the son of John Henry and Carolina Louise Naedele Orr, and grandson to J.W. Orr who was a notable New York City engraver and printer.
Studied at the Art Students League in New York.
Produced the Old Lyme series of etchings.
Spent four months in late spring/early summer in the South of France. Orr also returned to Hartford during 1909, where he took a sailboat to sketch and paint pastels.
Became Head Teacher at the Hartford Art School.
Studied at the Hartford Art School from 1903 to 1905. While Orr attended the Hartford Art School, he was a pupil of Walter Griffin and won a $350 scholarship which he used to finance a twenty-two-month study trip to Paris in 1906.
1913-1939: Career in France and the USA
Worked at Paris Herald as an editor and illustrator.
On July 10, 1913, Orr married Gabrielle Chaumette, who was a fellow student at Academie Julian.
On February 25th, 1913 Orr returned to Paris.
Briefly lived in London where he was attacked by a columnist for being a clone of one of his teachers, Bunce.
Completed his first sketch of Reims Cathedral, which had been bombed by the German army early in World War I. The sketch was exhibited in the USA in 1916.
Secretary of War, Baker, invited Orr to sketch on the American Front during World War I.
Valiantly sketched the destruction of Rheims cathedral in November 1917, despite gas attacks and aerial bombardment.
Completed 3-image etching series for The Red Cross. The Louvre Museum acquired the series.
Commissioned by the French government in November 1918 to go to Strasbourg and capture the moment that French troops entered the city for the first time since 1871.
Commissioned by the French Government Fine Arts Department to etch various monuments damaged during the war. Also creates “Old Paris” etchings in his neighborhood surrounding Rue Mazarin in Paris.
Awarded Chevalier (knight) of the French Legion of Honor by the nation of France in recognition of his accomplishments in sketching Rheims Cathedral while under heavy German fire.
Traveled to the USA to sketch numerous commissions in 1920, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, and 1930. He completed the etchings at his studio on Rue Mazarin in Paris.
Returned to the USA to complete an etching commission for the Chamber of Commerce in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Had exhibitions of his French etchings in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Hartford, and Washington, DC.
Did commissions in the USA of Williams College and Williamstown and, also in 1925, was hired by Yale University Press as an illustrator.
A series of etchings of Yale University, published by Yale University Press, was so well received that the collaboration was extended for a series depicting fraternity houses at Yale and a view of the Capitol Building, Washington, DC.
Published his important series of American colleges and universities, including:
Duke University, for the Centennial Series published.
Bestowed the title of Officer of the French Legion of Honor by the nation of France for the money his prints raised to help the restoration of Reims Cathedral.
Hired by Yale University Press as an illustrator.
Gave a long autobiographical interview to the Hartford Courant in December 1925.
Wellesley College Series published.
Dartmouth College Series published.
Harvard University Series published.
University of Virginia Series published.
Stanford University Series published.
Yale University published Orr’s celebrated portfolio, Ports of America.
Princeton University Series published.
Received commission by the French government to create an etching of an Albert Edelfelt painting of Louis Pasteur for the national centenary celebrations of Pasteur’s birth.
Commissioned to do the William Howard Taft Memorial Etching of the National Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The image was hung in American embassies all over the world.
1939-1953: In the USA
In June 1939, on a sojourn in the United States that would be prolonged by World War II, Orr acceded to a request to execute the most outstanding work of his career – a series of etchings of North Carolina buildings.
Took extended road trip with Humber around North Carolina to document possible subjects; The list originally contained over 100 locations.
Completed the iconic image of the North Carolina State Capitol Building. Created 51 etchings for the series. Several hundred North Carolina institutions own all or some of these etchings.
The fall of Paris to Germany in World War II prevented Orr from returning to his Paris home.
Completed commission of the Home Office of the National Fire Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut.
Final prestigious commission created by Orr for the United Nations.
Orr’s image of the United Nations Headquarter in New York was presented to UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold. Orr’s etching was reproduced as a poster by the United Nations and gifted to member governments.
Collaborated with Robert Lee Humber, Who later led the effort to establish the North Carolina Museum of Art in 1947, on monumental etching series of historic buildings and sites of the state of North Carolina.
Completed commission of Phoenix Insurance Company of Hartford headquarters.
1953-1966: Retirement and Death
Orr returned to Paris for good and retired from printmaking.
Orr’s wife Gabrielle died and was buried in her hometown of Nimes, France.
Orr died on February 18, 1966, at his apartment in Paris, France at the age of 89. His funeral was held in American Episcopal Cathedral on Avenue George V in Paris and was buried beside his beloved wife in southern France. Numerous newspapers, including the New York Times, published his obituary.