In the heart of Savannah, a treasure trove of watercolors

"Buy art of value that you particularly enjoy, and it will bring you the keenest aesthetic pleasure while it increases your financial holdings," says a Dewart Gallery team member who backs one of the best galleries in the Southeast.

Bringing the mountain to Muhammad, Hector Dewart and his wife, Anna, exhibit and sell quality works of regional, national, and international artists. He deals with those living in, and touring through, this city's Victorian neighborhood, part of the largest federally designated historic landmark in the United States.

The gallery is in the 1840 Victorian Bartow House, built by Confederate Brig. Gen. Francis Bartow. The four-story frame residence faces Pulaski Square in the heart of Savannah, displaying its original beauty.

Located at 314 Barnard Street, the Dewart Gallery features the nationally recognized watercolorist Ray Ellis of Hilton Head Island, S.C.

In his atmospheric, low-country scenes he evokes a peaceful tranquillity that captures an intrinsic sense of place.

Some of his favorite subjects are life scenes of homes on the remote coastal island of Daufauski where wateroaks shade a muddy road leading to a tin-roofed shack. Clothes flap in the seabreeze while a bandannaed black woman feeds chickens in her front yard.

The interior of the Union Baptist Church reveals the stark loneliness of a grandmother taking refuge from life's hardships in the church sanctuary.

Oyster-laden batteaux fringe the low- country marsh.

A close view of a tidal pool mirrors a partial silhouette of a sandpiper on a white sandy beach.

Ellis spent many summers on the southern tip of New Jersey enjoying the shores of Cape May where he explored and painted isolated spots of an oceanfront guarded by a deserted lighthouse.

On misty mornings in Maine when the fog rolled onto secluded offshore islands he caught cloud-enveloped views of surroundings that barely revealed a few wisps of grass.

"To see what is worth painting is a rare gift bestowed on the few, and Ray Ellis as depictor of our 20th-century world expresses that gift in the mood he creates in his landscapes," says Allan McNab, retired director of the Art Institute of Chicago, when evaluating Ellis's work.

Having grown up in Philadelphia, Ellis had his first major one-man show at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts early in his career. After serving in the Navy during World War II he started an advertising agency with offices in New York and New Jersey while he continued to paint. Since then he has had shows in museums in Morristown, N.J., Columbia, S.C., and Columbus, Ga., as well as in the Charles M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Mont., the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences in Savannah, the Hunter Galleries in San Francisco, the Edgartown Art Gallery in Massachusetts, and the Wallace Gallery in Hilton Head Island, S.C.

A recent show of his oils and watercolors at the Whaling Museum on Long Island attracted environmentalists and art lovers whose interests merged in seascapes and landscapes accented with ducks and seashells.

His work is the subject of a book by Norman Kent, editor emeritus of American Artists Magazine who said, "Ellis's works are particularly effective as paintings of light and atmosphere. One senses immediately on coming face to face with a typical Ellis watercolor, the tang of weather and the identity of seasons, creating for the beholder a lively affection for that sense of place."

Ellis is a member of the American Watercolor Society, the Hudson Valley Art Association, the Audubon Artists, and the Salmagundi Club of New York City, among others, from which he has received awards.

The Dewart Gallery also exhibits Myrtle Jones King's architectural interiors of Victorian and Edwardian houses and urban park scenes of Savannah's historic section. Mrs. King has won awards and much acclaim for her oils in shows throughout the Southeast.

New exhibitions of prints, paintings, and sculpture are planned for the future. All will be appropriately framed for collectors' viewing and purchase in the choice Victorian edifice, the Bartow House.

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