Louis Orr (1879-1961)

Portrait of Louis OrrLouis Orr, a premier American etcher who was most renowned for his large, atmospheric etchings of Paris, went to France in 1906 to study and work in the studio of J.P. Laurens. Orr’s first original etchings date from 1908. During the following twenty years Louis Orr built his fame on large-scale architectural renditions of Paris and other French cities and ports.

During the 1920’s, these etchings made Louis Orr one of the most sought after artists on both sides of the Atlantic, and editions of his prints were usually sold out before the actual date of publication. The French government commissioned a number of Orr’s etchings. Not only was Louis Orr the first living American artist to have his work collected by the Louvre, his was the first original etching to be purchased by this museum.

While in Paris, Louis Orr met North Carolinian Robert Lee Humber and together they envisioned a large series of etching of North Carolina landmarks. Orr developed the project for 12 years, from 1939-1951, producing some of his very finest work in this series. Complete sets of the fifty images still exist today in some libraries and private institutions. Gallery C, having established a unparalled reputation for its knowledge and expertise in the Louis Orr etchings of North Carolina, is often called upon to assist museums and private collectors in the acquisition and deacession of the etching.

Read this artist's biography

Master etcher and artist Louis Orr was born in Hartford, Connecticut and spent much of his professional life living in Paris. Louis 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. On a scholarship, he continued his studies at the Art Student’s League, and at the Academie Julian in Paris. It was in Paris that Orr met and married his wife, a student of the late Jean Paul Laurens. The artist built 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 Robert Lee Humber 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. Today, Louis Orr’s etchings of North Carolina hang in museums, courthouses and libraries and have a distinguished place in the history of the state.

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.

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