In Blowing Rock, the spirit of a prolific painter resides at Edgewood Cottage.
by Ross Howell Jr.
On mild evenings in Blowing Rock, a nice place to rest is on a bench next to the bronze statue of Elliott Daingerfield. When you sit down, the effect is quickly apparent: You’re posing for the artist. Daingerfield peers intently at you over his bronze easel, unruly hair swept back from his forehead, palette in one hand and brush in the other. He’s painting outdoors, en plein air, as he often did in life.
A short distance behind Daingerfield’s figure sits Edgewood Cottage, his first residence and studio in Blowing Rock. Designed by the artist and completed in 1890, the building was recently restored.
Daingerfield, the youngest of six children, was born in Virginia in 1859 but grew up in Fayetteville. According to family tradition, when his older brother, Archie, gave him a box of watercolors one Christmas, he immediately began painting beautiful pictures. Daingerfield would go on to study with a local china painter and apprentice under a Fayetteville photographer. In 1880, at the age of 21, Daingerfield left to pursue a career in New York City. There he would become apprenticed to Walter Satterlee, an associate member of the National Academy of Design. Satterlee made Daingerfield an instructor in his still-life class, his first teaching position. In 1884, he moved to Holbein Studios, where he would paint alongside landscape painter George Inness, who became a lifelong friend.
In the winter of 1885-86, Daingerfield suffered a severe case of diphtheria. The following summer, seeking the curative powers of mountain air, he arrived in Blowing Rock after an arduous wagon ride along a rutted, dirt road snaking up the mountain.
The lore and legend of the town and nearby Grandfather Mountain spoke profoundly to Daingerfield’s spirit. He taught summer visitors and would keep summer homes in Blowing Rock until his death in 1932. Daingerfield’s grand manor Westglow, built in the Greek Revival-style on land overlooking Grandfather, was finished in 1917 and is now a resort and spa.
The artist was “an advocate for women artists during a time when they were denied the privileges of their male counterparts,” says Kadie Dean, chair of the Artists in Residence at Edgewood Cottage. Now more than a decade old, the summer residency continues to build on Daingerfield’s legacy of supporting artists, Dean adds. This summer’s program includes painters, quilters, photographers, leather artisans, pottery makers, mixed-media artists and woodworkers — most from western North Carolina. Visitors can watch artists at work in Edgewood Cottage and purchase pieces on site, which is currently open to the public only during this annual residency. This summer, half the net proceeds will be used to upgrade Edgewood Cottage and open it to the public as a museum.
As an artist, Daingerfield is hard to categorize, but historians agree that Daingerfield’s work is suffused with mysterious, ineffable beauty.
So, if you find yourself some twilight evening sitting on the bench by Daingerfield’s statue, you might imagine for a moment you saw a lock of the artist’s hair lifted by the breeze. Or be certain the tip of his brush just moved.
And maybe it did. SP
The 2021 summer Artists in Residence at Edgewood Cottage in Blowing Rock opened May 29 and runs through September 19. Featured artists change each week, so check the schedule for artists and times. artistsatedgewood.org