That there are more than a hundred poems in the papers of modernist artist John Henry Bradley Storrs grabbed my attention. Puzzled by the quantity, I clicked my way through the collection, noting that some stanzas were written by him, and others were penned by authors both known and unknown. When I electronically opened folder 25 in box 11, I stopped, for here was an illustrated document.
This stanza, decorated with watercolor shamrocks, appears to be a rhyming tribute to Storrs, who was born in Chicago, grew up in America, then settled in France. But why shamrocks, the national symbol of Ireland, I wondered, and why is there a reference to George Washington?
Although we don’t know who wrote or illustrated this poem, it is tempting to connect the sprigs of clover to a monumental sculpture Storrs designed for a church in Cork, Ireland. Letters and photographs in his papers and related to this 1929–1930 commission, a figure of Christ the King at the new church in Cork, point to the work’s importance in the artist’s artistic production. The poet’s concluding suggestion that his sculptor–brother “Jonny Storrs” will “make von Grand George Washington” may be an oblique reference to Storrs’s American roots.
Jenifer Dismukes is managing editor of the Archives of American Art Journal.