Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle, or Ellie on Horseback as I like to call her, is another in what seems to be a too large group of women artists who died in poverty despite commercial success. You’re more likely to see her art in souvenir shops than in museums of fine art. Perhaps that makes her work more craft than art. Having focused largely on fiber arts in college, I know well how delicate the line is between art and craft, and I know that I have a huge appreciation for both (as long as it’s good, of course!), as well as work where the two meld. To this day, of the art exhibits I’ve seen in person, the High and Low exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute in 1991 remains a favorite. I will never forget watching a little boy blow on Jeff Koons’s stainless steel rabbit sculpture because it looked like a mylar balloon to him. Is it art? Is it craft? WTF do I know? I’m only human. But I know I liked looking at it.
Anyway… Ellen Clapsaddle was, apparently, one of the most prolific greeting cards designers of the early 20th century. If you look up her work, you will see familiar images and styles.