Storeroom Stories: Anna Hayward Taylor’s Batik

138955-49541 - Textile - Kate Lesser - Sep 27, 2015 208 PM - unnamedBy Brittany Boyd & Kate Lesser

Anna Heyward Taylor (1879-1956) was an American artist native to Columbia, South Carolina. Raised by an affluent family with origins in the cotton industry, Taylor was an avid traveler and learner of all things related to art.

Taylor’s work widely ranges in terms of medium and subject matter. Her work often reflected her surroundings and the places she visited during her worldly travels. Taylor is best known for her woodblock and linoleum prints that depicted scenes of the South, i.e. Harvesting Rice (1936). [1] While this type of work is more commonly associated with Taylor, she was a dynamic artist who also explored techniques new to her such as batik. Batik is a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to textiles.
The Charleston Museum received seven of her silk batiks from the artist herself in 1955. These batiks depict exotic plants that the artist recorded during her excursion to British Guiana with naturalist William Beebe.

How Anna Hayward Taylor came about learning the batik method is uncertain, but through tracing her travels and referencing the book Selected Letters of Anna Heyward Taylor: South Carolina Artist and World Traveler by Edmund Taylor and Alexander Moore, it can be concluded that she learned one of two ways.

Taylor’s first experience with batik methods might have been during her travels in Asia in August of 1914.[2] In a letter to her family back in South Carolina, the artist talks about how she experimented with the Japanese printmaking art of shoji screens. Shoji screens are sliding doors composed of lattice screen covered in white paper which has designs and patterns printed on it. While in Japan, Taylor may have been exposed to other Japanese printmaking methods such as roketsuzome. The Japanese process of batik is known as roketsuzome or rōzome (“rō” translates as “wax”; “ketsu” translates as “resist or block out”; “zome” translates as “dye”). In rōzome, wax and dye are applied with a brush, which avoids batik’s signature crackling and allows for more subtle shading. [3] Japan is known for its printmaking culture therefore it is possible that Taylor was introduced to batik during her travels there.

Another possible way Taylor was exposed to batik was during her stay in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Taylor returned to Provincetown following her travels with William Beebe in 1916. Here, she was immersed in an artistic community. Taylor writes about being introduced to Marguerite and William Zorach, a free-spirited couple, devoted to the arts. Marguerite Zorach was a textile artist, well skilled in the batik method. The Zorach’s were both American-born but interested in ancient and non-European sources of design and art.[4] Marguerite was one of the first American artists to practice batik.



[1] “Anna Taylor,” The Johnson Collection, Accessed December 15, 2015.

[2]Moore, Alexander, and Edmund R. Taylor, Selected Letters of Anna Heyward Taylor: South Carolina Artist and World Traveler, 54.

[3] Petty, Marcia, “Dorothy “Bunny” Bowen: The Art of Rōzome,” Fiberarts, 2010, 28-29.

[4] “Zorach, Marguerite Thompson.” Dictionary Of Woman Artists, January 1, 1997, Accessed December 15, 2015.

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