[Editor’s Note: We like to unleash our awesome student assistant on the blog at least once a semester & now’s the time! Please welcome our guest author, Noelle Boggs.]
Over the last few weeks, I have been sifting through, organizing, and researching the William Crutchfield Collection here at the Special Collections. This collection consists of over 400 watercolor paintings of wildflowers that grow in the Southeast. Needless to say, I have really enjoyed going through this collection not only because the works are beautiful to look at but also because I have learned so much about wildflowers through the research. Although I am still unable to name most flowers offhand, as Crutchfield could do so easily, the research has made me value the simple beauty of flowers and realize just how talented and devoted Crutchfield was to his artwork (which was just a hobby!).
William Crutchfield was born on March 13, 1889 in Chattanooga. He attended Chattanooga city schools and graduated from Chattanooga High School before moving to Idaho to work on a ranch. By 1916, he has graduated from the University of Illinois with a BOS degree in architecture. Although he served in both World Wars, Crutchfield spent most of his life devoted to architecture. He designed some of Chattanooga’s most beautiful residences and outstanding public and commercial buildings, many of which still stand today. However, in his spare time, Crutchfield liked to combine two of his favorite interests: painting with watercolors and flowers/nature. It was during the Great Depression that Crutchfield began his color studies on wildflowers, which, as he says, “was in a way a life saver” because the Depression had temporarily crippled his architecture business. By the time of his death in 1956, Crutchfield had created 460 watercolors of wildflowers which provide another way to appreciate the beauty and place in nature of native wildflowers.
Although there are many beautiful flowers in this collection, those pictured above are just a couple that really stood out for me. Of course, the whole collection is available in the Special Collections, so if you want to see more watercolors just come by!