The Meticulous and Mechanical: Margaret Sutton’s Industrial Illustrations

The artworks of Margaret Sutton (1905–1990) appear regularly in the permanent collection shows of UMW Galleries. Most often, our exhibitions focus on her fantastical characters and signature use of energetic color which engage the viewer in an enchanting, sometimes mystifying, surrealist experience. This exhibition of Sutton’s work aims to illuminate another side of the artist so loved by our community. The Meticulous and Mechanical: Margaret Sutton’s Industrial Illustrations focuses on Sutton’s background as a technical illustrator for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company (1945–1969) and considers the influence of her profession on her artistry.

In 1884 Ottomar Mergenthaler invented the linotype printing machine. The linotype produced complete lines of text for printing, rendering the method of handset type obsolete. Shortly after it was invented, Thomas Edison called the linotype machine, “…the eighth wonder of the world.” At one moment in history this machine epitomized the rapid advancements of an industrial age. 

Though the nuances of the linotype are lost to time, the precision, detail, and artistry of Margaret Sutton’s mechanical drawings renew something of the wonder of this once revered machine. This exhibition considers the impact of Sutton’s years as a technical drawer for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company on her art, bridging the gap between actuality and abstraction. 

A special thanks to our interns Brittany Johnson, Caitlin Smith, Cassidy Clark, and Jordan Skillman for their hard work and creativity.

-Alyssa Hughes, Collections Manager & Sarah Lapp, Exhibitions Coordinator