Nancy Webb (1926-2012) was an artistic powerhouse. While small in physical stature, her artistic projects included large creations with epic themes She began her art career as an artist in the 1940s, when she studied painting and printmaking under the renowned artists, George Cohen and Mervin Jules. In 1947, she married Bill Webb, and became his partner in Noonday Press, where she designed and illustrated book jacket covers, including works by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Knut Hamsen. While there, she also illustrated some of her own works, written for children. During these years she continued to develop as a painter and printmaker, becoming especially deft in her ability to capture botanical subjects with vivid gracefulness.
As her strength and reputation as an artist grew, so did the proportionality of the themes and the works she created. By the mid-1960s, Nancy Webb was creating sculptures in wax and casting them in bronze, and her range of subjects covered biblical magnitude – Genesis, life and death, knights, Roman myths, and more. By the time of her death, at the age of 86, Webb was creating sculptures too large for her to move alone. Yet their size belies their simple beauty, mystery and elegance. Some of her core themes were also rendered in small pieces, such as the intimate bronze of an ebony womb cradling a bronze fetus.
Webb eventually moved her life to Cambridge and Wellfleet MA, where she also worked on much humbler subjects and often in simpler media. While Webb created iconic modernist sculptures, she also expressed the sensual and the ephemeral in works figuring the natural world, brimming with both symbolic and earthy meanings. Webb described her work in 2010 as about “earth, death, with a little bit of eroticism in between.” Her bronze tiles and bas reliefs of grasshoppers, toads, alewife, snakes, butterflies, earwigs and more have been trod upon by thousands of commuters in Boston’s subway, at the Alewife Station. Her bronze crickets and beetles stand among the plantings and benches of Charles Park in Cambridge. She also created many exceptional works in mixed media drawn from everyday objects like nails, the bones of birds, the carapaces of sea dwellers, and other creatures inspired by those found along the beaches and in the woods where she lived. From these she created impressive figures including mythic knights, warriors’ helmets, bronze skulls, wildflowers, and more in bronze, bone, wood, on paper, and in plaster and resin.
Webb’s works can be found in many collections including the Boston Public Library, the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation and at POBA’s partner and sponsor of this collection, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.