An accomplished illustrator, painter, and teacher, in 1939 Edmund Marion Ashe (known as E.M. Ashe) retired to his parents’ hometown of Charleston, South Carolina for the last few years of his life. His arrival coincided with the Charleston Renaissance when many northern artists visited or became seasonal residents of the historic city.

Ashe was born and grew up on Staten Island, a New York City borough. He studied with John Ward Stimson at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Schools and at the Art Students League with Charles Vanderhoof. Both men were illustrators and Ashe followed in their footsteps, providing images for such noted publications as Colliers, Harper’s, Scribner’s and St. Nicholas. From 1896 until 1909 he was artist-correspondent for Leslie’s Weekly, the New-York Tribune, and New York World assigned to cover the White House during the administrations of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. The opening years of the twentieth century saw the heyday of illustration and in addition to his journalistic work, Ashe illustrated children’s books with drawings and paintings, and produced watercolors that resemble the “Gibson Girl” ideal of womanhood. He also taught at the Art Students League and at William Merritt Chase’s New York School.

In 1905 Ashe settled in scenic Westport, Connecticut, the location of an art colony dominated by illustrators. George Hand Wright and Lawrence Mazzanovich also gravitated there at about the same time. Ashe was active in artists’ groups, including the Silvermine Guild, the New York Watercolor Club, and the Society of Illustrators, which he joined shortly after it was founded in 1901.

An oil painting by Ashe was included in the 1913 Armory Show, notorious for its inclusion of such European modernists as Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, whose work managed to outrage American audiences. Ashe’s canvas, Spirit of the Pool, was for sale for three hundred dollars–the same price that Edward Hopper listed his painting, Sailing, which sold for two-hundred and fifty dollars. Other Americans were also on exhibit, including Gaines Ruger Donoho and Edward Middleton Manigault. During World War II Ashe created several designs used for posters encouraging Americans to buy war bonds.

After a selection of his paintings of the people of the Cumberland Mountains was shown at Feragil Galleries in 1929, a reviewer wrote: "Possibly no finer record of the mountaineers has appeared than Mr. Ashe has created. . . . They are drawn as a skilled photographer might catch them and placed in settings chosen by an eye trained to harmonious color and well-proportioned design." From 1920 until 1939 Ashe taught illustration at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, ultimately serving as head of the department of painting and sculpture. He was regularly included in exhibitions in Pittsburgh, and shortly before his retirement, he painted murals for the rotunda of the Steidle Building at Pennsylvania State University in University Park representing the main industries of the city—steel, coal, and petroleum. After his 1939 retirement and move to Charleston, Ashe continued to summer in Westport, where he  traveled and painted in various locations along the Maryland coast.  Like many of the artists associated with Connecticut, Ashe embraced an impressionistic style in his paintings with bright colors and open brushwork, although some of the work he completed in Pittsburgh is grittier and is reminiscent of the Ashcan School.