Glenna Montague Latimer was a driving force for art in her community of Norfolk, Virginia. Born in nearby Newport News, she was also a multi-talented practitioner with a successful career as a painter, portraitist, muralist, and illustrator. In the companion catalogue to her 1942 solo exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the museum’s director paid her this tribute: “Both in her teaching and in her own painting there is solidity and imagination. . . . Not only the city of Norfolk, but the state of Virginia owes her recognition and appreciation for her very large contribution to the development of Virginia art and artists.”

A childhood inclination for art persisted through Latimer’s student days at Maury High School. She was accepted to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where she studied with Daniel Garber, Hugh Breckenridge, Arthur B. Carles, and Henry McCarter. During her years there, she won numerous awards including, in 1912 and 1913, the prestigious William Emlen Cresson Memorial Traveling Scholarship for travel abroad. She returned to Virginia and settled in Norfolk; in 1930, she became the first president of the Norfolk Art Corner, an organization dedicated to nurturing Tidewater artists by conducting classes and exhibiting their work.

Throughout her active career, Latimer was accepted to important juried exhibitions at her alma mater and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, as well as the 1941 Corcoran Gallery biennial and the 1939 World’s Fair in New York; her entries usually featured a variety of subjects including still lifes and figurative work. Victorian Arrangement was a purchase prize at a 1939 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts exhibition of Virginia artists. When the Richmond museum later lent the piece to a 1943 exhibition at the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences (now the Chrysler Museum of Art), a critic for the Virginian-Pilot noted that the canvas was “one of the most effective examples of [Latimer’s] talent for color harmony.”

Latimer executed several murals, such as the one for the courthouse in Norfolk. Her most notable commission, however, came early in her career. In 1927, she was selected to create interior murals for several spaces on the transatlantic liner SS America, which was undergoing renovations in Newport News. The artist, then thirty years old, was praised in a local newspaper as “a Virginia girl . . . at work on a unique job.” The commission, which was completed in the spring of 1928, included a portrait of Amerigo Vespucci for the ship’s main salon, a large map of the United States, and a series of whimsical panels for the onboard nursery. Latimer also illustrated a series of children’s books, creating lively images of animals—in particular dogs and a bunny called “lappy cushion-tail”— that lived in the great swamp of Virginia.

At the age of sixty-four, Glenna Latimer wed for the first time and is sometimes referenced by her married name of Glenna Latimer Davies. She was a member of the National Association of Women in the Arts which was founded to achieve greater recognition for professional women artists.