Menzies, Elizabeth G.C. Lake Carnegie. A raw-grain woodcut print on Japanese paper of Lake Carnegie, in Princeton, New Jersey . Matted, mat measures 20 in x 15 in, woodcut print measures 13 in x 8 ½ in. Number 4 in an edition of only 24, signed in pencil under the image, “Elizabeth G.C. Menzies.” A vertical image in green, black and white, this image was taken from the likely vantage point of Ms. Menzies’ home at 926 Kingston Road, just across from Lake Carnegie. Made after one of her own photographs of the same name, “Betty” Menzies hearkens back to the practice of early photographers who called themselves “photographic-artists.” The image from which this woodblock print was derived is identified in Princeton Architecture, a Pictorial History of Town and Campus, Illustration 2, “North Shore of Lake Carnegie, looking east toward the Washington Street Bridge.” Indeed, her commissioned oil portraits of people were made from her own photographs of the subject. The first official woman photographer at Princeton University, “Betty” Menzies worked at the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University, where she worked with Dr. Rosalie Green, her life-partner, helping to amass one of the foundational archives of photographic images relating to Christian Iconography, using a specially designed photographic apparatus. Ms. Menzies and Dr. Green worked with such luminaries as the pioneering art historian Dr. Erwin Panofsky of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and with Sir Anthony Blunt at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Ms. Menzies worked at the Index of Christian Art from 1954 to 1980.
Elizabeth Grant Cranbrook Menzies, photographer-historian was born in Princeton, New Jersey to Princeton University Professor, Alan Wilfrid Cranbrook Menzies and Mary Isabella Dickson Menzies in 1915 and died there in 2003. Growing up in Princeton the only child of a Scottish-born physical chemist and a Scottish mother, who was a gifted pianist, artist and also an amateur photographer, Miss Menzies had an early formative exposure to both scientific and artistic methods. Following her parents’ wishes, she graduated from Miss Fine’s School in Princeton, Miss Menzies began taking pictures of her family’s friends as a teenager, among these early vernacular images captured with her father’s Voigtländer are summer holiday images of such notables as the Oswald Veblens and the C. J. Davissons. Having been taught the basics of taking and developing photographs by her chemist father, Miss Menzies had a love affair with the camera that was to last for more than sixty years.
In 1936, at the age of 21, she won a First Award and two Second Awards at the Fourth Annual Exhibition at Princeton. Her celebrated portrait Albert Einstein in His Study 1939 was taken for Scientific American in commemoration of Einstein’s sixtieth birthday. C. J. Davisson, a fellow Nobel laureate and friend of both the sitter and the photographer, was instrumental in persuading the camera-shy Einstein to allow his picture to be taken. It also launched Miss Menzies’ career as a free-lance photographer. On May 21, 1963 Miss Menzies was awarded a Tercentenary Medal for this portrait by the State of New Jersey. In 1949, Miss Menzies was one of seven exhibitors at the Philadelphia Salon of Photography, exhibiting The Sunset of Life. While working in Princeton in the 1940s and 50s as a free-lance photographer, contributing many images to the Princeton Alumni Weekly, she was hired by the Index of Christian Art as their staff photographer, a position that took her on trips abroad, collecting images for the Index archive.
During those years, Miss Menzies began quite spontaneously to keep a photographic record of the early American architecture in Princeton and elsewhere in New Jersey, especially as the historic buildings began to fall to the developer’s wrecking ball. Having taken her first architectural images as early as 1935, this was a natural progression in her development as a photographer. Later, when architectural history became a determined interest, she came under the tutelage of Princeton Professor Donald Drew Egbert, Professor of the History of Architecture at Princeton University. Attending his lectures by permission, in preparation for her first book, Princeton Architecture, a Pictorial History of Town and Campus, Princeton University Press, 1967, Miss Menzies received the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History in 1968 for this, her first book. Miss Menzies other books are: Millstone Valley, Rutgers University Press, 1968, for which she earned a Certificate of Commendation from the American Association for State and Local History in 1970, and for which she also received the New Jersey Association of Teachers of English Award in 1970; Passage Between Rivers, Rutgers University Press, 1976, which earned her the Author Citation from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1978; and, perhaps her most out-spoken title, Before the Waters, the Upper Delaware Valley, Rutgers University Press, 1966, made very clear her preservationist views. In 1971, Miss Menzies received a Diploma from The Two Thousand Women of Achievement for Distinguished Achievement. In 1966, on the deaths of both of her parents, Miss Menzies stopped working for the Princeton Alumni Weekly.