Painters in the Family

I’ve been wondering lately about the force that nudges a person onto their life path. Is it heredity? Is it serendipity? Is it a desire to be like someone they admire? It’s probably a bit of everything, but, yet, I don’t think it’s an accident that there is, in my family, a line of artist/painters descended from the Harts of Durham, Connecticut. There must be something genetic in the desire to not only observe the world but to record those observations.

My great-grandmother, Lydia Jane Hart Hall, the woman whose journals I quote frequently in this blog, introduced the Hart blood into the Hall family. The Harts were a prominent and long-time Durham family who lived for four generations in the little homestead memorialized in this picture. The Hart family will be the subject of a future post, but today I’m concentrating on Mary E. Hart and the other women in our family who admired and emulated her.

"Original Hart Homestead," Melissa Hall, copy of a painting by Mary E. Hart

“Original Hart Homestead,” Melissa Hall, copy of a painting by Mary E. Hart

I’ve written about Mary E. Hart before in “Violets,” and “Violets, An Addendum.” She lived the prime of her life during the Civil War years – she was born in 1836 and died in 1899 – but her paintings radiate peace. In her early life she’d been a teacher but later on became a prominent artist in the Durham area. She was especially famous for her depictions of violets. Her touch with paint was as delicate when she used oil as it was when she painted with watercolor.

"Pinks and Violets," Mary E. Hart, watercolor, around 1870

“Pinks and Violets,” Mary E. Hart, watercolor, around 1870

"Pansies," (detail), Mary E. Hart, oil on canvas, around 1870

“Pansies,” (detail), Mary E. Hart, oil on canvas, around 1870

Melissa Hall, my mother’s much-older cousin, was born around 1896, and exposed early on to Mary Hart’s paintings. She, like Mary, never married. In this photo from a 1904 Thanksgiving at the farm, she sits to the left of her two sisters, Alice and Gertrude.

"Melissa Hall (left), Alice Hall (top), Gertrude Hall (right front)

“Melissa Hall (left), Alice Hall (top), Gertrude Hall (right front)

Cousin Melissa made copies of many of Mary’s paintings, (the picture of the Hart Homestead is a copy made by her of a Mary Hart painting), but she had a style of her own. To the end of her life she made and sent me and other family members Christmas cards, Easter cards, birthday cards, and postcards.

Melissa's flowers565

My mother, Janet Hall Crump, began painting early, influenced not only by Mary Hart but also by her cousin Melissa. She especially loved painting the flowers she picked from her garden. Here she’s set up her pansies – maybe to be painted – next to Mary Hart’s painting.

Janet's pansies with Mary's painting

Janet’s pansies with Mary’s painting

And Janet, too, liked to make cards and decorations with her brush and paint. This must have been a place card for a dinner.

"Place Card," Janet Hall Crump

“Place Card,” Janet Hall Crump

I grew up surrounded by the paintings done by these three women. There’s no denying their influence on the path I chose. Paintings by Mary, Melissa, and Janet will surface again in my blog posts. Here’s an early still life done by my mother when she was at Boston University. Watercolor was the perfect medium for her. She was a woman who “lived in the moment,” and the immediacy of watercolor suited her perfectly.

"Still Life with Yellow Cup," Janet Hall Crump, watercolor, 1938

“Still Life with Yellow Cup,” Janet Hall Crump, watercolor, 1938

Sixty years later I did my own painting of a yellow cup.

"Morning Light," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1998

“Morning Light,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1998

I can’t resist closing with this example of how the artistic influence travels down the family tree. My daughter did this painting of flowers when she was nine years old. It made me smile today when I took it down from the wall to scan it and noticed that she had signed it Mara “Crump.”

"Flowers," Mara Bryner, acrylic, 1986

“Flowers,” Mara Bryner, acrylic, 1986

On Monday:  Washday

7 thoughts on “Painters in the Family

  1. Michael Foster

    A great tracing of the artistic gene through the generations. It obviously took a strong hold in you. It is wonderful to share this art through your blog.

    Reply
  2. Anne Foster

    Carol,

    One day out of the blue, your mother stopped by. She said that she had been going through some old snapshots and came across a winter scene of our house on top of the hill. She did a small painting of it in watercolor that was just wonderful. When I exclaimed over it, she said that “oh, it’s nothing. I just did it quickly.” I have the painting hanging over my desk and look at it every day. I also have the photo it was done from. Mike will scan them and send them to you.

    Anne

    Reply
    1. Carol Post author

      Thanks, Anne. I would love to see the painting and photo. Yes, she did like to paint very quickly, and always managed to capture the essence of her subject.

      Reply
  3. Karen Dederick Kowalski

    Painting is a talent that I really do appreciate, and sometimes wish that I was more inclined to pursue as I can visualize what I want to create, just not on paper or canvas. I love seeing your passion and the images of Whirlwind Hill.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: A View of the Farm | On Whirlwind Hill

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