Oil Paintings by Mary Elizabeth Helvey Mitchell

Following is a partial listing of oil paintings by artist Mary Elizabeth Helvey Mitchell.


Pineapples

Still Life with Pineapples, 1967, oil on canvas, 16" x 20".

This still life, with assorted fruits in a wooden bowl from the Philippines, was painted in Mary's studio in her home at Spring Garden, Virginia.

Collection: K1. Photographed by: K1.



Summer Still Life

Summer Still Life, 1966, oil on canvas, 25" x 36".

This composition includes watermelons and zinnias from Mary's garden, her grandmother Sarah Ann Elizabeth Miller Helvey's flax wheel, and the side of the mantel and fireplace in her studio.

From 1966 until 2003 the painting hung in the den of the Chatham, Virginia, home of her in-laws Mr. and Mrs. John L. Beaver.

Collection: W1. Photographed by: M2.



Forsythia and Japonica

Forsythia and Japonica, 1966, oil on canvas, 16" x 20".

This still life is composed of forsythia and japonica blossoms from the backyard of Mary's home at Spring Garden, Virginia. A glass vase and an Oriental figurine complete a bright grouping atop a TV tray. The leaves and petals, the figurine's red sash, and several other elements of the painting are created with a palette knife.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Early Morning Coffee

Early Morning Coffee, ca. 1965, oil on canvas, 16" x 20".

The image includes the artist's Grandmother Thomas' coffee mill, and also a family oil lamp.

The canvas was painted in the artist's studio at her home in Spring Garden, Virginia.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



henrywithguitar

Henry with Guitar, 1964, oil on canvas, 23.5" x 29.5".

Mary painted this composition of her 15-year-old son Henry, which he modeled for her in the front yard of their home at Spring Garden, Virginia. In the upper left corner and in the background are massive white oak trees which dominated the property.

Henry is playing a Kay cutaway steel-string guitar, which, at the time, he was using as a member of the local Swamp Rats folk trio.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Zinnias

Zinnias, 1963, oil on canvas, 16" x 20".

Zinnias from her garden, an earthenware pitcher, a pair of Oriental toy figurines, and a folding paint box from her art school days make up the composition of this still life. It was painted by the north-facing window in the studio of her home at Spring Garden, Virginia.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Henry Reading

Henry Reading, 1960, oil on canvas, 30" x 36".

Mary's eleven-year-old son Henry is seated at the northwest corner of the porch of their home at Spring Garden, Virginia. He was reading a Hardy Boy's book, with a badminton racket leaning against his chair. In the shadow behind the chair is seen Peter Pan, a beloved cat who never grew up because of an early injury.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Fayette Helvey

Boy of the Kimberling, 1959, oil on canvas, 16" x 20".

This portrait of Mary's uncle, Lafayette “Fayette” Helvey (1883-1895), was based on a photograph and the memories of Mary's father, the Rev. J. W. Helvey, for whom the painting was created. The setting for the portrait is the Kimberling valley, Bland County, Virginia, where Fayette lived. (See also his home, the Dow Helvey Farm.)

Fayette died as the result of an accident during the construction of his family's home, but his Christian example has had a profound influence on the family.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Gladioli

Gladioli, 1958, oil on canvas, 25" x 36".

Gladioli from Mary's garden are the subject of this painting.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Autumn Still Life

Autumn Still Life, 1957, oil on canvas, 20" x 16".

This still life, painted at Mary's Spring Garden studio, contains several items of significance to her. The earthenware brown-and-white pitcher had been brought from Missouri by Mary's mother, Maude Thomas Helvey, who had traveled there to visit her sister Ossye Thomas Plummer. The dark metal tray was from the home of Mary's Grandmother Mary Cornett Thomas in Grant, Virginia. (The tray had been used in the Helvey kitchen at Emory, Virginia, before it was passed on to Mary.) The green squash and onion were from the Mitchells' garden, and the wheat and corn were from nearby farms.

Collection: K1. Photographed by: K1.



Mitchell Home

Mitchell Home, 1956, oil on canvas, 20" x 24".

A driveway leads to the south side of the artist's home at Spring Garden, Virginia. In the background is her husband Trubie Mitchell, trying out a newly-acquired Yazoo lawnmower.

The dominant feature in the picture is a massive dead white oak tree. Several of the oaks in the grove surrounding the house were toppled by Hurricane Hazel in October, 1954. This tree miraculously survived the storm (its falling might have crushed the house), but died shortly thereafter.

The house had been built in 1899 by the Mr. and Mrs. Allie Terry, son-in-law and daughter of Henry Clay Allen. The small building to the rear was the original servants' quarter. The Mitchells moved there in December, 1950, and sold the property in 1980. It is presently owned by the Roberts family.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Sleephead Doll

Sleepyhead Doll, 1954, oil on canvas, 16" x 20".

Mary's son Henry holds a Sleepyhead doll, a popular postwar commercial toy. Beside him is Ferdinand the Bull, based on a 1938 Walt Disney short cartoon (see article).

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Dahlias

Dahlias, ca. 1954, oil on canvas.

The subject is a cluster of cut dahlias placed into a crock which belonged to Mary's sister-in-law Olivia Helvey. Around 1972 Mary gave the painting as a college graduation/wedding present to Olivia and Tom Helvey's daughter Mary Ella Poteat.

Collection: P1. Photographed by: K1.



Granddaddy Bowman Fishing

Granddaddy Bowman Fishing, 1954, oil on canvas, 25" x 30".

On a summer morning, Mary captured an image of her brother Tom Helvey and his entire family. In the background Tom and his wife Olivia are seen on the shore. In the boat are their children Robert (standing), and Mary Ella with Olivia's father William Miller Bowman.

The scene is near the Bowman-Helvey house, which Mr. Bowman had constructed himself of local river rock. The valley here was flooded in a TVA project which created Boone Lake.

Mary said that her little niece, Mary Ella, looked at the painting just after if was begun, and said, “Where's TOM?” So Mary painted Tom and Olivia into the background. Olivia would tell people later that she never fished, but since Mary wanted her in the painting, she did just for that occasion.

Collection: P1. Photographed by: K1.



Henry and Butch

Henry and Butch, 1953, oil on canvas, 14" x 16".

Mary's son Henry feeds marbles and construction toy parts to Butch, a wooden toy dog who barked while rolling on yellow wheels.

In this painting, the head is relatively detailed and the rest less so, as might be expected when dealing with an active little boy

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Green's Pond

Green's Pond, 1952, oil on canvas, 30" x 25".

This autumn scene is a pond on the property of Mr. and Mrs. W. I. Green, one mile east of Chatham, Virginia. It was a favorite fishing spot for Mary's family. In the foreground, Trubie is teaching three-year-old Henry to handle a pole and line. Joan is at the end of the pier with friend Patty Bird Talbot crouched behind her. John is on the far bank of the pond. Mrs. Green can be seen fishing from the bank just beyond the pier. (The property now belongs to the Shanaberger family.)

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Henry with Susie

Henry with “Susie”, 1950, oil on canvas, 12" x 16".

Mary's youngest child, Henry, is shown with his vinyl rag doll “Susie,” which seemingly imprinted him with a preference for blondes and with the same (middle) name, specifically his wife Patricia! The kitten faces on his red overall knees also apparently pointed him toward a fascination with cats.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Shomaker-Helvey Farm #1

Shomaker-Helvey Farm #1, 1948, oil on canvas, 24" x 30".

The scene is the home of the artist's brother Paul Helvey, his wife Dorothy Shomaker Helvey, and Dorothy’s mother Kate Shomaker. The composition includes the barn, hayfield, and hills behind house. The figure with the horse at the barn is probably Sam Reynolds, a farm tenant who was living in the house at the time. Paul, Dorothy, and Mrs. Shomaker began restoration of the old Shomaker home and moved back into it in the fall of 1948, after Paul and Dorothy's first son Gim was born.

“The Shomaker home, built in 1855 by Reynolds Sheppard Shomaker and his wife Rachel Gilmer Shomaker, has remained in the family for six generations.” (Emmie Ferguson Farrar and Emilee Hines, Old Virginia Houses: The Mountain Empire, 1978.)

The canvas was painted on location, Hansonville, Russell County, Virginia. Mary said that she told Dorothy, “I can do the painting if you will do the cooking and look after the children [Joan and John].”

Collection: H1. Photographed by: K1.



Shomaker-Helvey Farm #2

Shomaker-Helvey Farm #2, 1948, oil on canvas, 16" x 20".

The scene is of the creek crossing in front of the old Shomaker house, home of the artist's brother Paul Helvey, his wife Dorothy Shomaker Helvey, and Dorothy’s mother Kate Shomaker. The composition includes the springhouse, barn lot, and barn, with mountains and fields in the background and the stream (south fork of Moccasin Creek) in the foreground.

The figure in red is Mrs. Shomaker; the others are not known. The canvas was painted on location at Hansonville in Russell County, Virginia.

Collection: H1. Photographed by: K1.



Fox Creek

Fox Creek, 1948, oil on canvas, 24" x 20".

This scene is the Fox Creek bridge in Grayson County, Virginia, on a road between Marion and Independence. Mary's husband Trubie is the figure seen fishing to the left and her children John and Joan are to the right.

Collection: K2. Photographed by: K1.



Damascus Landscape

Damascus Landscape, ca. 1947, oil on canvas, 30" x 24".

Mountains form a backdrop for buildings of the town of Damascus, Virginia. Fishing from a log along the creek in the foreground are Mary's children Joan and John with their Eskimo Spitz, Doc.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Still Life with Blue Pitcher

Still Life with Blue Pitcher, date unknown (1942-1950), oil on canvas, 20" x 24".

This still life was painted in the dining room of Mary's home (the Letcher Bryant homestead) at Chestnut Level, Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The window looks out onto the garden.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Maude Helvey and Grandchildren

Maude Helvey and Grandchildren, 1941, oil on canvas, 32" x 36".

Mary's mother, Maude (Mrs. J. W., Sr.) Helvey, holds Mary's daughter Joan (born 12/1940) on her lap while Mary's son John (born 10/1939) stands beside them. In the background are seen Maude's other grandchildren at that time, John Cox Helvey and Tommy Helvey (sons of Watson and Lucille Helvey). The Mitchells' white Eskimo Spitz, Doc, seen in many of Mary's paintings of this era, is playing with Helvey boys. The scene is the backyard of the elder Helveys' home at Emory, Virginia.

Six more Helvey grandchildren were born later: Marguerite Joy Helvey (daughter of Watson and Lucille Helvey); Paul (“Gim”) and Grady Helvey (sons of Paul and Dorothy Helvey); Robert and Mary Ella Helvey (son and daughter of Tom and Olivia Helvey); and Henry Mitchell (son of Mary and Trubie Mitchell).

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Rev. J. W. Helvey

Rev. J. W. Helvey, 1938, oil on canvas, 30" x 40".

Mary painted her father, the Rev. J. W. Helvey, seated on a porch swing at his home in Emory, Virginia.

His Bible is open on his knee in a pose characteristic of him. His green fountain pen is tucked inside his coat pocket.

The Rev. Helvey was a Methodist minister in the Holston Conference, serving in his younger years as a horseback circuit rider, and then as a supply pastor for churches near his home in Emory, Virginia. Later in life and at the time of this portrait (when he was 62 years old) he was postmaster for the town and rail agent for the Norfolk & Western Railway.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Trubie Mitchell

Trubie Mitchell, 1938, oil on canvas, 34" x 36".

Trubie Mitchell is seen with books and lemonade in the backyard of the Helvey home at Emory, Virginia.

Originally, the painting included Doc, Mary and Trubie's white Eskimo Spitz, on the ground beside Trubie, at the lower left corner of the composition. Viewers of the painting would first say, “What a beautiful dog!” — and then, “It's good of Trubie, too.” So Mary painted over the dog.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Blue Chair

Damascus Road, 1937, oil on canvas, 36" x 30".

This landscape depicts a scene along a road near Damascus, Washington County, Virginia.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Will Hamilton

Will Hamilton, 1937, oil on canvas, 32" x 36".

“Uncle Will” Hamilton, of Blacksburg, Washington County, Virginia, worked as a janitor at Emory and Henry College in Emory, Washington County, Virginia, where his duties included carrying wood for the fireplaces in the dormitory rooms. Mary Mitchell completed this portrait from sittings in the front yard of the home of her parents (the Rev. and Mrs. J. W. Helvey) in Emory, at which time Mr. Hamilton said it was the first time in his life he had ever been paid for “just sittin' and doin' nothing!”

Collection: M2. Photographed by: M2.



The Red Violin

The Red Violin, 1937, oil on canvas, 32" x 36".

In this composition, Mary focused on her husband Trubie's violin, bow, and case (with an attached banner from their alma mater, Emory and Henry College). Also seen are a favorite Oriental vase which they had received as a wedding gift in 1936, and a biography of Paul Cezanne. From the placement of the chin rest on the violin one is reminded that Trubie Mitchell was a left-handed fiddle-player.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Dorky

Dorky, 1937, oil on canvas, 30" x 36".

Helpful neighbor Dorcas “Dorky” Rosenbaum is peeling apples in Mary's kitchen in Ceres, Bland County, Virginia. In the background is a cabinet which Trubie had made. At the time Trubie was principal of Ceres High School.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



bluechair

The Blue Chair, 1936, oil on canvas, 20" x 24".

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.

This composition was chosen and painted when Mary returned to Virginia after attending the Art Institute of Chicago's Summer Institute in Saugatuck, Michigan — that sojourn also having been her and Trubie's honeymoon trip.



Sailor Jack

Sailor Jack, 1936, oil on canvas, 36" x 30".

This painting was a quick study in oil done as an assignment in Mary Mitchell's class at the Art Institute of Chicago's Summer Institute, Saugatuck, Michigan. Hired model Jack Ogren was not actually a sailor, but the son of a Chicago department store owner. Jack and his mother were spending the summer at the Oxbow Inn in Saugatuck.

Also there at the Summer Institute in Saugatuck was an excellent artist and student by the name of Mrs. Engelhart, who was there with her family including a daughter Joan. Four years later Mary named her own daughter after Joan Engelhart.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Saugatuck Street Scene

Saugatuck Street Scene, 1936, oil on canvas, 16" x 20".

This streetscape was painted while Mary was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago's summer course at the Oxbow Inn, Saugatuck, Michigan.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



Fisherman Mending Net

Fisherman Mending Net, 1936, oil on canvas, 20" x 24".

This image was painted while Mary was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago's summer course at the Oxbow Inn, Saugatuck, Michigan. The white-haired man was a paid model for the Institute.

Collection: P1. Photographed by: K1.



Love Letters

Love Letters, ca. 1935, oil on canvas, 11" x 15".

In this painting, probably completed at her parents' home in Emory, Virginia, Mary chose for the composition a Tiffany-style lamp, two decorative items, and a ribboned bundle of letters. The top letter is addressed to a Helvey in Emory, Virginia. With a twinkle in her eye, Mary admits that one might correctly surmise that the letters are from her from her suitor Trubie Mitchell.

Collection: P1. Photographed by: K1.



Konnarock Landscape

Konnarock Landscape, ca. 1931, oil on canvas, 26" x 30".

The village of Konnarock, Virginia, is depicted with White Top Mountain in the background. The home in the left foreground is where Mary boarded while teaching third and fourth grades at Konnarock School. The white building on the right, behind red trees, was the school.

Mary recalls that in an incident when she was insisting on cleanliness and hand-washing, one little boy held out his grubby hands and said wistfully, “Good ol' warm dirt!”

Collection: H2. Photographed by: K1.



Emory Gates

Emory Gates, ca. 1930, oil on canvas, 9" x 12".

This painting depicts the Pillar Gates at Emory and Henry College with White Top Mountain in the background. At the time the painting was done, Mary was a student at Martha Washington College. Later she became a graduate of Emory and Henry. These gates were about two blocks from her parents' home.

Collection: G2. Photographed by: K1.



Early Springtime

Early Springtime on Little Creek, 1930, oil on canvas, 13" x 18".

This painting was done by Mary during her first year of teaching (September 10, 1929 through the Spring of 1930). It shows the path she walked each morning (after crossing the swinging bridge across Little Creek) to the Davis School, which was just out of the picture on the left. In the background is Little Walker's Mountain, Bland County, Virginia.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



The Boy Bacchus

The Boy Bacchus (after Guido Reni), ca. 1925, oil on canvas, 16.5" x 21".

This canvas was painted as a classroom exercise at Martha Washington College, Abingdon, Virginia. Mary's instructor at Martha Washington was Miss Louisa A. Nourse. Mary stated (September 21, 2002) that at this point in her studies Miss Nourse did not want her doing copy-work, but Mary's mother (Maude Thomas Helvey) insisted that she would like to have this subject to hang in her house (which she did).

The painting was copied from a reproduction of The Boy Bacchus (ca. 1615-1620) by Guido Reni of Bologna, Italy. The original Reni painting (see image), is 34.25 by 27.5 inches. Reni's The Boy Bacchus is now in the collection of the Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence, Italy.

Collection: B1. Photographed by: M2.



oldwoman

Old Woman at Prayer (after Nicholaes Maes), ca. 1920, oil on board, 10.75" x 13".

This study was painted as a classroom exercise at Martha Washington College, Abingdon, Virginia.

The painting was copied from a reproduction of Old Woman at Prayer (ca. 1656) by Nicolaes Maes of Dordrecht, the Netherlands. The original Maes painting (see image), is now in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Collection: M2. Photographed by: K1.



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This webpage is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House B&B (home of the M2 collection listed above), Chatham, Virginia.