Aunt Mickey standing in front of a portrait of her reading a book, by her husband, Paul W. Whitener, who passed away in 1959, 23 years after their marriage in 1936.

Aunt Mickey standing in front of a portrait of her reading a book, by her husband, Paul W. Whitener, who passed away in 1959, 23 years after their marriage in 1936.

By Pat Turner Mitchell

I will start by introducing myself. I was born April 2, 1936, to Edith McKinney and David Turner. According to letters written by Mother’s sister, Missouri McKinney, to her boyfriend, Paul Whitener, she was with Mother at the hospital when I was born. She kept her letters to Paul and passed them on to me. She writes about meeting Paul, and their many meetings at my parent’s home in Valdese (since he lived close by in Hickory, NC.) She and Paul were married in Little Switzerland in August of 1936. In 1944, with help from influential people in their lives, they founded The Hickory Museum of Art (HMA), the second museum founded in North Carolina. (This museum is currently celebrating their 75thanniversary.)

I will attempt to broaden your knowledge of my aunt by drawing a time line of the three important figures in her husband, Paul W Whitener’s, early art life.We know that he was a student at Duke University, majoring in Journalism, attending on a football scholarship. We also know he sometimes submitted an occasional cartoon there for the school’s newspaper. When he suffered a serious head injury, according to my aunt and her cousin, he met an influential lady in the NC road system while he was hospitalized with this injury. Her name was Harriet Berry.

Ms. Berry owned a summer home in Little Switzerland, NC (I have learned recently that my Grandfather, Fons McKinney, built her house), close by where the Blue Ridge Parkway was being planned and built. Since she was an important part of the NC road system at this time in the 1930s, she was able to get Paul a job working with these planners on site close by Little Switzerland. She also invited him to stay at her home with her. My aunt Missouri’s cousin, Carrie Buchanan (Washburn), worked for Ms. Berry and became acquainted with Paul, showing him around Little Switzerland. According to Carrie she introduced Missouri and Paul at the local store. This is how he met Mildred Missouri McKinney, who will be his first and most important figure by introducing Paul to the world of painting and to an important artist of the time, Frank Stanley Herring.

Mr. Herring and his wife Francis, met the McKinney family, Jane and Fons and their four daughters, Ida (named for Ida Clarkson Jones,) Thelma, Missouri, and the youngest, Edith, when they first started coming to The Switzerland Inn.  Jane was close to Ida C. Jones; and Fons, who began building homes for the ‘summer people,’ and her brother, Heriot Clarkson (who would later become Judge Clarkson), were friends. The three older McKinney sisters took turns spending the night with Ida when she came to Little Switzerland before her guests at the Inn arrived.

So Mr. Herring, the second most important figure in Paul’s art life, started painting portraits of the McKinney family as follows:

1929, an oil on canvas (life sized) full figure portrait of Three Sisters with Ida, age 18; Thelma, age 17; and Missouri, age 14. Gifted to HMA by Mr. Herring’s niece, Beth Hall Stedman of Atlanta, GA .

1932, a watercolor portrait of Missouri, age 17. Gifted to me in my aunt’s will.

1932, a pencil drawing portrait of Nancy Buchanan, age 90 (Jane’s mother.) Owned by my sister, Janice Turner Cline.

1936, an oil on canvas of Frances Herring and her cousin hemming Missouri’s wedding dress as she stands before them. (Dress made by Jane, Missouri’s mother.) Gifted to The Hickory Museum of Art by my aunt.

1938 oil on canvas full figure portrait of Missouri wearing a floral dress with puffed sleeves. Gifted to Everett Kivette for Herring-Kivette Museum in Burnsville, NC., by my aunt before her death.

Sometime in 1933-35 Missouri was taking art lessons from Mr. Herring. He and his wife, Francis, had become quite fond of her and began talking to her about their life in New York City where he taught art at the Grand Central Art School. He thought she had talent as an artist and they admired her abilities and quick mind. They invited her to New York to live with them. But her dad, Fons McKinney, was very protective of his daughters and had firm rules about what they were allowed to do. Missouri stayed where he thought she belonged.

After she met Paul Whitener, her second encounter with him was while she was painting a landscape on a hillside close by her home. As she told it, after admiring her work he lifted her paintbrush from her hand, saying “I bet I can do that.”

Their attraction was mutual; their courtship culminated in a wedding date being set for August, 1936. Missouri related later that Mr. Herring was disappointed she was marrying, thinking it would interfere with her career as an artist. It did but instead this union put her on a different path in art.

During their courtship Paul’s interest in painting grew strong. He asked to borrow Missouri’s paints and began experimenting. After they married they visited her parents often and he was soon working with Mr. Herring, who was now teaching at an art school, The Ringling Summer School of Art (Sarasota, FL) at Wildacres, close by Little Switzerland. He began helping Paul, who signed up to start lessons. Here he met another instructor, Donald Blake, who befriended Paul. But the  portrait that Mr. Herring did of Missouri in 1938 tells of their connection.

At this time Paul did a life size portrait of his wife sitting in a chair holding their dog, Dipsy, a black cocker spaniel. She is wearing the same dress she wore in Mr. Herring’s painting of her. I imagine her posing as both collaborated on their work. This painting hung in my parent’s home as my sister grew up. My sister was given this painting sometime before our aunt’s death. As anyone can note, Paul caught on fast to this new career.

At home in Hickory, Mickey (a nickname Paul gave to his wife while they were dating), got a job at Spainhour’s Department Store in downtown. It was probably in the make-up department because she was later promoted to Buyer for Charles of the Ritz make-up line and she was sent to New York City to train. She and Paul had met another well known (portrait) artist in 1940 who also lived in New York City, Wilford A. Conrow. According to Aunt Mickey, Paul would accompany her to New York during her training and they both were entertained (and sometimes may have stayed with) Mr. and Mrs. Herring and Mr. and Mrs. Conrow (who lived close by CarnegieHall).

Paul and Mickey met Wilford A. Conrow, the third most important figure in Paul’s life in art, at an art show in Asheville, NC in 1940 and learned he spent summers close by Waynesville, NC near where his sister resided. He and his wife, Lera, would become lifelong friends.Paul had begun painting portraits of family and local business men before he met Mr. Conrow but enticed him to become his teacher. He would prove to be an important figure to Paul and his hometown, Hickory. I will list some of Paul’s signed portraits and landscapes below when he was taking lessons from Mr. Herring, Mr. Blake and then Mr. Conrow:

 

 

ca 1938 Portrait of Mickey and Dipsy (life size). Oil on Canvas. Gift to my sister.

ca 1939 Portrait of Fons McKinney. Oil on canvas. Gift to me in my aunt’s will.

ca 1939 Portrait of Jane McKinney. Oil on canvas. Gift to my brother by our aunt.

ca 1939 Landscape ‘Papa’s Barn.’ Oil on canvas. Wedding gift to my husband and me by my aunt.

Signed and dated:

1939 Landscape of a foggy day in L. S., an oil on canvas. Gift to me from my aunt.

1939 Portrait of Charles Settlemyer, oil on canvas gifted to HMA in my aunt’s will.

1940 Portrait of Betty (Jane McKinney’s granddaughter who lived in L.S) Gifted to her in my aunt’s will. Oil on canvas.

1940 Portrait of Aunt Julie (a frequent visitor at Jane and Fons McKinney home.) Oil on canvas. Gifted to HMA

1940 Landscape of Fons and Jane McKinney’s home. It hung at our parent’s home where my sister grew up. Given to me by my aunt. This is the cover of my book, “Lifted to the Shoulders of a Mountain.” Oil on canvas.

1943 Portrait of Mickey, oil on canvas. Gifted to HMA in my aunt’s Will.

I own several pieces of Mr. Conrow’s signed and dated art as does HMA. I list mine as follows:

1943 ‘Mickey’. Oil on Canvas. Gifted to me by my aunt several years before her death.

1894 Four separate caricatures of unknown men in pencil. He was about 14 years old at the time and they could have been people he knew or saw in his daily life in South Orange, NJ. Gift from my aunt.

Unsigned nudes sketched by Mr. Conrow.

 

 

As is well known and documented, Mr. Conrow was instrumental in assisting Paul in acquiring art for a proposed museum in Hickory, NC that would showcase American Art and artists. Along with local influential people, this most important museum in North Carolina has continued to be well tended since it was officially founded in 1944 with Paul W. Whitener as its first director. What is not documented is the influence Mildred Missouri McKinney Whitener Coe had on this success. When she was appointed interim Executive Director of HMA on her husband’s death in 1959 “she had worked with Whitener more closely than anyone as he built and developed HMA…and the temporary soon became a permanent one.” (The Legacy of Paul W. Whitener, American Art Review, April, 1998, by Thomas R. Perryman.)

We all know HMA continued to grow and prosper under my aunt’s direction for almost four (4) decades. She was able to do this because she met artists who taught her first, and with her, Paul, her beloved husband. She wanted to honor him and them. She did.

By Pat Turner Mitchell

I will start by introducing myself. I was born April 2, 1936, to Edith McKinney and David Turner. According to letters written by Mother’s sister, Missouri McKinney, to her boyfriend, Paul Whitener, she was with Mother at the hospital when I was born. She kept her letters to Paul and passed them on to me. She writes about meeting Paul, and their many meetings at my parent’s home in Valdese (since he lived close by in Hickory, NC.) She and Paul were married in Little Switzerland in August of 1936. In 1944, with help from influential people in their lives, they founded The Hickory Museum of Art (HMA), the second museum founded in North Carolina. (This museum is currently celebrating their 75thanniversary.)

I will attempt to broaden your knowledge of my aunt by drawing a time line of the three important figures in her husband, Paul W Whitener’s, early art life.We know that he was a student at Duke University, majoring in Journalism, attending on a football scholarship. We also know he sometimes submitted an occasional cartoon there for the school’s newspaper. When he suffered a serious head injury, according to my aunt and her cousin, he met an influential lady in the NC road system while he was hospitalized with this injury. Her name was Harriet Berry.

Ms. Berry owned a summer home in Little Switzerland, NC (I have learned recently that my Grandfather, Fons McKinney, built her house), close by where the Blue Ridge Parkway was being planned and built. Since she was an important part of the NC road system at this time in the 1930s, she was able to get Paul a job working with these planners on site close by Little Switzerland. She also invited him to stay at her home with her. My aunt Missouri’s cousin, Carrie Buchanan (Washburn), worked for Ms. Berry and became acquainted with Paul, showing him around Little Switzerland. According to Carrie she introduced Missouri and Paul at the local store. This is how he met Mildred Missouri McKinney, who will be his first and most important figure by introducing Paul to the world of painting and to an important artist of the time, Frank Stanley Herring.

Mr. Herring and his wife Francis, met the McKinney family, Jane and Fons and their four daughters, Ida (named for Ida Clarkson Jones,) Thelma, Missouri, and the youngest, Edith, when they first started coming to The Switzerland Inn.  Jane was close to Ida C. Jones; and Fons, who began building homes for the ‘summer people,’ and her brother, Heriot Clarkson (who would later become Judge Clarkson), were friends. The three older McKinney sisters took turns spending the night with Ida when she came to Little Switzerland before her guests at the Inn arrived.

So Mr. Herring, the second most important figure in Paul’s art life, started painting portraits of the McKinney family as follows:

1929, an oil on canvas (life sized) full figure portrait of Three Sisters with Ida, age 18; Thelma, age 17; and Missouri, age 14. Gifted to HMA by Mr. Herring’s niece, Beth Hall Stedman of Atlanta, GA .

1932, a watercolor portrait of Missouri, age 17. Gifted to me in my aunt’s will.

1932, a pencil drawing portrait of Nancy Buchanan, age 90 (Jane’s mother.) Owned by my sister, Janice Turner Cline.

1936, an oil on canvas of Frances Herring and her cousin hemming Missouri’s wedding dress as she stands before them. (Dress made by Jane, Missouri’s mother.) Gifted to The Hickory Museum of Art by my aunt.

1938 oil on canvas full figure portrait of Missouri wearing a floral dress with puffed sleeves. Gifted to Everett Kivette for Herring-Kivette Museum in Burnsville, NC., by my aunt before her death.

Sometime in 1933-35 Missouri was taking art lessons from Mr. Herring. He and his wife, Francis, had become quite fond of her and began talking to her about their life in New York City where he taught art at the Grand Central Art School. He thought she had talent as an artist and they admired her abilities and quick mind. They invited her to New York to live with them. But her dad, Fons McKinney, was very protective of his daughters and had firm rules about what they were allowed to do. Missouri stayed where he thought she belonged.

After she met Paul Whitener, her second encounter with him was while she was painting a landscape on a hillside close by her home. As she told it, after admiring her work he lifted her paintbrush from her hand, saying “I bet I can do that.”

Their attraction was mutual; their courtship culminated in a wedding date being set for August, 1936. Missouri related later that Mr. Herring was disappointed she was marrying, thinking it would interfere with her career as an artist. It did but instead this union put her on a different path in art.

During their courtship Paul’s interest in painting grew strong. He asked to borrow Missouri’s paints and began experimenting. After they married they visited her parents often and he was soon working with Mr. Herring, who was now teaching at an art school, The Ringling Summer School of Art (Sarasota, FL) at Wildacres, close by Little Switzerland. He began helping Paul, who signed up to start lessons. Here he met another instructor, Donald Blake, who befriended Paul. But the  portrait that Mr. Herring did of Missouri in 1938 tells of their connection.

At this time Paul did a life size portrait of his wife sitting in a chair holding their dog, Dipsy, a black cocker spaniel. She is wearing the same dress she wore in Mr. Herring’s painting of her. I imagine her posing as both collaborated on their work. This painting hung in my parent’s home as my sister grew up. My sister was given this painting sometime before our aunt’s death. As anyone can note, Paul caught on fast to this new career.

At home in Hickory, Mickey (a nickname Paul gave to his wife while they were dating), got a job at Spainhour’s Department Store in downtown. It was probably in the make-up department because she was later promoted to Buyer for Charles of the Ritz make-up line and she was sent to New York City to train. She and Paul had met another well known (portrait) artist in 1940 who also lived in New York City, Wilford A. Conrow. According to Aunt Mickey, Paul would accompany her to New York during her training and they both were entertained (and sometimes may have stayed with) Mr. and Mrs. Herring and Mr. and Mrs. Conrow (who lived close by CarnegieHall).

Paul and Mickey met Wilford A. Conrow, the third most important figure in Paul’s life in art, at an art show in Asheville, NC in 1940 and learned he spent summers close by Waynesville, NC near where his sister resided. He and his wife, Lera, would become lifelong friends.Paul had begun painting portraits of family and local business men before he met Mr. Conrow but enticed him to become his teacher. He would prove to be an important figure to Paul and his hometown, Hickory. I will list some of Paul’s signed portraits and landscapes below when he was taking lessons from Mr. Herring, Mr. Blake and then Mr. Conrow:

 

 

ca 1938 Portrait of Mickey and Dipsy (life size). Oil on Canvas. Gift to my sister.

ca 1939 Portrait of Fons McKinney. Oil on canvas. Gift to me in my aunt’s will.

ca 1939 Portrait of Jane McKinney. Oil on canvas. Gift to my brother by our aunt.

ca 1939 Landscape ‘Papa’s Barn.’ Oil on canvas. Wedding gift to my husband and me by my aunt.

Signed and dated:

1939 Landscape of a foggy day in L. S., an oil on canvas. Gift to me from my aunt.

1939 Portrait of Charles Settlemyer, oil on canvas gifted to HMA in my aunt’s will.

1940 Portrait of Betty (Jane McKinney’s granddaughter who lived in L.S) Gifted to her in my aunt’s will. Oil on canvas.

1940 Portrait of Aunt Julie (a frequent visitor at Jane and Fons McKinney home.) Oil on canvas. Gifted to HMA

1940 Landscape of Fons and Jane McKinney’s home. It hung at our parent’s home where my sister grew up. Given to me by my aunt. This is the cover of my book, “Lifted to the Shoulders of a Mountain.” Oil on canvas.

1943 Portrait of Mickey, oil on canvas. Gifted to HMA in my aunt’s Will.

I own several pieces of Mr. Conrow’s signed and dated art as does HMA. I list mine as follows:

1943 ‘Mickey’. Oil on Canvas. Gifted to me by my aunt several years before her death.

1894 Four separate caricatures of unknown men in pencil. He was about 14 years old at the time and they could have been people he knew or saw in his daily life in South Orange, NJ. Gift from my aunt.

Unsigned nudes sketched by Mr. Conrow.

 

 

As is well known and documented, Mr. Conrow was instrumental in assisting Paul in acquiring art for a proposed museum in Hickory, NC that would showcase American Art and artists. Along with local influential people, this most important museum in North Carolina has continued to be well tended since it was officially founded in 1944 with Paul W. Whitener as its first director. What is not documented is the influence Mildred Missouri McKinney Whitener Coe had on this success. When she was appointed interim Executive Director of HMA on her husband’s death in 1959 “she had worked with Whitener more closely than anyone as he built and developed HMA…and the temporary soon became a permanent one.” (The Legacy of Paul W. Whitener, American Art Review, April, 1998, by Thomas R. Perryman.)

We all know HMA continued to grow and prosper under my aunt’s direction for almost four (4) decades. She was able to do this because she met artists who taught her first, and with her, Paul, her beloved husband. She wanted to honor him and them. She did.

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