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Mississippi Artist Theora Hamblett and the Betty Parsons Gallery

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Friday, September 15, 2017 - 10:05am


Jennifer Ford

Mississippi-born artist Theora Hamblett rose to national and international prominence in the middle 20th century as one of the state's first recognized folk artists. Born in Paris, Mississippi in 1895, Hamblett was exposed to the rigors and simplicity of early 20th century rural life and these memories greatly influenced her later work as a painter. She spent much of her early adulthood teaching school and later earned money renting rooms to students after her move to Oxford, MS in the 1930s. Hamblett became a painter later in life after taking classes at the University of Mississippi where she found her primary medium- oil painting.

Hamblett was a prolific painter during her lifetime, Her work featured childhood memories, landscapes, children, biblical scenes, and her dreams and visions series. Upon her death the artist willed a large collection from her Dreams and Visions Collection, as well as other artwork, to the University of Mississippi. The collection forms a core component of the holdings of the University of Mississippi Museum's collections, where pieces are often on display.

One of the artist's early champions was New York gallery owner, Betty Parsons. Parsons bought one of Hamblett's paintings in 1954 and the work eventually made its way to the Museum of Modern Art. Parsons would continue to promote the work of this Mississippi artist through the years and her patronage helped contribute to Hamblett's rise to notoriety.

Featured below is an invitation to an opening reception and gallery showing for Hamblett's work in Parson's New York gallery in 1969. It is from the Theora Hamblett Collection in the University of Mississippi Libraries Department of Archives & Special Collections.

Back of invitation to Theora Hamblett Gallery Opening at Betty Parsons Gallery, September 15, 1969Front of invitation to Betty Parsons Gallery Opening for Theora Hamblett's Work, September 15, 1969. Features image of painting entitled, "High Water."