Photo submitted by Mark Brown
Often Known For
portrait, religious subjects, mural
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following is from a relative of the artist.|
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Julia Collins was a painter of portraits and religious subjects who lived primarily in Savannah but spent many summers in Asheville, North Carolina.
She was an art student at the Telfair Academy in Savannah and at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts. In 1921 and 1923, she won first and third prizes for portraits in the Tri-State expositions, and in 1924, she exhibited oil paintings at the Fourth Annual Exhibition of the Southern States League.
Her paintings, the 14 Stations of the Cross, were in the John Flannery Memorial Chapel of St. Joseph's Hospital, in Savannah, but their whereabouts currently are unknown.
Following is a newspaper article about the artist that appeared in the Savannah (Georgia) Morning News:
'Man researching genealogy seeks details about family artist and her work'.
By Jenel Few: Savannah Morning News
Mark Brown's sense of family pride and heritage came together like a jigsaw puzzle when he visited Savannah in 1997 and he began to research his maternal genealogy. He learned all about the childhood of his mother Mary Lee Scleuning and his great-grandfather Dr. John Collins, one of the city's earliest oral surgeons.
But there was one missing piece -- information about his great aunt Alice Collins.
Collins was an artist. She trained in St. Louis, painted locally and in North Carolina from the 1920s to the 1940s. "When I learned we had an artist in the family I wanted to learn more about her," said Brown, who lives in Washington, D.C. Several relatives had her work hanging in their homes, but details about her life and death eluded them.
Collins never married and she had no children, so there are no direct descendants to carry on her memory. According to family accounts, she died in 1952.
"I looked for her in Who's Who in American Art, found nothing at the Georgia Historical Society, I searched for her on AskART.com, and I called the Telfair," Brown said. "They only have one reference to her in an old art show exhibit for well-respected Southern female artists."
Brown was discouraged to discover that female artists were largely denied a place in the major art markets during his aunt's lifetime. Southern female artists, like his aunt, mainly exhibited through regional art clubs.
"In the larger art world, like New York and Chicago, it was very male dominated," said Harry DeLorme, Senior Curator of Education at the Telfair Museum of Art . "In a place like Savannah there wasn't much of an art market but women were the major players in establishing art clubs and classes."
Despite the lack of information, Brown is determined to find out all that he can about his great aunt's work.
"I think female artists are becoming more and more recognized and I hope to get some recognition for my great aunt," he said.
Family members who knew Collins told Brown that they remember seeing her major work -- The Stations of the Cross -- in the chapel at the old St. Joseph's Hospital.
"She was noted for religious themes, portraits and floral still life but her major work was the Stations of the Cross," Brown said.
But St. Joseph's and the chapel moved to its southside location in 1970. When Brown visited the new hospital chapel the Stations of the Cross paintings weren't there.
Before the move, the hospital unloaded everything from televisions to silverware in a week-long rummage sale. But hospital archivist Sister Christian Lancaster doesn't think they would have sold the chapel art.
"My logic tells me one of the Catholic parishes inherited them," Lancaster said. "Knowing Sister Cornile, who managed the move, I don't think she would have sold religious things like that."
But Sister Cornile died two years ago and everyone who worked with her remembers them but they don't know what happened to them.
"The process was that things went to whoever needed them," Lancaster said. "But they're not at the Riley Center, they're not at Cabrini and they're not at the new hospital."
Barbara Kane, of the Catholic Diocese of Savannah, said because of the swap and share system the paintings could be anywhere in the region.
"Some things, like a statue -- were given to Rose of Sharon," she said. "But the paintings might have been given to any one of the parishes throughout southern Georgia."
Brown said he'll continue to search for this missing piece of his family history.
"If they're in somebody's private collection and they're enjoying them that's great. But if they're in the back of a closet waiting to be thrown out I'd like to see them where they can be preserved and enjoyed," Brown said.
Higher education reporter Jenel Few can be reached at email@example.com or 652-0325.
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