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 Molly Guion  (1910 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: New York / United Kingdom      Known for: portrait painter-dignitaries

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Molly Guion
An example of work by Molly Guion
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Information submitted May 2004 by John Finnegan, New Orleans, Louisiana:

A noted portrait and figure painter, Molly Guion, was much influenced by Englishman Henry Raeburn and especially noted for portraits depicting the "archaic but splendourous world" of British upper classes.  Of her work, it was written that she "is an excellent painter who wastes not a brush stroke, and uses color, light and form sensibly. . . In approach, she is a romanticist, and for that very reason she does well by her subject, for it is a sentimental recollection of power and greatness." ("Commercial Appeal)  Her goal as an artist was to establish a vogue for family portraits in America, as was the tradition in England and in Holland.  She said that "In Great Britain, portraits rank with castles and estates as the greatest of family assets. . . Living forever in painted likeness, ancestors are a ceaselessly operating beneficence." ("Standard")

Molly Guion descended from Huguenot settlers, Clarence and Georgia Beardsley Guion, in New Rochelle, one of the oldest French families in America, and lived both in New York state including New Rochelle and Rye.  She began painting portraits at age six, and in 1982, it was written in her obituary that her "early painting of another child still hangs in the third floor studio of her huge, old home in Rye . . ." She took an art class at Sea Pines on Cape Cod, which set her future direction.  She spent many summers at Dennis, with the Isaac Dillinghams, Cape-Cod relatives who paid for further art lessons.  She attended Thornton-Donovan School in New Rochelle and private schools in Maryland and Washington DC.

During her long career, her subjects included social, business and political leaders. Among them were Queen Elizabeth of England, a work that hung in the mess hall of the British Royal Navy in Portsmouth; Winston Churchill, which is at the British Consulate in New York City; and the late New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

She studied at Grand Central Art School with Arthur Woelfle and at the Art Students League with George Bridgman, Grigory Gluckman and Dimitri Romanovski.  During World War II, she was sponsored by the USO to travel to troop camps throughout the United States, sketching pictures of wounded soldiers.

As a young woman in her twenties, Molly Guion tried to establish a career in New York City "but failed dismally. She had no access to notables and recalled in an interview a few years ago, 'I painted a lot of flowers in those days.'  She then went to Europe and aboard ship, met a Cunard line director 'who got me on the Queen's party list.' " From that time, she became known for her paintings of British dignitaries and pageantry.  She was painting lords and dukes and queen's guards and recalled 'having a marvelous time as guests in castles.' " (Obituary) Her travels included three trips to England where she also was able to get many uniformed soldiers to pose for her as well as dignitaries including the Sepaker of the House and The Sixth Earl of Clarendon, whom she painted in his robes of the Knight of the Garter. Of her dedication to depicting regally costumed persons, he said: "Pageantry is the rainbow expression of Tradition." (Living Museum)

Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother of England, requested a private showing of Molly Guion's paintings.  The artist sent for public transportation and reported that "To my horror a huge moving van arrived, but there was not time to countermand the order." (Savannah Evening Press) When she arrived at the royal palace, she was greeted with enthusiasm and taken to the Privy Seal Entrance.  Her visit resulted in an exhibit at Buckingham Palace 1949, hosted by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

When she returned to America from England, Sir Henry Hobson, the British Consul, arranged an exhibition of her work at the Grand Central Art Galleries in New York City, and The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were patrons of the exhibit.  The Brooks Memorial Museum in Memphis held an exhibition, "Tradition and Pageantry in Britain" consisted of 23 portraits of English and Scotch personages, many in their ceremonial dress in September 1955 followed by that exhibition at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield in November 1955, and at the gallery of Marshall Field's department store in Chicago in March, 1956.

This Chicago event was hosted by Robert Whyte Mason, the British consul general to Chicago, and his wife.  A review of this exhibition stated that "The pictures have been shown in many cities in the United States and Canada and have been described as another good-will link between the world's English speaking peoples." ("Chicago Daily Tribune") Following the exhibit in Chicago was another held beginning May 1956 at the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences in Savannah, Georgia

Memberships included the National Association of Women Artists, the Pen & Brush Club, New Rochelle Art Association and Hudson Valley Art Association. She exhibited with the New Rochelle Art Association, Seattle Art Museum (solo), Grand Central and Kennedy Galleries in New York, Vancouver (BC) Art Gallery, Paris Salon in France, the Royal Portrait Society in London,

In the spring 1967, a major exhibition of her work was held at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida. Titled "The British Are Coming"

Molly Guion spent the last years of her life in Rye, New York where she lived with her husband of many years, U.S. Navy Captain John B Smyth.  Upon her death at age 71 in Port Chester, New York, the writer of her obituary, referred to her as "a grande dame of portrait artists".

Ellerhusen Memorial Prize,
Allied Artists of America
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club
National Art Club gold medals

Her work is in the British Royal Navy collection in Portsmouth, the British Consulate in New York City, and the New York State Capitol building.

Elizabeth Guion Salter Wood, the artist's niece
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
Jim L Collins Women Artists in America: Eighteenth Century to Present 1973
Who's Who in American Art 1973 and Who's Who in American Art, 1940

Obituary, Gannett Westchester Newspapers, February 22, 1982, courtesy of Christina Mosquera.

'Molly Guion Exhibit A Favorite at Flagler', The Palm Beach Post-Times, Sunday, March 12, 1967

'The Living Museum', The Illinois State Museum, November 1955

'Portraits of Britons Comprise Art Show', Chicago Daily Tribune, March 14, 1956

'Pageantry of England in Paintings', Savannah Evening Press, Saturday May 5, 1956

'British Past Is Recorded', The Commercial Appeal, September 11, 1955

Eleanor Early, 'Perseverance Pays; She Now Paints Royalty', Standard Times, Cape Cod, Jan 6, 1956

Much of the above information was submitted September 2005 by Christina Mosquera.

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