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 Flora Whitney Kemp  (1866 - 1950)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts/Florida      Known for: botanic, land-waterscape, rural scene

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Ad Code: 4
Flora Whitney Kemp
An example of work by Flora Whitney Kemp
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted May 2005, is from Peter Kostoulakos, AOA, NEAA: Fine Art Consultant,

Flora Whitney Kemp Boutelle - wife, stepmother, and artist - was born in West
Groton, MA in 1866 and died in Lantana, FL in 1950. Although Kemp was not part of the "Boston School" group of artists, she was a contemporary of the group and of one of its most notable members, West Groton native, Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938).

The lives of Tarbell and Kemp, born only four years apart, were quite different: Tarbell was a formally trained academic artist and teacher raised in New York City, and Kemp was a young talented woman who lived most of her adult life in the small community where she was born. Together with her brother Harry and sister Lilla, she lived, played, and worked on the Kemp family farm, which is now the site of a Bed & Breakfast called the Wrangling Brook Farm.

It is not known if young Flora received any structured, formal art training, but her innate ability and passion for nature and art were destined to come together. Flora Kemp was born near one of her favorite subjects, Schoolhouse #4, also known as the Dana School, on the southwest corner of Kemp Street. Some of her paintings are on old slate writing tablets that were discarded when the school was closed. The tablets, with their original wood frames, enhance her Folk Style paintings. She loved nature and painted many local landscape scenes of Groton and West Groton.

Wrangling Brook (which ran through the Kemp Farm), the Squannacook River swimming hole (which she later donated to the town) and Schoolhouse #4 are just a few of her preferred places to draw and paint. She used pencil, oil paint, ink, and watercolor on canvas, wood, glass, birch bark, and slate to create many landscape and still life pieces. Other subjects include nature florals, woods, rivers, brooks, fields, roads, autumn leaves, and various buildings. Kemp painted mostly for self-fulfillment, family, and friends. The Groton art generally stopped when she began going to Florida in the 1920s, although she continued to paint many scenes of Florida.

Then in her sixties, Flora Kemp married Clinton Boutelle in the late 1920s and moved into his house on the south side of Kemp Street. Mother Flora was very close to her stepdaughter Adelaide, whose mother had passed away when she was seven years old. When Flora married Clinton, Addie was already 21. Addie married Richard Bissell and she enjoyed their children, eventually numbering eleven.

Most of her Groton work, which dates from the late 1890s to the early 1900s, has stayed in the family and was stored for more than fifty years by Richard and Addie Bissell. Many pieces resurfaced when Flora's step-grandchildren were cleaning out their father's house and re-discovered the treasures. In April 2005, the family organized an exhibition at the Groton Public Library in Massachusetts to share the work of a little known, and almost forgotten talent. Some of the pieces displayed were: "Cranberry Meadow and Lindall's House, 1898"; The Old Swimming Hole"; West Groton on Squannacook River"; "Willow Tree by Wrangling Brook"; and an illustrated poem, "Forest Treasures", a watercolor with hemlock and berries, signed FWK, 1926.

Sources include:
Robert Stewart, "The Groton Herald", Friday, April 15, 2005, page 8; Groton Public Library exhibition, April 2005; Bissell family descendents.

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