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 Harriet French Turner  (1886 - 1967)

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Lived/Active: Virginia      Known for: primitive genre, landscape, interiors

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Ad Code: 4
Harriet French Turner
An example of work by Harriet French Turner
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is courtesy of Kathy Chabat, relative of the artist. Her information is from an exhibition in Williamsburg, Virginia, 1962

Crisp delineation of form, delicate brushwork, and meticulous use of color characterize the paintings of Harriet French Turner. Like Grandma Moses, H.O. Kelly and Clara Williamson, this twentieth-century folk artist is at her best creating nostalgic landscapes and genre paintings recalling scenes from her youth. In her own words this is the story of her life and art.

I am 76 years old. I was born in Giles County, Virginia but my family moved to Roanoke when I was 13 years old. As there was no public school near us in Giles my early schooling was in small private schools and under governesses in our home. Although my older sister had been to boarding school and studied art, I never though I could do anything like that. My interest at that time was music. I began studying under governesses and continued several years after we moved to Roanoke. It was not until I was in high school that I began dabbling in art. Just on my own--I never had a lesson in my life--I became interested in copying and did a good bit of it in the next few years. After finishing school I taught for two years before I was married. I married J.R. Turner who was a druggist in Roanoke City. We had three daughters who were the joy in our lives as they all turned out to be musical. My memories of our home life are so very pleasant. They are all married now and I have five wonderful grandchildren.

All through my busy life I continued to paint when I had the opportunity. After the children were married, we moved out of the city up on a hill near Roanoke where are views are magnificent.

I began thinking of trying to paint one of the views although I had never done anything original. However, It was not until the Roanoke Fine Art Center began having shows that I really made my first try. I painted a farm scene right in front of my house with high mountains in the background. To my very great surprise my picture was not only accepted, but Mr. John Ballator, head of the Art Department at Hollins College, liked my picture and bought it to add to the permanent collection at the college. That gave me my start and I have gotten great joy out of my painting in my older years. I was 68 when I exhibited my first picture. About two years afterwards the Fine Arts Center gave me half a duo show, and two or three years later Hollins College gave me a one-man show. Since my husband passed away, over a year ago, my painting has been a great comfort to me and has helped me to spend the long hours of my day.
Harriet French Turner
The following is also from Kathy Chabot:

Here is the picture (on the artist's Summary Page) of "Child's Bouquet" by Harriet French Turner. Chabot writes:

The following is from a news clipping my mother had with the painting. Unfortunately there is no newspaper name or date on the
clipping. It reads as follows:

Mrs. Harriet French Turner, a widely known Roanoke County painter who was the subject of a film, "Folk Artist of the Blue Ridge", died Thursday night in a Roanoke hospital. She was 81 and lived in the Cave Spring section.

A native of Giles County, she had lived in the Roanoke Valley since she was a young girl.

An interest in art and creative crafts led to display of her first paintings at a one-women show at Hollins College in 1958.

In 1961 her paintings of mountains, farms, orchards and primitive scenes came to the attention of the director of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection in Williamsburg and its first exhibition of the work of a living folk artist was devoted to Mrs. Turner in 1962.

Sixteen of the paintings and the artist at work are shown in the color film "Folk Artist of the Blue Ridge," produced and directed by a Colonial Williamsburg official and presented by the Rockefeller collection in 1964. Her work has been compared to the paintings of Grandma Moses.

Mrs. Turner's painting of the Peaks of Otter hangs in the Texas ranch home of President and Mrs. Lyndon Johnson. Mrs. Turner met the First Lady at the Peaks in 1965 and Mrs. Johnson said she would like the picture for her home. Her original paintings have been displayed in New York City and she is listed in "Who's Who in American Art."

Mrs. Turner said she began painting when she learned that entries for a Roanoke Fine Arts Center show in 1954 had to be original.

She was the widow of James Russell Turner, a retired druggist.

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