The following information was provided i August of 2006 by Chris Schmalz, nephew of the artist:
Merton Widdicombe Willmore
Merton W. Willmore was an artist devoted to the interpretation of nature with his landscape paintings. He painted in both oil and watercolor. His trademark with oils was his palette knife technique which was something he developed early in his days of painting to get away from the stiff accuracy of engineering drawing. For a change of pace he did watercolor paintings that had their own unique sparkling quality. Merton was a modest artist who shrugged off his popularity with the public as being a myth. The fact is, however, that he was one of the most popular artists in the Cincinnati Art Club which he joined in 1933.
Merton was born in Foxboro Massachusetts in 1893. His interest in drawing and painting went back to when he was in grade school and made his own easel. At the age of sixteen he started a two year night course in engineering drawing at the Lowell Institute in Boston. During the days he worked for a group of patent attorneys preparing meticulous drawings of machinery. At the conclusion of these studies he then went on to receive art training at the Fenway School of Illustration in Boston.
During World War I Merton served in the Army where he was assigned to drawing maps. After the War he became associated with the Griffith Stillings Press Company in Boston where he headed their Art Department. He stayed with this firm for three years and then joined the Rust Craft Greeting Card Company as Art Director. One year later he went into business for himself as a freelance artist. One of his biggest customers was the Gibson Card Company, who later encouraged him to come to Cincinnati to join their company full time. Merton’s association with this firm lasted for 35 years during which time he was Art Director of the Humorous and Novelty lines and Creative Director of the Every Day line.
Merton first studied landscape painting under Frank Meyers of Cincinnati and California. He was responsible for Mert’s enthusiasm and interest in painting, which was further encouraged by his studies under John F. Carlson of Woodstock, NY, Lester Stevens of Rockport, MA, Charles Curtis Allen of Jefferson, Vermont and Elmer Browne of Provincetown, MA.
The encouragement of Reginald Grooms and Walter Closson was responsible for Merton’s first one-man show at the Closson Galleries in Cincinnati. This was followed by three more shows at Clossons and many one-man shows at the Cincinnati Art Club.
Merton was a member of the American Watercolor Society of New York for over twenty years. He was represented in their annual juried show for many years, and in 1960 and 1970 was included in their Travel Shows. In 1963 and 1965 he had the honor of having two entries accepted. The entry in the 1965 Travel Show was purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts Montgomery Alabama for their permanent collection. In 1962 Merton was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the American Watercolor Society. He was also a member of the Salmangundi Club in New York City and was represented in several of their exhibitions over the years.
While in Maine, where he spent his summers, Merton exhibited at the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset for many years, and also in the Regional Shows at the Boothbay Harbor Museum and Boothbay Playhouse, which had a small intimate gallery in connection with the summer theatre.
In 1974, one of Merton’s paintings was selected for exhibition at the Governor’s Mansion in Columbus Ohio.
Merton exhibited for many years in the annual shows of both the Cincinnati Art Club and the Professional Artists of Cincinnati. He was also represented in many exhibitions at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Mert was a member of the McDowell Society for many years as well as having served as president of both the Cincinnati Art Club and the Professional Artists of Cincinnati.
Merton died in December of 1974 in Cincinnati Ohio at the age of 81.