Harris Gallery

In partnership with the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art (CASETA), Rosenberg Library proudly announces its newest art exhibit Never A Dull Moment: The Art of Grace Spaulding John.

Self-Portrait. Oil on canvas, 1923 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

Oil on canvas, 1923 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

Grace Spaulding John was born in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1890. Her father was a newspaper editor and publisher, and the family lived in Vermont before settling in Beaumont, Texas during the early 1900s. After completing high school, John enrolled at the St. Louis School of Fine Art in 1909. Three years later, she began studies at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1913, John married Roy Keehnel, and the couple had two children together. When the marriage ended in 1917, John moved to New York to study at the National Academy of Design and at the Art Students League. In 1921, she married Alfred Morgan John, a Houston attorney.

Murdoch's Pier and Beach. Oil on canvas, 1938 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

Murdoch’s Pier and Beach
Oil on canvas, 1938 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

John continued her studies, first at the Parsons School of Design in New York and later at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1923, she was among an elite group of eight young American artists who received fellowships to study at Laurelton Hall — the Long Island estate of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

After John returned to Texas, she travelled abroad, producing many scenes from famous European cities. During the 1930s, John spent time painting in both Mexico and the American Southwest, places which inspired and influenced her work in subsequent decades.

God is Mathematics. Oil on canvas, 1938 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

God is Mathematics
Oil on canvas, 1938 (Gift of Patricia John Keightley).

One of John’s hallmarks was the preparation of her canvases. Utilizing techniques learned at Laurelton Hall, she used rabbit-skin glue to size her brown linen canvases. She preferred painting outdoors, seated in front of her subject, and usually created a small sketch before beginning a painting. John’s works typically feature bright colors and broad brushstrokes.

She was skilled in a variety of different media including oils, watercolor, pen-and-ink, and pastel. John was also proficient in etching and lithography, and she was one of the first artists to use Plexiglas as an artistic medium.

Examples of Grace Spaulding John’s work can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts Los Angeles, and the Smithsonian, among other institutions. Murals created by John can be found in Houston City Hall, Lanier Middle School in Houston, and Lakewood Yacht Club in Clear Lake. She continued to work until her death in Houston in 1972.

Never a Dull Moment: The Art of Grace Spaulding John is on display through July 20, 2018. The exhibit is located in the Harris Gallery on the Library’s fourth floor.
Rosenberg Library Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission to the museum galleries is always free.

History of the Harris Gallery

Harris Gallery 2011

The Harris Gallery came into existence with the addition of the Moody Wing of the library in the early 1970s. After Hurricane Ike in late 2008, restoration of the library included new lighting and flooring in the Harris Gallery. This gallery is utilized to exhibit thematic collections from amongst the Museum’s thousands of carefully preserved and stored paintings, illustrations, and photography.

John Woods Harris III (1893 – 1999) became a trustee of the Rosenberg Library in 1934 and served on the board for nearly four decades. As board president during the planning and construction of the building’s Moody Memorial Wing, Harris was one of the primary fundraisers for the monumental project. In 1971, the Harris Gallery was dedicated in honor of the Harris family for their generous gifts to the library.

John W. Harris III was the son of John Woods Harris, Jr. and Minnie Knox (Hutchings) Harris. After serving as a naval pilot during World War I, he graduated from the University of Virginia in 1920 with a degree in law. Harris returned to Galveston and began his career as an attorney.

Harris Gallery 2010

Mr. Harris was on the board of directors of the Hutchings-Sealy National Bank from 1930 until his retirement in 1974. He also served as director of the Sealy and Smith Foundation for the John Sealy Hospital. Harris was on the board of the Galveston Orphans Home for many years and was a trustee of the Galveston Independent School District.

He worked with many local organizations, including the International Oleander Society, the William Temple Foundation, the First Church of Christian Science, the Galveston Garden Club, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Boys Club of Galveston, United Way, Boy Scouts of America, and the Galveston Historical Foundation. Mr. Harris was a member of the American Judicature Society, Sons of the Republic of Texas, the Texas Navy, the American Legion, Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Galveston Artillery Club, and the Galveston Yacht Club.

Harris Gallery 2008

In 1973, he and his wife, Eugenia Davis Harris, formed Galveston Foundation, Inc., an organization dedicated to the beautification of the city, in an endeavor to make Galveston “the Garden of the Gulf.” Galveston Foundation has donated funds for the planting of flowers and shrubs along Broadway and has made numerous grants for the landscaping of schools and parks. The dolphin sculpture on the Seawall and the restoration of the Rosenberg Fountain on 23rd Street are also gifts of the Galveston Foundation.

In 1968, John W. Harris was honored as a Community Leader of America, and in 1976, the Galveston City Council proclaimed October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th as John Harris Days in the City of Galveston. Harris was named Man of the Year by the Galveston Boys Club in 1980 and was named the Rabbi Henry Cohen Humanitarian of the Year in 1981. He died in Galveston in 1999 at the age of 105 years.