Marion artist publishes book, explores local art history

By Tanner Harding | Feb 24, 2017
Photo by: Tanner Harding Nancy Dyer Mitton

Marion — Most residents know Marion was home to the summer residence of President Grover Cleveland, but not everyone knows of all the prominent artists that also called the town home during that time period.

Local artist Nancy Dyer Mitton published a book full of research on the romantic artists of the late 19th century who drew inspiration from Marion, and on Thursday night she presented it at the Music Hall.

At the center of much of her research is the Old Stone Studio, currently located at 46 Spring St.

“I wrote the book because I lived in the Old Stone Studio,” Mitton said. “My landlady at the time told me that Mark Twin had planted the bush out front…All these incredible accomplishments from American artists happened there. I think I was haunted by the vibes.”

After living at the studio and hearing about what happened there, Mitton decided to go back to school to get her Bachelor of Fine Arts.

“My senior thesis was on art history so I was doing the research on these artists, and all the stories from my landlady were true,” she said. “And there was so much more.”

Mitton shared a painting of water lilies, painted by Helena deKay, who eventually moved into the Old Stone Studio with her husband, Richard Watson Gilder.

Guider and deKay used the home as a studio, and Gilder, a wealthy democrat, was the one who convinced President Cleveland to move to Marion.

Other artists who spent time in Marion, such as Cecil Clark Davis and Charles Dana Gibson, helped define America to the rest of the world. It was post-Civil War and America had finally been introduced to the world stage, and art such as Gibson’s famous “Gibson Girl” represented the United States before things like television could do so.

Mitton said Marion was an ideal location for these prominent artists because it was a nice change of pace from big cities, and was a place to enjoy each other’s company.

“Marion was a not too remote escape from the distasteful life of the city,” she said. “These artists were all connected and it’s what kept them going.”

Portrait of Helena de Kay by Winslow Homer. (Courtesy of: Nancy Dyer Mitten)
First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland modeling for the portrait relief created by Augustus Saint-Gauden at the Old Stone Studio. (Courtesy of: Nancy Dyer Mitten)
The interior of the Gilder Studio in the 1880s. (Courtesy of: Nancy Dyer Mitten)
Print image of the Gibson Girl, created by Charles Dana Gibson. (Courtesy of: Nancy Dyer Mitten)
The Old Stone Studio, current day. (Photo by: Tanner Harding)
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