A wonderful and moving exhibit, "The White Mountain Art of Mabel Williams," runs from now through October 15th in the Carriage House Gallery at Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH. The exhibit presents a number of pastels and several paintings presenting scenes familiar to us all here in the North country. There is no cost to view the exhibit, eat lunch in the Carriage House, or use the Lakes Region Conservation Trust trails. For other uses of the facility a grounds pass or castle entrance fee applies.
Mabel Josephine Hatch Williams (1870-1944) was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1870.
She attended school in North Weymouth, MA and entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in October of 1893, but there is no record of the years studied or a graduation date. She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Art and Design. She was a student at Mr. Stone's Art School and the Cowles Art School.
In 1908, she married Francis Williams, a photographer. They spent their honeymoon in Jackson, NH, and thus began her love affair with the area.
Mabel and Francis build a small summer cottage near the Christmas Farm Inn and Mabel began spreading her pictures on the lawn for guests to purchase during Sunday Tea.
One summer, around 1920, she ran out of pastel paper and resorted to using fine sandpaper available at a local hardware store, discovering the pastel medium worked better on sandpaper. She purchased dime store frames from the "Five and Ten" store in North Conway and offered her paintings as souvenirs. She was quite successful with her paintings of mountain peaks, valleys and gardens, selling them as souvenirs for as little as $2 and $5.
In the early 1980s, art collector Samuel Robbins was shown a cache of unsold Williams paintings in a New Hampshire basement. Although the pastels were soiled with decades of dust, mouse droppings and dead insects, he recognized he had rediscovered a wonderful talent. He purchased about 40 of the pieces and had them restored to their original beauty.
The whereabouts of approximately 135 of her works are presently known (including three collectors who have thirty or so each) and have been shown in a number of venues since the 1980s.