Sue May Gailey Wescott Gill-Artist (1887-1989)

Chronology for Sue May Gill

 

Biography (extensive)

 

Gallery

 

Paul Ludwig Gill

 

Lisa O. Langley / Sarah Mendenhall

 

Self-portrait in red and gold. circa 1930. 4230, Frame 4735. Oil on canvas. Signed LRC. [T.L.#11]

Ownership: Gill Estate


Chronology for Sue May Gill

Born January 12, 1887, Sabinal, Texas, second child of Asa Jones Gailey and Sue Louise Connally.

Died January 14, 1989, Topton, Pennsylvania.

Educated: Chicago Art Institute; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1919-1925, 1932 - 1933; Academy Colarossi, Paris

Married 1908 to Dr. Orville D. Wescott, a physician residing in Denver, Colorado. One daughter, born 1915. Divorced 1928. Married fellow artist Paul Ludwig Gill (1894-1938) in 1928.

From 1928 until 1982, resided in English Village, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, in an English Tudor home that contained studios for both her and her husband.

Known primarily as a portrait painter. Also painted still lifes and landscapes. Took one year of sculpture at Academy and executed several bronzes and portrait heads in plaster. Her work generally fits into the Post-Impressionist, representational tradition.

Member: Philadelphia Ten: 1931-1945 (Chairman, 1934-1935)

Additional professional memberships: National Association of Woman Painters and Sculpturers (joined 1931); Plastic Club; Philadelphia Art Alliance; PAFA Fellowship; Penn & Brush Club

Awards: Cresson Traveling Scholarship, PAFA , 1992; First Toppan Prize, PAFA, 1923; honorable Mention, Ogunquit (Maine) Art Center, 1931; Edith Penman Memorial Prize; award, NAWPS, 1932, and first prize, Fall Exhibition, NAWPS, 1933; Fellowship prize, 128th annual exhibit, PAFA, 1922; prize award, Women's Achievement Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1933; Lanscape prize, Plastic Club, 1942; First medal, Philadelphia Sketch Club, 1942; Landscape Prize, Art Club of Philadelphia, 1944; First Prize, Wayne Art Center, Wayne PA.

Her work may be found in the permanent collections of the: Allentown Art Museum, PA; Art Gallery, Fort Worth TX; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; the Woodmere Gallery and Museum, PA; Lancaster County Art Association, PA; Millersville College, Millersville, PA; Everhart Museum, Scranton, PA; Auburn Museum, Auburn, NY, The Plastic Club, Philadelphia, PA, along with other locations.


A Gill Biography (Extensive) Return to Top

The Connallys were of Northern Irish descent, following the Atlantic path already marked by thousands before them in the Eighteenth Century. In the 1840's the family established themselves in Western Tennessee and at the outbreak of the American Civil War owned a plantation near the town of Jackson. I know little about these people but when I look at a daguerreotype of Robert Connally, I see a handsome man, "Black Irish" in the eyes and hair, wearing a silk vest and holding a gold-headed cane. I also see both John Connally of Texas (almost certainly a relative) and I see the stereotype plantation-owner.

Robert Connally, Grandfather of Sue May Gill, circa 1850. [From an original daguerreotype]

In 1864 this prosperous world came to an end. Union Soldiers arrived and demanded the presence of the owner. "He's away; he's not here," they were told. The soldiers insisted that the residents produce the owner or, they promised, they would burn the main mansion down. Since Mr. Connally was indeed away, the Yankees burned, destroying much of the material wealth of the Connallys in the process.

A slave, one of the household servants, got to the family silver first, removed it and buried it, but everything else was lost—except for a tiny pouch found the youngest Connally's hand. It was of American Indian manufacture, worked with porcupine quill decoration and my mother still has it.

Suzanne Louise Connally, Robert's wife, took shelter in one of the slave cabins and there, the next spring, gave birth to a daughter they named Sue Louise.

After the war, the family moved to the "Wilds of Western Texas" and settled in Sabinal, near Uvalde. Here Sue Louise grew up. I know little about this woman but the surviving photographs and pictures of her uniformily show a woman with a strong face and little in the way of a smile. She was definitely self-assured and at ease on horseback. The change in her family's fortunes, while it occurred before her birth, nevertheless had a long-term effect on Sue Louise's outlook and produced a woman that comes down to us as self-sufficient, lively but hard-working and possibly, a bit demanding.

Yet all these qualities did not keep her from falling in love with another Irish-American recently come west to seek his own way in the world. Asa Jones Gailey of Philadelphia had worked in a book-making shop before moving to Texas. They met in Sabinal, fell in love and married and if life was not a "Happily-ever-after" they stayed married—working hard to survive the early years before finding relative comfort and contentment in the 1920's.

 

The house in Sabinal, Texas where Sue May Gill was born in 1887. The Garners (Jack was FDR's first Vice-President) owned the house and Sue Louise Gailey and Mrs. Garner were close friends. The house is still standing (as of 2000) and is one of the oldest buildings in Uvalde County. The child on the front steps is Sue May's daughter, dating this photo to approximately 1918.


Asa was a romantic man with artistic aspirations (at least in dress) and often impractical dreams. A Democrat, he was a faithful follower of Bryant, identifying with that politician's vision of easier money and bigger opportunities. Asa taught himself the rudiments of civil engineering and soon the growing family found itself moving to Kansas City for the first of many road-construction jobs that would have the Gaileys changing homes again and again.

In 1885 a first child, Elizabeth Sarah, had been born . Dark-haired, lively, self-centered and beautiful, Sarah dominated her sisters and soon chaffed under her mother's control.

On January 18, 1887, a second daughter, Sue May, was born in the Gailey home in Sabinal. May was also dark haired with dark brown eyes and a slender nose and figure.

A third daughter, Ruby, would follow in Kansas City in 1891 (?). Ruby was fair with red hair and light eyes that soon hid behind glasses. Of the three sisters, Ruby was the giving one, always willing to share or gift away everything or anything she owned.

Sarah, Ruby and Sue May Gailey at the time the Gaileys were living in Chicago — circa 1896. Sue May would have been nine.

 

The engineering profession initially proved to be fickle choice for a career and Asa found himself often forced to move in order to find jobs and when the panic of 1896 hit, he could not find any work at all. The family was in Chicago by then in what proved their longest stay, living in a little suburb some ten miles outside the downtown. Here the older girls started school. Asa was gone to look for work much of the time and Sue Louise struggled to feed and warm her children. GG retained vivid memories of that time: of worn out shoes, thin dresses and Ruby giving away all her own money to GG and Sarah so that her sisters would have something for Christmas. It is typical that Ruby would do this and that her sisters accepted it—GG with later regret. Whether Sarah had any regret, I do not know.

That time period, more than any other, was to shape GG's attitudes toward money, wealth, work and priorities. Despite all her later success, GG never felt financially safe, a feeling that made her at turns miserly, yet spontaneously generous. She longed to help and be giving, but refused to be extravegant, took care of everything she owned and worried about the wolf behind the door long after the dim, cold, hungry nights in Chicago had passed.

That time had other repercussions, sowing ill health in Ruby that would turn into tuberculosis when she was a teenager and exposing the older sisters to art.

Sue Louise, on her shopping trips downtown, would drop Sarah and GG off at the Art Institute while Sue Louise would continue to the stores with baby Ruby. GG was ten-years-old by then and joined a Saturday morning sketch class at the Art Institute offered to anyone who signed up. "Of course, the teacher was way above my head. I didn't know what she was talking about half of the time." Yet there GG got acquainted with the great painters and their work and developed her first love of art.

They would eat their lunch at the institute and GG described seeing one of the other students always bringing an orange and how the smell of it led her to ask her mother for one also. In time, her mother did buy six of them and GG thought the taste of this luxury fruit to be heavenly.

Schooling and expanding types of jobs both offered increasing opportunities for young women in this period, yet for families with little money, marriage remained almost the only viable future for daughters. From the beginning Sarah was viewed as the "artist" of the family and encouraged to create and work in art. By the time she was in her early teens, she had her first job at Marshall-Fields making little watercolor placecards for luncheons. When GG was twelve she began to work there as well, also making cards (at 75 cents a dozen). "I got so I could put those berries in in no time flat, put a little highlight in each one, then I'd make the leaves green."

 

 

Two of the cards that Sue May Gailey made in 1899 for Marshall-Fields. These were the expensive variety. May noted on the backs that they were worth $1.25 per dozen!

From Chicago the family moved to Alexandria, Louisiana. GG was seventeen by then and most of the way through high school (although there is no evidence she received her diploma). The next move was Colorado.

Sarah took a chance to escape home and married Charles Langley in 190--. Charming and handsome and full of promise, Charles soon revealed darker sides of his personality and by 1910 the marriage had deteriorated into violence and anger. A daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, called Elizabeth when young and Lisa after 1930, was born in 1908.

The other Gailey women were in Denver now, seeking help for Ruby's tuberculosis. It is hard for us now to understand the fear and hardship that the "Whire Death" produced. Nor the resources that this country brought to bear in a seemly-endless effort to control this disease that showed little respect for wealth, age or sex. Even the modern AIDS-HIV epidemic has not spawned the same fear or sense of helplessness. We have known almost from the beginning where AIDS comes from and how not to contract it. The Americans of 1900 did not have that luxury. One could do everything right and still come down with TB, a disease that might kill in weeks or months, or leave a person to linger in slowly declining health for years.

The drugs that would temporarily drive tuberculosis from the public awareness would not be available for another twenty-five years. For victims and families at the turn of that century the only options were to move to a cooler, drier climate, if financially possible, and hope for the best. By 1910, the Colorado Rockies and deserts of Arizona and New Mexico were attracting thousands of sufferers hoping for a cure, or, at least, a postponement of the inevitable.

The Gaileys chose Denver.

Pictures show these young women in Estes Park, all in shirt-waists with four-in-hands around their necks and wearing breeches and boots, fitting easily in the more informal west and the new styles that women were just beginning to follow. Ruby, immediately identifiable in glasses and smiling, despite her condition, GG, with come-hither eyes, looking at the photographer, The soon-to-be-married, or already-married and visiting, Sarah delighting in her sexy figure.

Ruby, Sarah and May in Estes Park, Colorado, where the Gailey family had moved to seek treatment for Ruby's tuberculosis. It is difficult to tell what the three sisters are wearing. Bloomers? Underwear?

The family stayed. GG had not taken her diploma and had little in the way of non-house-husbandry skills. She and Sarah were drawing and painting in watercolor and GG's early work already demonstrated that she had a good eye for design, color and proportion. But this was still in the future. Right now getting a husband and escaping the control of Mommy appeared more important.

Dr. Orville Dewitt Wescott was Ruby's physician. A transplanted mid-westerner with roots in Wisconsin and Iowa, "Doctor," as GG and the family always referred to him (although GG called him "David" in private), had served in the Spanish-American War where he had acted as personal secretary to General Fitzhugh Lee in both Cuba and Puerto Rico. Since earning his medical degree, Doctor had moved to Denver and specialized in treating tuberculosis. He was in his early thirties, successful, educated and a well-mannered and stylishly-dressed man for whom the beautiful GG must have appeared to be the perfect wife.

They married in 1909. GG was 22 and Doctor 34. They moved into a fine house with "A Tiffany Lamp" over the dining room table. GG learned to drive out on the prairie east of Denver in Doctor's nurse's Model T. He would not let GG drive his own fancy car.

Sue May Wescott and her sister, Ruby, circa 1910. Sarah had married and moved to Chicago.

The only cloud over these early married days was GG's inability to conceive. After several years, an examination revealed blocked fallopian tubes. The tubes got "blown-out" and in 1914 GG got pregnant. The pregnancy does not seem to have been complicated but GG, who remembered weighing less than a 100 pounds when she married, put on a lot of weight. Mary Sue was born March 9th, 1915. Soon a member of the local "Mother's Club" GG continued to enjoy her domestic situation.

By 1911 the rest of the family had gone. The Gaileys were in Eagle Rock, California, where Asa was engineer for a bridge project. Sarah with her daughter joined the family there, fleeing from her husband in Chicago in the middle of the night. Ruby also was in California but she was now spending much of her time working with Christian Science services and had little time for taking care of herself.

Change came in 1917. With America entering the World War, Doctor announced his intention to return to the Army and accompany the Expeditionary Force in the Medical Service. GG was horrified. She could not understand the patriotic or service motives of a man by then 42 years old, who had already served in an earlier war and would be now giving up a lucrative practice, home and wife to head for distant Europe. Perhaps they never really did understand each other, but Doctor's departure produced a rupture which never healed. Unable or unwilling to maintain the house in Denver, GG closed it up and moved with Mary Sue to Oklahoma City where she stayed with her Sister-in-law, Mabel. Later they traveled to California before returning to Denver in 1918.

Here Sarah and Elizabeth joined them. Sarah by now was sick of her illustration work for the Los Angles newspapers and determined to enter art school and become a real "artist." She and her daughter settled in an old mining town west of Denver where she spent the summer churning out artworks and submitting them to art schools in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. The roll of the dice fell to The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the first place to respond, and so to Philadelphia Sarah went with her eleven-year-old daughter.

Sarah arrived in Philadelphia with little money or understanding of what to do. Within days both she and Lisa were sick with the flu and close to dying. It would be spring before Sarah would be sufficiently recovered to enter classes.

The Gaileys, with Ruby, were now back in Texas and living in San Antonio, and there, Ruby, weakened by self-neglect died of the flu.

Despite the tight financial circumstances, Sarah loved Philadelphia and loved the academy. She invited GG to join her and in 1919, GG did.

Doctor and GG's relationship had not recovered when he returned from Europe. Both were looking for change. Doctor was not interested in returning to private practice. GG was not interested in remaining just a mother. Besides, Mary Sue had a full-time registered nurse, Richie, to watch over and care for her. So off to Philadelphia GG, Mary Sue and Richie went. The two sisters, their daughters and Richie, using GG's money, soon moved into an apartment together on Pine Street and in the fall of 1919, GG started classes at the academy.

Sarah and GG would soon part company in terms of style, taste and ambition. Rebellious, with enormous talent and a hunger for sex and the Bohemian life, Sarah developed a taste for drawing powerful female nudes and for the occult. Her work was individual, powerfully feminist in a time when that word as yet meant nothing.

GG, on the other hand, listened to her teachers and stuck more closely to the traditional forms and methods. This is understandable in some ways. Sarah had been supporting herself with her art and talent for half her life. Her vision and style had formed long before she started at the academy. She had a great deal of talent and knew it. Having experienced one disasterous marriage, she remained leary of men, even while using them for sexual gratification.

GG, still married and all to aware of her own greater age yet lack of experience, chose to listen in class and work hard to meet the teachers' expectations. Later GG would comment of her experience relative to her sister's. Sarah, she said, was a "Very good artist, but a little on the lazy side." "I was working at it from five o'clock in the morning. Sarah would spend an hour." The results in the end showed. The third year, both GG and Sarah won scholarships to allow them to travel through Europe in order to visit museums and gain inspiration. GG won a second scholarship a year later. Sarah did not. GG completed the four-year curriculum, then was invited to stay as a teaching assistant for an additional year. Sarah, having found a rich banker to act as her sugar-daddy-husband, did not complete the program. GG left a major body of work in a wide range of media. Sarah did little serious work after leaving the academy and died in 1953 leaving only a modest reputation and output behind.

One day GG was having trouble setting up an easel in her antiques sketch class when a new student came in. He helped her with her easel then proceeded to dash off a sketch that so impressed GG that she continued to keep her eye out for him. The next summer she was attending the academy's summer program in Chester Springs when she saw him again at a student baseball game. He was seated on a fence, smoking and watching the others play. She approached and talked with him and soon a new bond formed.

Sue May Wescott in Chester Springs MD, summer 1920.

 

A class taught by Mr. McCarter at Chester Springs.

Paul Ludwig Gill was born in 1894 and by 1920 had already graduated from Syracuse University, served in the army and nearly died from the complications he experienced as a result of the flu and his treatment at Walter Reed Hospital. He had lost a lung and could not indulge in the activities of the younger students.That was why he was sitting on the fence instead of playing ball. But there was another reason. Most of the students were between 18 and 21. Paul, at age 25 and already a college graduate was not only older but more mature in attitude. GG, then age 33, shared a similar perspective.

Soon the two were spending all their spare time together. When GG traveled to Europe and North Africa, Paul, also a scholarship winner, was there as well. The first year they traveled from England to Paris, to Italy, visiting museums and art schools. The second year Paul and GG went off by themselves. They crossed to Spain, Algiers and Tunisia and north to Switzerland. In every place, they painted side-by-side: same subjects, different results.

Paul's training at Syracuse gave him practical, illustrative skills that he used to create luminous charcoal illustrations for many of the leading magazines, particularly those published by the Philadelphia-based Curtis Publishing Company, including the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal and Country Gentlemen. He also made etchings and worked with a graflex camera—which he used both as an original tool and a means of capturing an image that would later be used in paintings.

His oil paintings combined a bold and rich palette with dynamic shapes to create paintings that grab the viewer. Despite the strong strokes, his draftmanship never failed and proportions, perspective and modeling come through in every image. As a result his work appears to be impressionistic and realistic simultaneously.

But watercolor was to be the medium in which Paul Gill would gain fame and make his reputation. He began to experiment with the medium in the late Teens—his early work following the styles of others with color covering most of the paper. But in Europe he began to open up the images, leaving large areas of white paper to add illuminosity and allow the unmixed colors to brighten.

Watercolor has not been a popular medium among professionals. The nature of the paints limits the base to paper instead of the more durable canvas. Mixing of pigments to attempt gradations of color often results in dull, muddy tones and the rapid drying and inability to over-paint forbids large sizes and long work sessions. As a result, watercolor paintings tend to be small and sketchy—a medium beloved by amateurs for its low cost and promise of rapid results.

Paul's later watercolors transcended the medium's limitations. A quick, light pencil sketch would be followed by bold lines and colors, many pure. With a twist of the brush, a building, person or boat would take on three dimensions, the white paper substituting for brilliant sunlight or sparkling water. No other watercolorists would be as successful in creating works that use all the medium's strengths. Even today, he would be considered to be among the finest watercolorist this country has seen.

Matched in their determination to succeed, work ethic and appreciation of each other's talents, Paul and GG acted as mentors and chorus to each other, bringing out the best in each and contributing the finest images either would produce.

Mary Sue, age 10

Sue May Gill's daughter painted circa 1925 in Dutch costume.

[T.L. #57. (4035 [cut down from bottom and right side], frame: 4641) Oil on canvas. Resigned LRC in 1958 at time painting resized.]

By the mid-Twenties they were living together. Mary Sue, still with Richie, moved from Philadelphia back to Denver to stay with her father in 1922 when GG left for her first trip to Europe. In 1924, under the care of a new nurse named Flo, she moved to Washington where Doctor had been called in to take over the VA hospital administration—then in disarray as a result scandals in the previous administration. Later, when Doctor took over the VA hospital in Kerrville, Texas, Mary Sue moved with him there.

Sue May Wescott and her daughter, Mary Sue, circa 1923.

Finally in 1927 GG got up enough courage to ask Doctor for a divorce. For years she had lived with a lover while going to school at his expense and now she wanted out. To her surprise, Doctor did not protest and even gave GG custody of Mary Sue. Perhaps his motives were not as noble as they appeared at the time, since within a year he had remarried, this time to one of his nurses. As for Mary Sue's feelings on whom she wanted to be with, they did not matter for she was never asked.

In 1928 Paul and GG hastily and informally married (no third witness) and, later that year bought property in a development being started by Arthur Love. Love had traveled in Europe and admired the old Tudor and medieval half-timber styles he studied there. He now proposed to create a collection of duplex homes near the Lower Merian Township's high school that would be true to this style both inside and out. The Gills liked the suburban setting and the quality of the high school for Mary Sue and bought land in Love's new development.

GG and Paul's new home was the first of the "English Village" homes, one of the largest and custom-designed to fit their needs. Dark oak framing and off-white stucco walls served as a perfect settings for paintings. Leaded windows and oriental rugs added richness. Upstairs both had their own studios with high ceilings, north light and hardwood floors. They moved in in 1928 and for the next ten years were to enjoy productive and happy times there together.

Paul and Sue May Gill in their patio next to their new house in the English Village, Wynnewood PA.


GG by now had developed her own reputation as a portrait artist of skill and perception. Her ability to combine bright colors and model faces and, particularly hands, made her sought after by the high society of Philadelphia and beyond. Her portraits of children, always difficult subjects, show a fine combination of sympathy and individuality. She worked in almost nothing but oils in this period, but continued to expand her range of subject matter. She made many small landscapes. She painted a great many stilllifes, mostly small but many as large as her three-quarter-length portraits. She exhibited widely and won numerous prizes.

The depression initially cut into the Gills' income enough to prevent their practice of annual travel by car to exotic locations throughout North America. In 1930 they were painting in Isle de Orleans in Canada, but the next several years they spent most of their summers in Harvey Cedars, New Jersey.

GG's parents had moved to a home in that summer resort on Long Beach Island in the 1920's and there Sue Louise owned and ran the general store, continuing its operation after Asa's death until her own death in 1941. GG and Paul bought their own little cottage in Harvey Cedars just one house from the beach and from the mid-Twenties on spent much of their non-traveling time in the summers there. Paul was fascinated by the ocean dories used by the fishermen at Surf City and Shipbottom and he would return to the beach where the men would launch and bring in their boats again and again.

Above, the Gailey Store at High Point (Harvey Cedars) on Long Beach Island, New Jersey

Upper Right, the "barn" where Sue May Gill did many of her oils at the shore, including the portrait of Mary Sue in Dutch costume and the portrait of Blanche.

To the right, the inscription on the back of the photograph of the barn.

In 1934 GG and Paul resumed their travels and between 1934 and 1937 visited and worked in Taxos, Mexico, Taos, New Mexico, Arizona, the Gaspé Pennisula, Canada, and Nova Scotia. The trip into the Mexican interior in 1936 at a time when the countryside knew no paved roads or improved services were particularly adventurous."At one time they had to pull our car up by ropes to get us over a certain place. It was the most terrific time I have ever had."

Such was GG's reputation that in 1931 she was invited to exhibit with the "Philadelphia Ten," a cartel of women artists from the Philadelphia area that had started exhibiting together in 1917. The departure of one member and the death of another had created openings, one which GG filled. She would exhibit with the Ten for the rest of the group's existence, their final show coming in 1945, right after the war. Younger then many of the original members and trained at the Academy, instead of the Women's School of Design, GG brought a different style and, with her portraits, a different subject matter to the group.

In 1933 she re-enrolled at the academy to study sculpture, turning out several portrait busts and two small bronze fountains both featuring ducks. The one shows a family of two adult ducks surrounded by vegetation and ducklings, the other an adolescent, nude girl holding a ducking and smiling at an adult duck.

The bronze fountain of a girl and duck by a pool in New Jersey.

Sculpted by Sue May Gill.

Mary Sue graduated from Lower Merian High School in 1932, just seventeen and a year ahead (she had jumped grades in primary school). She left for a year at Sweetbriar College in Virginia before transferring to Wellesley College in the fall of 1933. She graduated with a degree in biology in 1936.

From there she enrolled in medical technician training and began to seriously consider entering medical school. Doctor was to persuade her otherwise. Looking back on his own experiences, he counseled her to devote herself to the man she loved, predicting that a career and a happy marriage would not mix.

Mary Sue was deeply in love with Theodore C. Loder, Jr., a tall, young man with pure blue eyes and dark, wavy hair, an easy smile and an ability to sell any product he believed in. They had met Ted's senior year in high school. The "class Adonis," the girls all thought him stuck up and urged Mary Sue to "take him for a fall." Mary Sue fell instead and by that winter the relationship was serious.

After a year at the Pennsylvania State College in central Pennsylvania, the depression forced Ted to drop out. He drove a crab truck from the Chesapeake to Philadelphia for a year before transferring to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1936 and after six months active duty in the reserves, started work as a salesman.

In 1938, Mary Sue and Ted married. A few short months later both Doctor and Paul were dead.

Doctor, by then 68, had been running a VA hospital near Spokane, Washington. He went out and played 36 holes of golf on a hot, summer day and experienced a stroke. Less than a week later, he insisted on getting out of bed and dropped dead of a heart attack. Newly-married and with neither time nor money to take a train across country, Mary Sue could only grieve from afar.

Paul's death was just as dramatic and sadder. Age 44 and at the peak of his reputation, never more productive and teaching at the Women's School of Design, Paul could look forward to a national recognition. He had just completed a mural for a post office in Cairo, Georgia, and he and GG were preparing for another trip to Mexico. Closing up the cottage in Harvey Cedars, he went out to the car and never came back. GG found him dead by the car a short time later.

Already missing one lung, a workaholic and a heavy smoker, his fate is understandable today but it shattered GG's happy world and her own art would never recover.

Still grieving, GG returned to Europe in 1939, traveling to the east this time and visiting Russia, Poland, Latvia and the Scandinavian countries, slipping out of Danzing days before the invasion of Poland and returning on a blacked-out cruise ship.

Back home GG took stock of her future and made several fateful decisions. She was convinced that Paul's reputation and status had to increase and it was one of her obligations to do that, but she also felt that she needed to work to provide a solid financial base for herself. Memories of the Chicago days pressed on her mind and painting works that would "sell" became increasingly her own objective.

Support for Paul's work soon came to a standstill. After retrospective exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, in Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, Arizona and Harvey Cedars, interest faded. A New York City dealer, MacBeth, who admired Paul's work and agreed act as his agent, died, leaving GG without an impressario to do the promotion Paul's work needed.

At the same time, GG herself was so busy with her own commissions that she had little time to devote Paul's work. Increasingly responding to the demands of her clients, GG's style began to lose its freshness and become more finished. Flattering details became more important than stunning colors, her portraits, polished and "perfect" and dull.

GG took the money she was making and invested it. As the stock market rode to ever-higher heights in the late Forties and early Fifties, GG rode it up, becoming modestly wealthy in the process.

For GG, this was success enough at the time. She relaxed a little. She still traveled: to Mexico, Cuba, Haiti then several times to Florida, where she stayed and painted for months, and Forsyth, Georgia, where she painted a whole series of portraits for one family. Visiting her daughter at her family's home in the country in the Lehigh Valley, she painted landscapes and did portraits of her growing grandchildren and local families.

If her commissioned oil portraits had become somewhat stiff and predictable, her increasingly numerous charcoals revealed a freer and more relaxed side. GG began doing charcoal portraits in the late Forties. By the late Fifties, more than half her portraits were charcoal.

In 1959, the year after her son-in-law's early death, she took her daughter and family to Europe. Despite a crowded car and many driving miles, GG had a wonderful time revisiting the places where she and Paul had spent so many happy times together. She made a few sketches in colored pencil but otherwise did not work.

Back home, GG remained busy. Fewer commissions were coming in and fewer and fewer people seem to know who she was, but she continued to paint and draw, mostly stilllifes in oil and portraits in charcoal. She worried about her finances and the future of her reputation, yet no longer seemed quite sure where to go or what to do. She had had a massive one-woman show at the Woodmere Galley in 1953, in many ways the height of her achievements, but little resulted from its showing. In the Sixties she had a show at the Everhart Museum in Scranton and put together a show of Paul's work but nothing came of it.

By 1975, GG's vision was starting to fail due to cataracts and by 1980 she had attempted her last portraits. She found painting increasingly frustrating and decided that she would just run her home as a gallery. Yet she would not leave the paintings in her house alone. Other than a few loosely-syled stilllifes, much of her late activity consisted of repainting or resizing earlier works, always with disastrous results.

By 1982, Altheimer's disease had advanced to where she no longer could be relied on to feed or care for herself. In December she fell and could not get up. Mary Sue moved her to a Nursing Home in Bryn Mar, then to the Topton Home where she lived until 1989, dying quietly in her sleep at the age of 102. Above her bed hung two portraits: An early portrait of Paul Gill which had hung above her bed since 1938 and an oil of an anonymous fair-haired girl with deep brown eyes. Why "brown-eyes?" Who can be sure, but maybe in those alert, questioning eyes, GG recalled memories of herself and the little brown-eyed girl she once was—in the shadow of a more dynamic and more talented sister—but always wanting and pushing herself to be all she could be.


From the INTERVIEW of December, 1970:
Listen to interview (.wav format) (NOTE: File size is quite large (63.5 MB)
. Not recommended for visitors with dial-up access. Estimated download time for dial-up at 56.6 kbps is 2 1/2 hours.)

"A box of paints and a bunch of boards ... You know how many Paul did. We were in Algiers, Tunisia. By the way, when we were in Tunisia, Margaret Oliviet was with us—the three of us decided to go down there. Sarah was there too—she was in Africa. Anyway, Paul and I wanted to paint there. Every morning we were out bright and early—painting the street. There was this little boy, ten or fifteen years old, who would come up every morning and watch us paint. He had this little white fez on his head—a little Arab, you know. He would just stand there, modestly and quietly, and watch us paint. This went on for days, all the time we were in Bozada, yes, we there, Gozada in Africa.

Then Paul and I went down there, to the desert ...

"Later, many years later, after Paul's death—I went abroad again, no connection with the academy. On the boat going over I met a man named Tomshek. He was a big businessman in Stockholm. We got to be quite-good friends. He said I want you to see my new building. It was of steel-Swedish-steel. I said I'd love to. I did go over to it when we arrived and I saw it and he said now there is a young man here who wants to do the decorations. You see, in those countries, not like our place, we don't have any mural decorations at tall—hardly. Over there they do.They put up a big building and they get a fine artist to decorate. Anyway, he'd got this young man to do some decorating. He wanted to know what I thought about it—because he saw some of my work, you know. I said that would be fine.

"The young man arrived one morning and I liked him very much. I didn't know if he could paint or not, but anyway, he was a nice fellow.

"He said, 'I'm living with two other fellows in a certain place.' One was a Russian, the other was a German.They had a studio together.

"These three young men just sorta' took me. I was with them all the time—these three people. Marvelous to me really. Couldn't have been nicer to me. The German was nervous and all upset about everything but the other two couldn't. The German had left Germany. He had gone to Sweden, you see ...

"Well, then the owner of this building, he wanted me to meet this man and invited me to his studio, then he [the young man] wanted to invite me to lunch. I said that would be just fine. So I would have lunch with him.

"We went out to this most beautiful restaurant in sorta' an out-of-the-way place. We were sitting there, enjoying ourselves very, very much. And he said, all of a sudden, he said, this is the way he put it (he didn't speak English too well). He said, 'Well, I've had you in my dreams.'

"I said, 'Oh, my goodness, what are you talking about.'

"Anyway, he said, 'Were you the young girl what was in Africa ? Did you paint in Brewzada? Were you there with a man many years ago? Well, I was the little boy who followed you around.' What do you think?" [GG starts crying.]


"You can ruin a painting with bad hands."

 

"For many years I did a portrait for 500 dollars, including hands. Now I charge $3000."


Gallery Return to Top

"Glouster, Mass."

Blue rocks and pool. Signed LRC "Sue May Wescott." Very different than usual GG style and obviously quite early.

10x14.4

Frame: 13x19.5

Ownership: Gill Estate

Peggy Milne (193?)

Oil on Canvas. 18 x 16

TL# 31

Ownership: Gill Estate

Chair, Mortar and Pestle

Oil on canvas. 22 x17

TL# 209; signed "Sue May Wescott Gill" LLC

Ownership: Gill Estate

Fred Holsho (actor)

Oil on Canvas. 36 x 30

TL# 1

Ownership: Gill Estate

Dreaming (or "Spirit of Norway") (1939)

Oil on Canvas. 24 x 26

TL# 8, signed LRC

Ownership: Gill Estate

Everglades

Oil on canvas. 20 x 24

TL# 199

Ownership: Gill Estate

Fruit on Blue Cloth

Oil on canvas board. 16 x 18

TL# 85

Ownership: Gill Estate

"From the Plains of Arizona"

Young Hopi woman, 1936

Oil on canvas. 24 x 20

Ownership: Gill Estate

Geraniums at Window

Oil on canvas. 16 x 18

TL# 110

">Ownership: Gill Estate

Blanche

Blanche Becker was a resident of Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. GG painted this portrait in the barn behind her cottage sometime in the mid-1920's.

Oil on canvas. 36 x 30

Ownership: Gill Estate

Little Girl of Haiti

Oil on Canvas Board. 16.5 x 14.5

Signed LRC. TL# 29

Ownership: Gill Estate

Jar and cloth Fesctures (1950)

Oil on canvas. 30 x 25

Signed LLC. TL# 195

Ownership: Gill Estate

Marion Clark (192?)

Oil on canvas. 24 x 20

TL# 82

Ownership: Gill Estate

Carol Woolston (195?)

Charcoal on paper. 18.5 x 15

signed LRC

TL# 107

Ownership: Gill Estate

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