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Baron Stanhope Exhibit Opens

September 17 – October 31, 2015

The works in this exhibit cover many years of Stanhope’s career and are drawn from the collections of family and friends. There are three main categories of work: whimsical genre scenes, landscapes, and architectural renderings. Of these, Stanhope is best known in this area for his landscape paintings of the Texas and Arkansas countryside. Less know are his whimsical genre scenes populated by caricatures of regional life. These are done in a style similar to illustrations from the 1920’s and 1930’s. In the third category we see his love of architecture, which is demonstrated in the subject matter of old barns and historic buildings.

TRAHC would like to give special thanks to the Stanhope family, specifically Merilynn Johnson, as well as Kaye Baxter and Ken Liles for loaning part of their private collections for this exhibition. TRAHC appreciates their generosity and support in making this wonderful exhibition a reality. Our hope is that the public enjoys experiencing a beloved piece of Texarkana history.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

6:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Cabe Hall, Regional Arts Center
321 4th Street, Texarkana, TX 75501

Join us for the reception of our newest exhibit, "Baron Stanhope - A Retrospective" Thursday, October 8 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm at the Regional Arts Center! Refreshments will be provided and admission is free.

TRAHC is happy to announce that Merilynn Johnson has donated prints of Stanhope's pen and ink work. The prints will be available for sale at the reception. All money earned from the sale will go towards Arts on Main scholarships for under-served children.

Baron Stanhope Biography:
Herschel Doras “Baron” Stanhope, was born in a rural area near the town of Bone Gap, Illinois in 1904. His aptitude for design and the visual arts began at an early age. By high school his teachers in Bone Gap would have him draw illustrations on the board for the class. He also designed a brick bandstand that still stands in the town today.

After high school, he left home traveling as a musician, finally ending up in a Scottish Highland Band that traveled with the carnivals. This is where he earned the nickname “Baron”. He came to Texarkana with the Dodson World’s Fair Show and eventually met the woman who he would marry- Ella Mae Nelson. Stanhope and his wife moved to Chicago so that he could attend art school. Working days, he attempted to go to school at night. Shortly thereafter the couple discovered their family would be growing and headed back to Texarkana where Stanhope found work at Montgomery Wards. As the depression began, times became hard and he was laid off. With only $2.50 in his pocket, Stanhope made a bold step and decided to go into the sign business on his own. His business grew even in the depression era, sometimes trading signs for shoes and other clothing items the family needed. They finally moved into a small house where he built his first dark room in order to explore another interest that was photography. It was here that he held the first Photography Club meetings. Also at this time, he became interested in astronomy. He spent a year of his time grinding his own lens and building a telescope, eventually rebuilding the garage into an observatory with a 16 foot revolving dome. He always felt this was the masterpiece of his life. Many people in Texarkana came to look at the stars and he was pleased to show the heavens to many scout troops and students from schools.

Stanhope bought additional property on State Line to expand his sign company and added neon to the business. He built many of the dimensional signs lined the major roadways running through Texarkana. His bottle shaped sign at the Bottle Shop on State Line is still in use today.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, being too old to actually fight, Stanhope picked up his family and moved to Waltham, Massachusetts to assist in the war effort. He went to work for Raytheon, and was eventually made foreman over a department that made parts for new models of radar. Ultimately the work turned to top secret and he became part of the crew that made a portion of the atomic bomb. No one knew what they had contributed to and were horrified when they discovered the result. The Manhattan Project did bring an end to the war.
Coming back to Texarkana, he added to his sign business and included an art store in the front portion of the building. He then built a new home on County Avenue that he designed himself in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. He and his crew did most of the work. The family was always told that the wood framing was built from recycled bomb cases. Stanhope loved to design and build. In addition to his home and the observatory, he built a houseboat that had its home on Lake Texarkana. A painting of that original boat is included in this show.

In the second story of the business building, Baron included a studio space. A dedicated group of Texarkana artists would meet there weekly and called their group Sketch Club. Members included Stanhope, Walter McDonald, Thomas Hinton, Jane Stanhope Miller, and Katherine Blanchette. Every week they each chipped in $2 to pay a model and did portrait work. Many times family members were enlisted when they couldn’t find anyone else.

Both Stanhope and his wife Ella Mae were active in the Photography Club. They spent a lot of time traveling the roads taking photographs. He had a photograph accepted into the American Journal of Photography in 1947. Many of these photos ended up as resources for his paintings. Stanhope was primarily a landscape artist. Baron spent many years painting the scenery of the Arkansas Mountains and areas around Texarkana.

He died November 29, 1985. Several family members have continued to paint with the knowledge that he shared with them. The art supply business that he started in the 1940s continued on until 2013.

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