The painter Frank Stanley Herring played a key role in the origins of the Hickory Museum of Art, in that he helped ignite and encourage Paul's passion for art. Herring was an accomplished painter himself.
“Frank Stanley Herring and his wife, Frances, took a room at the [Mitchell County, NC] Switzerland Inn in the late 1920s. He was an artist who lived [and worked] in New York City. … [The owners of the Inn] Ida and her brother Heriot had become friends with my grandparents, Fons and Jane Buchanan McKinney. Their friendship naturally led to a friendship with the Herrings. … Frank began to paint portraits of my family. The first was a life sized oil of Fons’ and Jane’s daughters.” (Mitchell News-Journal, Sept. 8th, 2010.)
From left to right in Herring's painting of three of the four McKinney sisters, with approximate ages, are Thelma Anne McKinney (15), Ida Jones McKinney (17), and Mildred Missouri McKinney (14), Paul Whitener's future wife. Pat Turner, daughter of the fourth McKinney sister, Edith, who was 12 at the time of the painting and had brown hair and eyes, reminisced about her mother, “She must have been devastated to be left out.” Ah, family.
Frank Stanley Herring was born in Pennsylvania, and established himself as a painter in New York City after having studied art in Chicago. Shortly after marrying in the early 1920’s, Herring began teaching at the Grand School of Art in NYC in the winters while spending summers in North Carolina. It was here that he met Paul Whitener in 1934, being introduced by Mickey who was at the time being tutored by Herring. As Paul's interest in and talent for painting emerged and grew, Herring supported Mickey's idea that Paul take lessons at the well-respected Ringling School of Art's summer program at Wildacres in Little Switzerland where Mickey herself was both student and model and where Herring among others taught, and Paul productively followed that suggestion.
In 1946 Herring and his wife helped establish the Burnsville Painting Classes. Located in the old Mount Mitchell's Boys camp in Burnsville, N.C., the school grew to national recognition over a 20 year period, continuing until 1966 when Herring died.
Herring became known primarily for his water color portraits of blacks in the South such as his undated Black Woman above, purchased by HMA in 2015.. His paintings have been exhibited in the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, among others, as well as of course at Hickory Museum of Art.
This post is # 7 of the 75 stories to celebrate HMA's 75 years.
Post by Karin Borei, HMA Project Coordinator, writer and editor as needed, and HMA blogger since our blog's inception in March 2015.