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Theora Hamblett (January 15, 1895 – March 6, 1977) was an American painter, one of the first Mississippi folk artists to achieve national prominence.[1]

Theora Hamblett
Theora Hamblett.jpg
Born (1895-01-15)January 15, 1895
Paris, Mississippi, US
Died March 6, 1977(1977-03-06) (aged 82)
Nationality American
Known for folk art


Early lifeEdit

Theora Alton Hamblett was born 15 January 1895, in Paris, Mississippi. Her father Samuel was a Civil War veteran, who was 72 years old when Theora was born. She was educated in Blue Mountain, Mississippi, and at Lafayette County Agricultural High School.[2]


Hamblett was a teacher in her early adulthood; she left the classroom in 1931, and cared for her dying mother for several years. In 1939 she bought a house in Oxford, Mississippi, where she lived and rented rooms to students. In her mid-fifties, she took her first nighttime painting class at the University of Mississippi. She also took correspondence courses on art.[3]

Hamblett's paintings are colorful and frequently harken back to her childhood on a farm, or depict stories from the Bible. Some represent Hamblett's dreams or visions, frequently with religious symbolism (angels, chariots, butterflies, stairways, roses).[4][5] Their charm was recognized as early as 1954, when she sold a painting to a New York gallery owner, Betty Parsons.[6] She was featured in a 1955 show of new acquisitions at the Museum of Modern Art.[7] In the 1960s and 1970s, some of her paintings were used for UNICEF Christmas cards and calendars.[8] In 1972 she was part of another show at the Museum of Modern Art, this time focusing on naive art.[9]

In 1977, director William R. Ferris featured Hamblett in the documentary film "Four Women Artists," produced by the Center for Southern Folklore, as one of the four Mississippi women in the title, along with writer Eudora Welty, quilter Pecolia Warner, and embroiderer Ethel Wright Mohamed.[10]

Personal life and legacyEdit

Hamblett died 6 March 1977, age 82.[11] Hundreds of her drawings and unsold paintings were left to the University of Mississippi Museum.[12] Several of her paintings are also available for display in American embassies.[13] Nelson A. Rockefeller and Sir Alec Guinness were other collectors who owned works by Hamblett.[14][15] Football player Eli Manning is also said to own a painting by Theora Hamblett.[16]

There is a historic marker at the site of Hamblett's house in Oxford. The house was also depicted in a keepsake ornament produced in 2009 for the University of Mississippi.[17]


  1. ^ Patti Carr Black, The Mississippi Story (University Press of Mississippi 2007): 27. ISBN 1887422145
  2. ^ Lee Kogan, "Theora Hamblett," in Gerard C. Wertkin, ed., Encyclopedia of American Folk Art (Routledge 2003): 243–244. ISBN 0415929865
  3. ^ Marion Barnwell, ed. A Place Called Mississippi (University Press of Mississippi 1997): 310–311. ISBN 0878059644
  4. ^ Paul Grootkerk, "The Visionary Paintings of Theora Hamblett," Women's Art Journal 11(2)(Autumn 1990-Winter 1991): 19–22.
  5. ^ Melissa Harrison McGuire, "Visionary Southern Artists: Theora Hamblett and Howard Finster," Proteus: A Journal of Ideas 16(1)(Spring 1999): 40–44.
  6. ^ Patti Carr Black, Art in Mississippi, 1720–1980 (University Press of Mississippi 1998): 215. ISBN 1578060842
  7. ^ "Over Fifty Newly Acquired Paintings and Sculptures on View at the Museum of Modern Art," MOMA press release dated November 30, 1955.
  8. ^ UNICEF, 1976 UNICEF Engagement Calendar: The Child in Naive Art (UNICEF 1975).
  9. ^ "Naive Art from the Museum Collection," MOMA press release dated January 11, 1972.
  10. ^ Teri Hurst, "Folk-South: Workshop on Southern Life and Art Tells it Like it Is," Daily News [Bowling Green, Kentucky] (November 9, 1978): 5-A.
  11. ^ "Deaths: Artist Theora Hamblett," Daytona Beach Morning Journal (March 7, 1977): 9B.
  12. ^ University of Mississippi Museum, Theora Hamblett Collection.
  13. ^ U. S. Department of State, "Art in Embassies: Theora Hamblett."
  14. ^ "Theora Hamblett, Painter Who Started in Mid-Life," New York Times (March 7, 1977): 28.
  15. ^ "Theora Hamblett, Rural Teacher, Widely Known for her Art Works," Washington Post (March 8, 1977): C3.
  16. ^ Gary Buiso, "Eli Manning's 'Anointed' Art," New York Post (September 14, 2013).
  17. ^ "University Releases 2009 Collectible Holiday Keepsake," Ole Miss (November 5, 2009).

External linksEdit