Friday, March 18, 2016

In the Painter's Shoes (Paul Hadley Paintings), Part One

In 2014, my colleague, Cauli Le Chat, retired MPL feline roving reporter, blogged about some of the locations painted by Paul Hadley, artist and designer of the Indiana State Flag.  The library owns several Hadley watercolors, and now an anonymous patron has loaned several more Hadleys to MPL to display as part of the state flag's centennial, as well as the Indiana bicentennial celebration.  (We've prepared two brochures--here and there--showcasing the paintings.)  We thought it would be fun to explore the places Hadley painted in the loaned watercolors. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

Madison, Indiana and the Ohio River (ca. 1931)
by Paul Hadley
(Click Images to Enlarge)

In 1931 Paul Hadley exhibited this and other of his southern Indiana paintings at a one-man show.  We can compare the scene to a modern view of Madison.

Aerial View of Downtown Madison, Indiana
(Photo by Harvey Oliver)

Hadley was lower (obviously, since he was standing on the ground painting, rather than flying over, the town) and closer to Madison, but you can see certain similarities between distinctive structures (e.g., church steeple, Jefferson County courthouse) that appear in both the modern photo and the Hadley painting.

More importantly, we know that Hadley had been visiting Madison, among other locations in southern Indiana and Kentucky, when he was assembling the landscape watercolors that he exhibited in his 1931 show.

Maysfield [sic], Kentucky (ca. 1931)
by Paul Hadley
(From the Estate of Helen Cook)

Another watercolor Hadley included in his 1931 show was this street scene from Mayfield, Kentucky (titled "Maysfield, Kentucky" [sic]).  In her biography of Paul Hadley, long-time Morgan County Historian Becky Hardin (1908-1995) wrote:

  • “The Maysfield, Kentucky painting shows gray buildings, set even with the walk, and a large flowering shrub with yellow blossoms in the center. Mr. Hadley asked Mr. [Claire] Cook a question about business. When Cook said there was no charge for this information, Hadley brought several paintings and told him to select the one he liked.” [Hardin, Becky (1976). The Indiana State Flag, Its Designer (Biography of Paul Hadley with Anthology of his Paintings), p. 30. Mooresville, Indiana : B. Hardin.]
The only difficulty is that there is no Maysfield in Kentucky.  There is, however, a Mayfield, Kentucky (in Graves County), as well as a Maysville, Kentucky (in Mason County). We're guessing that Hadley might have accidentally added the S to Mayfield, or it could have been an error by his biographer, Becky Hardin.  (But see further below about Maysville being a possible location.)

Downtown, South Side of Court Square
Mayfield, Kentucky (ca. 1957)
(Photo by Jean Ann McCormack)

 Downtown, East Side of Court Square
Mayfield, Kentucky (ca. 1957)
(Photo by Jean Ann McCormack)

Downtown, West Side of Court Square
Mayfield, Kentucky (ca. 1957)
(Photo by Jean Ann McCormack)

Downtown, Southeast Corner of Court Square
Mayfield, Kentucky (ca. 1957)
(Photo by Jean Ann McCormack)

Downtown, Southwest Corner of Court Square
Mayfield, Kentucky (ca. 1957)
(Photo by Jean Ann McCormack)

We would have to travel to extreme southwestern Kentucky to find the particular street and houses that Hadley may have painted in Mayfield.  We can see from the photos above that downtown Mayfield was fairly typical of small midwestern American towns in the 1950s, but Hadley painted his street scene no later than 1931.

As we examined modern photos of Mayfield, however, we noticed that none of the older houses looked anything like the ones in Hadley's painting.  Differences from Hadley's portrayal include:  (1) the front yards were bigger; (2) there were generally no walls and stairs abutting sidewalks; and (3) there was greater distance between sidewalks and streets.

1922 postcard showing Maysville, Kentucky

So we wondered if Hadley had, in fact, visited Maysville, Kentucky instead of Mayfield to paint his watercolor street scene.  Maysville is situated along the Ohio River, and the older sections of town (East 2nd Street up to East 6th Street; West 2nd Street up to West 6th Street) gradually slope uphill as the street numbers rise. There were many houses similar to Hadley's portrayal in this area of Maysville. Here's an example.  Note the similar stone wall, stairs, and proximity of the structure to the sidewalk and street.

East 5th Street, Maysville, Kentucky (July 2014) (courtesy of Google Maps)
(Note the building style, wall, and proximate sidewalk & street
to Paul Hadley's painting below)

Paul Hadley Painting (ca. 1931)

Unfortunately, we cannot determine for certain whether or not Hadley's street scene came from Mayfield or Maysville without an extensive exploration of the local landscape, as well as sifting the photographic archives at the Graves County Public Library (in Mayfield) or the Mason County Public Library (in Maysville). But we are tempted to believe that Hadley's biographer, Becky Hardin, would not have quoted the title Maysfield [sic] Kentucky if it had actually been Maysville. But the architectural differences between the two communities present quite the mystery in determining where Hadley created this painting.

Next time, we'll consider the locations of more Hadley watercolors closer to home.

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