Sepia Saturday: The Painter

This week's Sepia Saturday post focuses on another of my wife Robin's relatives, Mary Wealthy Kimball (1876-1969), or as she was later known, Mary "Nammie" Morris.

Quotes are from newspaper articles (publication unknown). Apologies for the look of this week's illustrations, they're all photographs of photocopies of photographs!

'"All of my children were grown, and there I was in Deer Lodge with my husband, with nothing much to do but sit in the apartment and stare out the window at Mt. Powell... I saw the mountain and right then decided to paint it.'"

Glacier Park, Montana

'Mrs. Morris bought paint and brushes, ripped up some pasteboard boxes to use as canvas, and began to paint. Four months later she returned to Great Falls with a good stack of paintings.'

El Capitan, Yosemite

Near Great Falls, Montana

'She was a little skeptical as to the artistic value of her work until she discovered the man who had packed her furniture had made off with about half of them.'

High Sierras

Missouri River, Great Falls Montana

Following this episode, she studied under a local teacher, and every winter from 1937 to 1946 traveled to California to work with Jack Wilkinson Smith, "a landscape artist and close friend of Charles Russell."

'Smith...gave her Russell's corner of the studio...to work in, when he discovered she had also known Russell.'




'"My mother was an artist," she explained, "and when I was little I used to walk around paint so much I just absorbed it."'

'"Every minute I don't paint, I feel time is lost. I used to play cards and go to parties a lot. But not anymore.  If you want to paint, you have to give up things."'


'Mrs. Morris painted 8 hours a day 7 days a week for many years but on doctor's advice has cut this down to about 3 hours a day. "I get all wrapped up in my painting," she said, "and to quit is about like pulling teeth." Her favorite subjects are mountain scenes, though she has a weakness for barns and other farm buildings. But mainly she prefers scenes that are overwhelming. Pictures of cows in the pasture, and the like, are not for her.'


Sometime in the 1930s, her first grandchild, John Martin Morris, dubbed Mary "Nammie" and the name stuck. Her family "never knew exactly when she was going [to paint], as she packed for weeks. Then one morning we would find a note on the breakfast table saying, 'Gone to California.' "


Sheep Ranch

Mary was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Sometime before 1893, her father Joseph Freeman Kimball bought a cooperage, but soon went broke in the "panic of '93." The family then moved to St. Louis, where she eventually met her husband Martin Luther Morris.

California Desert

Mary was one of the founding members of the Women's Republican Club in Great Falls, Montanam where she had moved in 1909. She was also instrumental in organizing some of the city's first PTAs (parent-teacher associations) and the first baby clinic.

California Coast

'She would much rather paint for men than women. Men select as picture because they want to sit back with their pipe and look at it. Women always have to try to match the picture to the color scheme of a room.'


  1. With such a work ethic she must have left behind a lot of paintings. I always wonder what happens with these kind of art works after someone dies (I know a lot of Van Gogh paintings were burned after his death).

  2. I really like her mountain scenes. It's lucky for her she had the resources to up and go and paint at will like that. i have a fear of that happening to all the stuff i leave behind, all tossed. or saved for one generation because the kids know i will haunt them and then tossed, genealogy research, prints...

  3. I really like her paintings. I wish I could paint like that. I wonder what happened to all her paintings. I don't know whether she was well known or not.

  4. Her mountain scenes are really beautiful...and I'm not usually a fan of mountain scenes.

  5. So amazing...I really like Glacier Park...it is an amazing place!

  6. A born artist. I wouldn't know where to start. Beautiful scenes - you want to be there.

  7. A quite fascinating collection. We get a glimpse of not only her work as an artist but also the person behind the pictures. Wonderful.

  8. These paintings are breathtaking - what talent!

  9. Oh, my gosh! These are beautiful. I can't believe that guy stole half of what she had on hand. To one day just begin painting like that! My husband's father-in-law did the same thing; he didn't begin to paint until later on in life.

    Loved your post, all of it. Thank you for putting so much effort into it and sharing it with us.

    Kathy M.

  10. Amazing work, both for the artist and you for putting it together.

  11. A woman dedicated to her art - there are some lovely paintings here, thank you :-)