Mary Caples Morrison, sculptor and painter, was born in Richmond, Virginia. She graduated from the Collegiate School of William and Mary, a private school in Richmond. In 1925, she enrolled in The Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. and graduated with honors. For a time she trained with the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who is best known for the colossal heads of the Presidents carved into the stone face of Mt. Rushmore.
Morrison opened her own sculpture studio in Washington, D.C. where she worked as a portrait artist, completing, among others, a bust of the arctic explorer Evelyn Briggs Baldwin. In the 1940s, she turned from sculpture to painting. Self-taught as a painter, she captured local landscapes and people in a variety of media including oil, pastels, pen and ink, and watercolor. She was a member of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City which she visited often, keeping abreast of the art scene of the 20th Century.
In 1930, she married Dr. Claude Moore Morrison. They made their home in Harrisonburg where a daughter Martha LaNette Morrison Merz was born in 1936. Dr. Morrison practiced dentistry while Mary sketched, painted, and worked in clay in her studio at home on West Market Street, one block from downtown. The couple was deeply involved in the civic life of the community, then a small Valley town, population 8768 in 1940. For almost 35 years, they retreated to a primitive cabin near Deerfield, Virginia.
Morrison’s first introduction to the Old Order Mennonites, a culture which fascinated her, occurred when a Mennonite farmer knocked at her door to ask if she would draw his cows for the Farm Registry that was required in those days. She always cherished her Old Order Mennonite friends. As an observer of hog-killings, quilting parties, and farm life, she expressed in her paintings the close ties of the Mennonites to the land, their families, and the cycle of the seasons.
During the 1950s, Mary was part of a group of painters in Harrisonburg who met regularly with a model. She taught drawing for many years at the Harrisonburg Recreation Department. Her work has been exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia.
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