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One of the things in my grandparent's house that held a special place in my heart was the three huge paintings of pine trees that hung on the rugged brick wall over the fireplace. The paintings were full of green and shady spaces and a looming majesty that made them seem somehow windows instead of paintings. They were California pines, hanging in a suburban Chicago home, but not a bit out of place for all that. Throughout the house, there were many other paintings and etchings by the same artist, and so the whole house had this woodsy, organic feel to it, a flow, and a sort of tranquility that I always believed the paintings helped to foster.

The pieces were by my father's great-aunt, a woman named Nell Brooker Mayhew, who holds a decently distinguished place in turn-of-the-century American art. I didn't know any of that as a child; I just liked her trees.

A painting of hers hangs in the place of honor above my mother's fireplace now, and when I'm home I can spend countless hours resting my eyes and my self within its blended palette of trees and and color. It's funny that she's best known for her color etchings, when it is her oil paintings that I think are her most powerful works. It doesn't seem as if many of them are out there in the art world, and most of the pieces I know best aren't listed on the websites I could find about her.

When my father's mother passed away, he and his sister fought horridly about the inheritance of objects in the estate. My mother and my siblings and I watched with pain and horror as they squabbled and grew defensive and ultimately chose to break off relations rather than come to any fair agreements about the belongings which were handed down to them. My parents gave up in the end, and choosing not to continue the fight, handed over possession of most of the great paintings, including, to my infinite sadness, the 3 pines, to my aunt. We have had little contact with her since, but from what we've heard the paintings were most likely destroyed through neglect, or sold.

In 1925 Nell's sister published a little blue book of fairytales, which centered on her own mother's tiny house in the woods of Urbana, Illinois. Her mother "lived in the house the fairies built in a night" and as far as I know, it's still standing at 701 S. Busey Avenue. Nell did the pen-and-ink illustrations for the book. Under the cut is a photocopy of a newspaper photo of the actual house, and another grainy photocopy of Nell's illustration of it.

jackiejj shared a lovely story today about a fairyhouse her daughter built when she was a child, and it was this that reminded me of this book, and the artist, and the paintings that influenced my childhood. I promised to send her photocopies of it, but when I got home and pulled out the notebook, I discovered I only had copies of the cover and a few of the illustrations. The quality of the copies I have is abysmal, but they hopefully give a small taste of the charm and character of the book.

Buzzy, Busy, Beautiful Birthday Wishes to bezigebij!
mood: relaxed
music: Xymox—At the End of the Day


It's sad when family relationships are strained beyond repair over material things; stuff we can't bring with us when we die anyway.
Those illustrations are very charming - it harks back to a less complicated time of our lives perhaps.

dream home

Oh my gosh! I want to walk up that path right now and have a cup of tea by the fire, harvest herbs in the medicinal herb garden that surely must exist nearby, and generally relax and visit with the fairies! I truly wish I could find a copy of that book, and I am so happy you have real memories of such a place as a child!

Re: dream home

I was only at the house once as a very small child at some point after my grandfather passed away, and so I don't really remember it, but I do remember reading the book, and I've always loved Nell's artwork since it surrounded me from a very young age :)

Re: dream home

yes, it is wonderful art work, inviting the mind to wander into the fantasy world through the ordinary world! I would love to have that artwork around me! The one little glimpse was tantalizing....

Wow that's a lovely post and beautiful art.

fairy lands do exist - the book is proof
so lovely
your great(x3) aunt's art is beautiful
maybe someday you can find some pieces and adorn your walls with her work
what vivid memories art inspired in you

I have 2 framed pieces of her calligraphy hanging in my front hallway, which I love. :)

Liz, that is so neat that your relative is remembered and respected for her work so many years later. I love her pieces shown on that website! It's a shame that you don't have a copy of the little book, it seems only right that you should considering how much you love books. :)

Well, my mom has my father's copy (signed!) so I'm sure one of us will end up with it eventually. :)

Such charming sketches. What a beautiful memory you have of your grandparents home. It sounds so cosy.

thats too bad when people fight over such things. i think people think that those possessions will help them remember the person. they're afraid they'll forget if there arent things around to remind them.

Sometimes people act really weird when it comes to possessions after someone passes away and that is a real shame. It is almost as if the energy changes after a death. It doesn't always turn out pretty :-/

Beautiful house, a bit like Hansel and Gretel going up to the witches candy house, it is so very pretty. I love the illustrations, kind of art nouveau. I would sure love to be able to draw like that.


It never ceases to amaze me how relatives will fight to the death over POSSESSIONS...and often over things that weren't their possessions to begin with. I know I'm in the minority on this, but I've always felt that the MEMORIES matter more than THINGS...because I can always hold safe the memories. Lovely special to have such a wonderful woman in your lineage. ~Marilyn

Thanks so much for the birthday wishes!
It was indeed a busy, buzzy that will hopefully result in the planting of many trees in other people's gardens.

Both the trees and fairy world are wonderful; thanks for sharing.

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