Here‘s how I found this one. I have a soft spot for the artists. I make art myself. I know how hard it is. Most of the followers of this space know about the Maplewood watercolor virtuoso Stan Masters. What a wonderful discovery that was. I’m only sorry that I never met Stan while he was alive. I can see his and his wife, Carlene’s home from mine!
As for Turnbull, “The buildings also housed notable local artists including muralist James Baare Turnbull and sculptor Peter Keep;” is a quote from the 2005 nomination to the National Register for our Dr. Cape buildings that had been prepared by Matt Bivens. This was my first exposure to the artists’ names, Turnbull and Keep.
I searched half-assedly for information about them now and then over the years but found nothing. Then not too long ago, I happened to notice somewhere that our art museum (SLAM) had one of Turnbull’s paintings in their collection. This got me kicked off again, I was thinking how cool it would be if we locate a painting of his that was done here in Maplewood.
Enter once again, Newspapers.com. I found nothing about Peter Keep, the sculptor. I was not having much luck with my search for “James Baare Turnbull,” either. When I keyed in just “James Turnbull” without the Baare, I imagined it was similar to hitting the jackpot on a slot machine.
Newspapers.com just kept displaying hit after hit. This is a really big one. I have no idea just how much we’ll eventually uncover about Mr. Turnbull. This is a major, major score for us history fans!
I don’t understand how a guy who was well known and highly regarded could be completely forgotten by the community that incubated him. As an added bonus, my search also uncovered information about the mysterious sculptor Peter Keep!
This is the image I saw that got me looking again.
These two articles, both on the same subject and both from January 1936, are the earliest information I have found on Turnbull so far.
This article from December 1937 mentions Turnbull’s painting “Chain Gang.” As you will soon see, he was still in his Maplewood studio at this point in his career.
My online dictionary defines graphic arts as “the visual arts based on the use of line and tone rather than three-dimensional work or the use of color.” I found a couple of examples of Turnbull’s work that I’ll post next. Notice that now Turnbull’s name is the first one listed.
This article is really about the artist, Vorst, but has a bit of information about Turnbull and others.
Jackpot!!! Here we have his address-2737A Sutton Avenue. This is the second floor of the building that once housed the first Maplewood City Hall.
From this very important article we learn not only that Turnbull was the chairman of the American Artists Congress but also the identity of the mysterious Peter Keep, Turnbull’s wife’s nom de clay (or whatever her medium was).
This is a lot for you to digest. I have much more information about our newly rediscovered famous artist that I’ll post next time. There is absolutely no telling how much more we will find out about this man and his wife.
I haven’t found any examples of his wife’s sculpture. It is very likely that there exists a very large number of paintings that James finished during his time in Maplewood. I can’t wait to see some of them.
Doug Houser January 26, 2024