Maplewood History: James Baare Turnbull – Internationally Known Artist Extraordinaire!!! – Part Two


James Turnbull is probably the most famous artist with a Maplewood connection. This man must have made hundreds of paintings, drawings and sculptures.  Where are they now?  What important collections contain some of his work?

I am pleased to get this latest research online so my readers can have a crack at it.  There is no telling what we might find.

If you haven’t read Part One, you can link to it here.

The above page of photographs appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 2, 1939.  I’ll enlarge the one on the bottom right so you can read who the photographers were.

Big Surprise! The artists were also photographers!

What a great find this article is.  It is sad to learn that he left Maplewood but understandable.  We also learn that he was the supervisor of the Federal Art Project of the WPA in St. Louis!  I’d like to know what James thought about that last sentence in the article.


Found on Facebook

These murals were done in St, Louis in the 1930s.  I think that there is a good chance that any work Turnbull did before 1940 may have been done at his studio at 2737A Sutton in Maplewood.  I’d like to know when he first occupied that place.

Apparently Turnbull and these other artists were active during WWII in combat situations.  Notice that Turnbull gets top billing.  This is probably because this article is from a St. Louis newspaper.  Thomas Hart Benton was probably the most famous of the artists listed.  At least it turned out that way.

By 1961 Turnbull was making wire sculptures.  I would love to see some of these and know where they are today.

Along with the cat, this 1964 rooster seems to fit a mid-century modern aesthetic.

It is sad to learn that a talented painter such as Turnbull had to give it up.  Who knows why?  It sure seemed that he was one of the few artists who had made a pretty good living at it.

Luckily, I was able to find the obit that ran in the New York Times on December 13, 1976.  It follows.

It is my great pleasure to be able learn some of the details of the life of this very important artist and his connection to our town.  His life would be a good subject for a book.  He was a combat artist for the Army during WWII!  Just imagine what stories he could tell about those experiences alone.

I’d love to search those collections of the museums and organizations listed above.  In due time, perhaps?  I’ll have to figure out how to put a notice on several of these internet sites that sell art, in case one of pieces should be offered for sale.

There are just so many different directions this effort can take.  Fascinating!

We are not out of the woods yet, weather wise but it’s much better than it has been.  C’mon Springtime!

Doug Houser        February 3, 2024





  1. Doug, was he of American Indian descent? The name of himself and his wife Peter Keep Turnbull almost make me think American Indian heritage. Did I miss it or do we know when he moved out of Maplewood? Is there any pictures of him here in Maplewood such as high school albums. It would seem that there should be some mention of him locally. I cannot imagine him painting a 12 ft long mural in his apartment and someone not noting that in the local papers. Most of your sources are after he had moved on.

    • Mark, We don’t know much about Turnbull yet. We know he had a studio in Maplewood at 2737A Sutton. He may not have lived or gone to school here. As I’m sure you know, a lot of murals are painted at the location they will occupy. He moved to New York in 1940. Good to hear from you.

  2. Doug, perhaps the severe arthritis that he was afflicted with accounts for him ceasing to do paintings. Holding small handled brushes and creating fine details may have been too much of a challenge.

  3. Loved this article, Doug!! You had me awake from 3-4 am this morning looking for Turnbull’s works. It would be great if we could find a gallery with the largest collection of his works and plan a visit!!

    • Hey Sherman, that would be great to find a large collection of his paintings in one location. Who knows? Much thanks for all of the links that you turned up. I’ll run them soon.


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