I have included paintings by Harold Bell Wright in the
collectibles section of the menu column, but you should not expect to find a
large collection of his paintings, or even to see one, outside a museum.
There never were very many.
Wright was a painter for a few years before he was a
preacher. While he pastored, he continued to paint pictures as well as to write.
In 1907 he left the ministry, moved to the Imperial Valley, and devoted his
full attention to writing and painting. Wright concluded that to be
successful at one of these two efforts he would have to give up the other.
But he loved both. After the enormous success of The Calling of Dan Matthews
in 1909, he decided to put painting behind him forever. A local paper in El
Centro reported that in a large bonfire he burned the paintings still in his possession, along with
his pallets, brushes, paints, easels, sketch books, etc. In later years he
did some painting for his own relaxation, but never again pursued it
If you have any photos of additional paintings, I will be
happy to add them to this site for other Harold Bell Wright fans to enjoy.
I have put the painting in two groups, those that are
verified as being by Harold Bell Wright, and those that may or may not be.
Sometimes Wright signed his paintings, sometimes he attached to the back of
the frame a fragile little tag with his name on it, very often he did not
put his name anywhere. So the only paintings we can be reasonably certain
were painted by Wright are those that stayed with the family, those that
actually include his signature, and those that were published. Wright
enjoyed giving paintings to friends and church members in the towns where he
served as pastor.
Click to Enlarge
||1. "The Old Trail." This is the painting from which
the Book Supply Company
was made in 1911 or 1912. Photographed in the Harold Bell Wright museum
in the 1980s. Copyright Harold Bell Wright Estate. Sometime in the
1980s, Norman found this painting sitting on the floor in a
bookshop. He bought it and placed it in the Harold Bell Wright
Museum in Branson, with the following note: "I [HBW]
painted the picture on the easel as a present for my publisher Elsbery
Reynolds. He had postcards made to give to book sellers.....The
painting was discovered in an old used book shop in California. How
it made its way west through some seventy years is not known. It was
cleaned and restored by experts of the Los Angeles County Museum of
Art and the Huntington Library of Pasadena and now takes it rightful
place in my museum." [It seems reasonable to assume
Reynolds took it with him when he moved to Pasadena in the 1920s.]
||2. Unnamed variation of The Old Trail? This
painting, in the old Harold Bell Wright museum at Mutton Hollow in
the 1980's, has no name, but appears to be a variation of The Old
Trail. Copyright Harold Bell Wright Estate.
||3. Painting of river and mountain by Harold Bell
Wright. Appears to have a title on brass plate on frame, but I do
not know what it says. Photographed in Harold Bell Wright museum in
1980s. Copyright Harold Bell Wright Estate.
||4. Unnamed flower painting by Harold Bell Wright.
No title on painting, but inscribed to his wife in lower right
corner: "To Winifred P. Wright from Bungy. 1939." Photographed in
Harold Bell Wright museum in 1980s. Copyright Harold Bell Wright
Estate. [Bungy was one of Harold Bell Wright's nicknames]
||4b. Inscription on flower painting by Harold Bell
Wright: "To Winifred P. Wright from Bungy. 1939."
||5. Unnamed painting of pond, by Harold Bell Wright.
Photographed in Harold Bell Wright museum in 1980s. Copyright Harold
Bell Wright Estate.
||6. B. Unnamed oil painting signed by Harold Bell Wright and dated 1907.
Approximately 13 x 19 inches and framed. Owned by Ralph and Joanne Jenney
(southern California). Joanne comments: "It has
been in the family for many years. My grandmother's great aunt was a
good friend and member of his church in Lebanon, MO. It was given to
her by him." The signature and date, visible in the lower
enlargement, are in the lower right corner of the painting.
||The following paintings come with stories that
seem reasonable, but their authenticity may never be verified.
||A. Painting of elk. Unsigned and unnamed. Courtesy
of William Chancellor, who wrote in 2005: "My mother was raised in
Lebanon, Mo. by a Mr. and Mrs. S. F. Lumm. He was a banker there in
the first part of the 1900s. They knew Mr. Wright and I have a
painting that he gave to them. It is not signed. They gave it to my
mother in the early 1940s and she gave it to me probably 30 years
ago. It is a painting of the head of a deer or elk. I had it put in
a frame about 30 years ago because it was beginning to deteriorate.
Painting of Mother and Child. This painting is owned by James
French, from Florida. Mr. French says his first wife's mother, Mrs.
Alvina Ziehnke, as a parishioner in Wright's church in Pittburg,
Kansas, in 1902-1903. She told her daughter and son-in-law that she
watched HBW paint the picture. French says, "The lower left corner
is the location of what HBW said was his signature—the 'h' with the
'+' in the lower part of the h was the Bellwright sign."
If this picture is Wright's, it may represent Wright and his