Purser Studio

Stuart Purser's Biography page

Mary May and her twin Jean were born in Chicago on December 9, 1913. Her parents were German Immigrants. As a baby, her mother, Marie Jagsch imigrated from Metz, Germany (later France) to Columbus, Ohio. Her father Paul Oswald May (originally Mai) also came to Columbus as a youngster. He was from Dresden, Germany. As a youngster, Paul had to go to work, becoming an office boy for I.G. Farben, a German chemical company. Years later he became the the Midwest manager for the Farben Chemical and Dye Company. In high school, both Jean and Mary were already known as talented artists. Mary won a full scholarship to the Chicago Art Institute and Jean came in second. They decided to split the scholarship. While one twin went to school the other worked at Dennisons in Chicago teaching people to make crepe paper flowers and party favors. Mary and Jean also worked for the Art Institute creating elements that become part of the Thorne collection of miniature interiors.

In 1934 while at the Art Institute Mary met and married Stuart Purser, an art student who was just approaching graduation. They got married, bought a Model A for $100 and moved to Pullman, Washington where Stuart taught painting and drawing at Washington State College. A year later they relocated to Pineville, Louisiana where Stuart started the art department at Louisiana College. (He had received his BA at this institution in 1928.) Mary taught design there. In 1940 the Pursers had their first child, Robert Stuart.

At this time both artists were receiving commissions to do murals for government buildings in the South. In 1939 Mary painted a mural in tempera for the Clarksville, Arkansas Post Office titled "How Happy Was The Occasion." Being a "city girl," she didn't know that horses don't have cloven hooves. The people of Clarksville were quite unhappy with this oversight. Consequently, Mary had to take another trip to Arkansas to repaint the horse hooves.

In 1945 they moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee where Stuart taught drawing and painting and head the art department at the University of Chattanooga. Again, Mary taught design. In 1946 they had their second child, Jean. From 1946-48 Mary taught art at Bright School, a private elementary school in the city.

In 1950 the Pursers moved to Oxford, Mississippi where Stuart established the art department at "Ole Miss." It was here that Mary completed her BA before the family moved to Gainesville, Florida in 1953. Mary received her MFA in painting at the University of Florida in painting while Stuart headed up the Department of Art. Her thesis was comprised of a series of oil paintings and description of the technique used. Before this time Mary often painted with egg tempera on Masonite panels, however the MFA work was done primarily in oil.

In the 1950's Mary taught elementary art to children in Alachua county and was Art Supervisor from 1955-57. Next she moved to the University of Florida lab school where she taught elementary art from 1960-66. In 1966 she was hired by the College of Education at the University of Florida, holding the position of Associate Professor until she retired in 1976. There she taught art in the elementary school and supervised student teachers.

After retiring she and her husband would go to the studio to paint in an old barn on the outskirts of Gainesville. Mary often served as a juror of art exhibitions in Florida and was represented in numerous art shows. She was also active in the Gainesville Art Association and in her church in Gainesville. She passed on December 13, 1986.

Mary Purser
Mary Purser's Biography
Mary Purser's Resume
Mary Purser's Gallery
Mary Purser's Murals
Robert Purser
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