Do you know/remember anything about Cathrine Barr and/or the Barr Art Association?


If so, please comment below by clicking on “comments.”  Or, please email me at, especially if you have photos to share of anyone/anything related to Barr Art.  For now, this post will stay at the top of this page.  There are current posts further down this page.


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9 Responses to “Do you know/remember anything about Cathrine Barr and/or the Barr Art Association?”

  1. Clara Says:

    I remember three things about the Barr family and the Barr Art Association.

    1. Liz and Mary Ann came with their mother when Cathrine visited Rolfe and taught watercolor painting in the summers 1948-1952. I believe Liz was my age and Mary Ann was two, maybe three, years younger. We played together a lot. In fact, I have a photo of them at my ninth birthday party. I also have a photo when they visited in 1956. Because they lived on the east coast where schools started and ended later, Liz and Mary Ann sometimes were in Iowa when Rolfe school was in session. I believe once they went to school with us. One other time Liz and Mary Ann were with us watching a threshing crew working in the field west of our house.

    2. Although I did not attend any of these sessions myself, I believe Cathrine gave “chalk talks” in Rolfe, perhaps at the Rolfe Public Library. During a chalk talk, Cathrine would tell a children’s story and draw the characters with chalk on a large sheet of paper on an easel. I believe one or two of these drawings are still in the Rolfe Public Library. Chalk talks were probably something Cathrine did as an author and illustrator of children’s books.

    3. At least twice Mother let me go with her to the Barr Art Association painting sessions during the summer. One session was at the Pocahontas Elevator. I believe the other was at a gypsum plant southeast of Fort Dodge. The women all took their watercolor supplies, as well as large tin cans (think the largest pineapple juice size) of water and stools of some sort on which to sit. I even got to take my own watercolors and can of water so I could paint with the women.

    I don’t remember what I painted or what happened to it. Nor do I remember who rode with whom or what the women discussed. I’m pretty sure these sessions were after Cathrine stopped coming to Rolfe to teach.

    • Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

      Clara, how absolutely wonderful what you commented. And, so nice that you did. I hope some other people will see it and comment some. But, if they don’t, I’m just all excited to learn what you wrote. I love the chalk talk part.

  2. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Oh, how exciting to learn what you wrote, Clara. I am so glad to know about your experiences since, being born in ’55, I was not around until a few years after Cathrine taught the classes. What fun to learn of the “chalk talks.”

    Of the people included in the Pocahontas County, Iowa, History article about Barr Art, the ones I remember are: Mother (of course), Lena Vaughn, Darlene Brinkman, Janet Dixon, Jane Webb, Ruth Simonson, Berniece Sedlacek, Julia Schmitz and Bette Beekmann.

    1. Mother: I don’t know that I recall going with her to her art exhibits, but I do recall going to the Blanden Art Gallery in Fort Dodge with her.

    2. Darlene Brinkman: She exhibited with Mother. Our family has an article about Mother and Darlene exhibiting together. I hope to receive permission to post the article. Since Darlene’s older daughters are about my age, I remember being in the Brinkman home a lot. I recall that Darlene gave her watercolors to high school graduates. The paintings were personalized for the graduate, including maybe their athletic jersey among other things special to the graduate. I also remember wanting to do something with Jean (one of Darlene’s middle daughters, and in my class) on a Sunday. Jean said that her mother wouldn’t permit her that particular day because Sunday was “Family Day.” What a good family value to remember from Darlene.

    Lena Vaughn: Mother painted a watercolor of Lena, where Lena’s long coiled braids are very visible. Also, I was privileged to have Lena as a babysitter and stay with her days at a time. Lena once told me that during the war and/or Depression when times were so difficult, it was very important to, after cracking open an egg, to scrape out of the shell the remaining egg white. That, after doing that with X-number of eggs, it was almost the same as having a whole extra egg. To this day, whenever I bake with eggs, I do as Lena instructed. Lena also recited to me when I went to bed, “Good night, sleep tight, wake up bright in the morning light, and try to do right, good night.” My sister, Peggy, and I still say that to each other.

    Ruth Simonson: This spring she provided the impetus for having prints made of Mother’s paintings.

    Jane Webb: I think she used to babysit me, too. She also sold to Mother the cottage at Okoboji. Jane always appreciated my sense of humor. This was comforting when sometimes other people in my presence might not laugh when I went out on a limb with something off the wall. But, Jane would chuckle and fire back a witty response. In the 80’s during the farm crisis, Jane was very comforting.

  3. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    (As told to me, Louise, by Ruth Simonson, June, 2009. Ruth attended Barr Art during the ’60s and ’70s.)

    Ruth never met Cathrine Barr, but does remember some tidbits about other Barr Art artists. She remembers Myrtle Sabo (from Gilmore City), an “older woman who sat cross-legged on the floor.” Ruth said she thought Myrtle’s watercolors were worth admiring. However, Ruth remembers at least once Mrytle saying she didn’t like her own painting and, “I’m going to put it in the garbage.” To this day Ruth is surprised how Myrtle’s perception of her own artwork was so very different than how Ruth appreciated Myrtle’s artwork. Ruth wondered how often it happened that Myrtle might have destroyed her artwork thinking it was not acceptable, when, in reality, others admired Myrtle’s artwork.

    Ruth said people volunteered to have Barr Art in their homes. There were no officers during the years Ruth was in Barr Art, and no formal instruction offered. (This was in contrast to when Cathrine Barr taught classes in the late ’40s and early ’50s.) “We just did our own thing.”

    Ruth exhibited a painting at the Blanden Art Gallery in Fort Dodge. She said, “Your mother [Marion Gundersona] made me take one of my paintings” to exhibit at the Blanden.

    Ruth has an original of Cathrine Barr’s watercolors…of grass, trees, and a herd of cattle, painted in 1950. Ruth purchased this painting in 1970 at the swimming pool fund-raiser flea market in Rolfe, sponsored by the Sorosis women’s club.

    For more information about Ruth, read the post titled “The Little Lady Wearing a Hat and the Red Satin Dress.”

  4. Mary Ann Barr Says:

    I am one of Cathrine Barr’s daughters. Her other daughter is Liz (Elizabeth) and we both spent many summers in rolfe Iowa when Mother taught watercolor lessons there. I have many memories of our time there including going out to Gunderson’s farm, playing with the Gunderson kids and generally trying to stay out of ear-shot of Mother and Marion so we wouldn’t have to go home.
    In 1998 my sister and I made a “pilgrimage” to Rolfe after a hiatus of something like 25 years and were warmly hosted by Marion and Deane Gunderson. Helen Gunderson came up and was our “tour guide” as we visited old haunts. We even got to go in the house my great-grandmother, Addie Beam lived and where we often stayed when we were kids and we visited the Kennedy farm outside Rolfe where we spent many afternoons and supper-times. Caroline Kennedy was a cousin of my grandmother’s. Grandma was Myrtle Anderson. That ’98 trip was memorable!
    Mother taught art classes not only in Rolfe, but in Bradgate, Gilmore city and other places. My sister and I went to the classes every now and then and occasionally we were the subject of a painting.
    I remember one or two years Mother organized open-air art shows in Spencer. I have a few photos and newspaper clippings, and may be able to dig them out and get them to Louise for her to post. I am techno-defficient and cannot do it myself.
    I am delighted to see this site and read about the “Iowa days.”
    Mary Ann

    • Lisa Hensley Says:

      I have 2 watercolors by Cathrine Barr one is dated 1955 and the other is not dated but titled Juniper Springs-both are Florida scenes. They are rather large and I love them.

  5. Clara Says:

    Mary Ann: What fun to read your comments! Clara

  6. Clara Says:

    Mary Ann and others: Charles said we didn’t have threshing crews as late as 1948, so what we observed must simply have been the large haystacks in the field west of the farm.

  7. Peg Says:

    Hi Mary Ann! 🙂 This is Peggy–the fifth of the Gunderson kids, born in 1951, and three years younger than Marti. You probably barely remember me. Anyway, just wanted to say a BIG THANK YOU for commenting on the site. DELIGHTFUL to hear from you and to get more glimpses into your world and your mom’s and Liz’s. Via Mother, I have very fond and appreciative feelings for your mom, her talent, and her great “entrepreneurialship” for such an era. And for you two girls, too–your name has been mentioned often and happily amongst us all! 🙂

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