Oxford artist inspires 2011 ornament

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Theora Hamblett’s “Christmas Trees” painting provides the image for the University of Mississippi Museum’s 2011 collectible ornament, the 11th in a series that began in 2001.

“The museum was opening a tiny little gift shop, and they wanted something unique that you couldn’t get in any of the gift shops uptown,” said Deborah Freeland, a graphic designer who created the first several ornaments in the series. “It had to have an Ole Miss connection.”

The first ornament replicated the old Skipwith House, which long occupied the property that now houses the University Museum.

Until last year, when it featured an Ole Miss football jersey, the series had continued to feature buildings on the Ole Miss campus and in Oxford, which surrounds it.

“Last year we expanded on representing historic houses to representing objects from the permanent collection. To use the image of Theora Hamblett’s 1966 painting ‘Christmas Trees’ was the most natural thing to do,” said William Pittman Andrews, director of the University Museum and Historic Houses.

Hamblett, whose former home is two blocks from the museum, was a schoolteacher who took up painting at age 55. Her “Christmas Trees” oil-on-canvas is one of many Hamblett “primitives” on display in the museum.

“We just sent out an e-mail to alumni about the Theora Hamblett keepsake, and it’s been very popular already,” said Emily Dean, program coordinator with the museum. “I’m partial to the new one because she’s such an iconic Oxford artist. I give a lot of the tours that come through, and it’s always great to see visitors’ reactions to her work.”

John Stanley Parker, a student at Della Davidson Elementary, said he believed his grandmother has a Hamblett painting.

Even if not, he said, he liked Hamblett’s work.

“She really liked to paint the seasons,” he said.

The Hamblett ornament can be purchased at the Museum between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, for $20, plus tax.

The entire 11-piece collection is available for $200, plus tax.

Out-of-town orders must be placed by Dec. 15 to assure delivery before Christmas.

For more information, call (662) 915-7073 or visit museum.olemiss.edu.

errol.castens@journalinc.com