Mercedes Augustine

1912, Grand Island, Nebraska – 2001, Grand Island, Nebraska

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(Mercedes Alice Logan)

Painter, jewelry maker, art teacher, and philanthropist, Mercedes Augustine was born April 12, 1912 in Grand Island, Nebraska to Ernest Webster and Parnelia Mercedes (Spethman) Augustine. She came from privileged circumstances, growing up in what a local newspaper described as “one of the finest homes in the city.” (“Ernest Webster Augustine”) The sources of the family wealth were real estate holdings and the Augustine Company, a specialty printing products business formed by her father and paternal grandfather, I.M. Augustine. Because of her privileged status, Mercedes had many options for her life’s work, but she chose her art talent and love of animals, especially dogs.

After graduating third in her class from Grand Island Senior High School in 1929, she attended Ward-Belmont, a junior college for women in Nashville, Tennessee from 1930 to 1932, earning a letter in horsemanship. She then studied with Dwight Kirsch, Art Department faculty member at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, graduating in 1934 with a degree in Art Education. After receiving her degree, she was hired in Grand Island as the art teacher at Barr Junior High School from 1935 to 1941, spending part of the summer of 1937 traveling in Europe. Then in 1941, when she was 29, she began 11 years of marriage to Dr. Ralph Logan, taking back her maiden name after their divorce.

As wife to Dr. Logan, Mercedes gave up teaching but, in turn, directed more energy to her own painting in oil, pastel, and watercolor. She also took jewelry-making lessons in Lincoln, entered exhibitions, and traveled internationally including to Egypt, Turkey, and Greece. She enrolled intermittently at The Art Institute of Chicago between 1946 and 1951 and studied with Oskar Gross who was a portrait, figure, and genre painter. In Richmond, Virginia, she took classes from portrait painter John Slavin. Workshop teachers included Millard Sheets and Terence Duren. She participated in art fairs in nearby Kearney, Nebraska and twice won sweepstake awards for the most blue ribbons. One of her major interests was the Grand Island Art and Sketch Club, of which she was an early member. In 1979, the Club awarded her an honorary membership and an engraved copper plaque for her 44 years of loyal service. She hosted Omaha painter Augustus Dunbier for a week of classes and, from Lincoln’s University of Nebraska Art Department, brought artist Kady Faulkner to Grand Island to give instruction.

Among exhibitions she entered are those of the Grand Island Art and Sketch Club; North Shore Art Guild of Chicago, 1939; Joslyn Art Museum, Six States Art Exhibition, 1944; Lincoln Artists’ Guild, 1940, 1941, 1954. Her paintings are in the collections of the Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney and Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.

She was a keen animal lover, in particular miniature poodles, and she was instrumental in establishing the Grand Island Kennel Club. In 1950 one of her poodles became a National Grand Champion Kennel Club entry. She also worked to help stray animals and was a major supporter of the Central Nebraska Humane Society, serving for a time as President. Of her generosity Jim Truell, a later President, said: “…whenever there was a push for something for the animals, she was right there.”

An avid philanthropist, she and her brother co-founded the Mercedes A. and Webster P. Augustine Charitable Trust which provided funds for the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer and the Central Nebraska Humane Society, both in Grand Island. She died on February 18, 2001 in her hometown of Grand Island.

The Museum of Nebraska Art has one work by Mercedes Augustine.

Sources:

Ancestry.com, Apr. 2014
“Ernest Webster Augustine,” Nebraskana.com, Apr. 2014
Find A Grave.com, Apr. 2014
Museum of Nebraska Art files: Artist Inventory Form by the artist
Walsh, Stacey, Collections Manager, Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, Nebraska, Lincoln Artists’ Guild Exhibition Information

Researched, written, and copyrighted by Lonnie Pierson Dunbier
Museum of Nebraska Art Project:
Their Place, Their Time: Women Artists in Nebraska, 1825-1945

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Mercedes Augustine, Untitled (landscape), oil on board