On Saturday, April 8, the A.M. Gravely Gallery in St. Michaels will host a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. to open an exhibit of Barbara Jablin’s artwork. The show and sale will celebrate the artist’s 75-year career, which includes her work in advertising, her years of teaching and her exquisite watercolor paintings of landscapes, seascapes, figures and flowers.
When Barbara was 11 years old, an uncle took her and his daughter to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore. Her cousin stopped attending and became a nurse. Barbara kept going. By the time she was a teenager, she was not only attending the prestigious school, she was teaching fashion illustration there. She went on to a career in commercial art, which she left to marry and raise a family.
Twelve years later, when her children were in school and her husband was away on business, Barbara would often enjoy breakfast in bed as she read the newspaper. A neighbor who heard about this guilty pleasure said, “That’s the most indecent thing I’ve ever heard.” So, Barbara went to the want ads. When her husband returned, she surprised him with the news that she had a job with Hutzler’s department store.
Later, as a freelance artist for department and specialty stores, she illustrated everything from fashion to Waterford crystal and Oriental rugs. “I loved it,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that they were paying me to do something that was so easy for me.”
By the 1970s, newspapers and catalogs were using more photography than illustrations in advertising and Barbara and her husband, Dick, retired to St. Michaels. They bought a relative’s house on Chestnut Street in St. Michaels that Barbara had first seen and loved when she was a child in 1933. Today her studio is in that home.
The move to St. Michaels began a new era in art for Barbara. After years of working to others’ specifications, she delighted in being able paint what she liked. She taught watercolor at the Academy Art Museum in Easton for a few years, and after her husband died in 2001, began teaching full time. Barbara, now 94, still teaches two days a week and continues to paint.
“Artists see things differently. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching other people, even those who aren’t artists, to see things differently, to see beauty where they might not have noticed it before,” she said.
“My students are very dear to me. They’re my best friends. Seeing them grow as artists and win awards is tremendously rewarding.” She added, “Teaching gives my life meaning.”
Some of Barbara’s students have been with her for a dozen years. Others are relatively new to painting. Many have helped coordinate this exhibit of Barbara’s lifelong love of art. All are inspired by Barbara’s graceful talent, generous spirit and joyful life.
Barbara is a member of the St. Michaels Art League, the Traveling Brushes and the Academy Art Museum and is a founder of the Working Artists Forum. Her awards include several First and Best in Show in Watercolor from the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Rehoboth Art League, Napa Valley Award and Mid-Atlantic Regional Watercolor competitions. She also participated in an invitational show of flower paintings at Washington College in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. Her paintings are in private and corporate collections throughout the United States, the Bahamas and Europe.
The A. M. Gravely Gallery, located at 408 South Talbot Street in St. Michaels, is open Sunday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Barbara Jablin exhibit, which will run through April 30, will feature both framed and unframed works for sale, as well as paintings on loan from private collections. Barbara Jablin’s Chestnut Street Studio is open by appointment; call 410-745-9439.