Across The Garden Gate With Mary Alice Welty White

One of the things I treasure about my association with the Eudora Welty Foundation is the opportunity I have had to get to know Mary Alice Welty White, Eudora Welty’s niece.  Recently I heard her share a story about an unlikely opportunity to go to the Antiques Roadshow.  Unlikely, I say, because I found out that for each gathering, 3000 pairs of tickets are issued through a lottery to an amazing 13,000 applicants.  The show of interest to the Whites was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where their daughter lives.  Along with another couple they all applied for the sought after “golden tickets.”  Mary Alice did not win the lottery but her daughter and close friends did allowing them 4 tickets to the event…

Antiques Roadshow

Antiques Roadshow, if you are not familiar with it, is a show airing on PBS where antiques appraisers travel to locations and appraise antiques brought in by local people.

When I heard the intriguing story of Mary Alice Welty White’s trip to Antiques Roadshow I had to ask her to share it with you!

After the initial shock of the four friends all receiving tickets subsided, a search for the perfect items to take ensued.

 “Here is the thing,” she told me, “You must decide on which items to take based on whether you have a desire to learn about your possession or if your primary interest is to secure a spot on television!  Out of the 10,000 items brought to the show only about 90 will make it to the final cut and gain a spot on the television show.”

Mary Alice’s decision was based on the desire to learn more about two items she inherited from her aunt.

The first, an illustration signed by artist George Grosz, had been relegated to under-bed storage after Mary Alice and her husband moved to a home with much less wall space for hanging than their previous home…

George Grosz illustration for "The Purple Hat"

Mary Alice did a bit of initial research on the artist and discovered that he was a German citizen who fled Germany just before the start of World War II.  As an illustrator he had drawn some things that would have been troublesome for him as they did not show Adolph Hitler in a good light,  thus his migration to the United States.

A call to Suzanne Marrs, Eudora Welty’s biographer, revealed that George Grosz had indeed created the illustration for Miss Welty’s short story “The Purple Hat” which was published in Harper’s Bazaar…

George Grosz illustration for "The Purple Hat" by Eudora Welty

   The drawing had been given to Eudora by Mr. Grosz after the story was published and had now been retrieved from “under the bed” in order to make its way to Antiques Roadshow…

George Grosz illustration of "The Purple Hat" by Eudora Welty

The second item Mary Alice chose for her trip was an oil painting done by A. E. Russell, father of Diarmuid Russell, Eudora’s agent…

A. E. Russell oil painting

This painting was shown to the appraiser initially and raised questions of authenticity due to the fact that it was not signed.  Mary Alice, ever prepared, had the letter written by Diurmuid Russell describing his father’s work which accompanied the painting when it was given to Miss Welty.

The appraisers had not paid much attention to the Grosz illustration up to this point but she found herself being whisked off to a holding area where several  more appraisers approached with questions about the two pieces of art.

 In the end she was selected for one of the television interviews and found that she would be discussing the Grosz illustration since one of the appraisers related being significantly influenced by George Grosz in his career.

Out of 13,000 ticket applicants, Mary Alice had been chosen for one of 90 television interviews.  As if that were not amazing enough, upon arriving in the holding area who did she see?  Indeed, the friends who had traveled together were both chosen for the coveted spots!  The episode featuring Mary Alice will air on Monday, February 24th.  Be sure to tune in!

This will give you an idea of the odds they had beaten…

Antiques Roadshowin DC

Oh, by the way, the Grosz illustration has regained a coveted space on the White’s wall!

Perhaps we should all go check under our beds…

dog under bed

Remember the luncheon being held to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Eudora Welty Garden on March 27th.  Click on the camellia in my sidebar for navigation to the site where you can get information and purchase tickets!

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  1. Leslie Dement Cox says:

    …..Fascinating!…..Will definitely catch this Monday!….