Adele Hepbron was the daughter of George Hepbron and his wife, Ida, and came to Silver Bay for the first time in 1902. Not surprisingly, given her father’s lifetime involvement in basketball, she played in high school in East Orange, New Jersey, and possibly even at Silver Bay, where young YWCA women were already moving to the hoop.
But Adele went on to make her mark in a very different way. After graduating from high school in 1916, Adele went to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to study art, and then became an art teacher at Summit High School in Summit, New Jersey, where she eventually served as Chairman of the Art Department. And in the summer, beginning in 1944, she would return to Silver Bay as a staff member to teach daily classes in watercolor painting.
Art class with Adele; they tipped the Adirondack chairs to use them as easels.
One of Adele’s pupils, Mary Lee Barker, writes:
“From age 13 until age 18, I was under her teaching every summer at Silver Bay. One of the most important things I remember her saying is ‘This is watercolor. So do not forget the water!’ And she told us to keep the color transparent.
Adele Hepbron with Mary Lee Barker, circa 1948
“She did not touch my work but encouraged me and taught by example. One time in returning to the art center, I was very critical of my mistakes which to me were blaring. She spoke firmly to me that something in me had done its best. No one saw the ‘mistakes’ and I was to accept what I had done as good for that day. This helped me greatly.
Mary Lee Barker painting at Slim Point
“She talked while she painted, searching for the value she wanted. Yes, she spoke about a dark here and would say ‘We need a dark here, it does not matter where you get it.’ She liked Payne’s Grey.
“Her subject matter was landscape and she was able to paint the many different kinds of trees at Silver Bay with great skill. She showed us how to mass the paint and then show the needles or leaves leaving no mistake as to what kind of tree this was. Adele encouraged me from the young age of 13 on and seemed to understand how compelling painting was to me.”
Mary Lee Barker with a finished piece
Another of Adele’s students, watercolor artist Paul McConaughy, writes:
“I met Adele in the summer of 1953, when I was an ‘Emp’ (summer employee) at the Silver Bay Association… where for a number of years Adele taught watercolor classes as her summer vacation activity. She is well-remembered for her sunny disposition, positive attitude and encouragement to her students, regardless of the various talent levels she encountered.
“She particularly encouraged a free and exuberant painting style… and, hence, encouraged beginning artists such as I was when I first met her, to experiment with color and technique. I also appreciated early-on her advice… that the viewers of our finished paintings were certainly not likely to observe whatever subject matter we were attempting to capture; hence, innovation in the content details was encouraged.
“Adele enjoyed a wide range of subjects and obviously took her paints and supplies along with her on outings because she had such a wide inventory of scenes and subject matter. She was especially known at Silver Bay for the white birches on the way to Slim Point — where she often held her classes — as well as for a great variety of the spectacular flowers that grew in such abundance there.
“She returned to Silver Bay for years after I had gone, and I understand she lived to be about 90. I’ve no doubt she continued being the same sunny, encouraging person I always knew her to be.”
Adele Hepbron, center, teaching at Silver Bay in August of 1982. From the collection of Mary Lee Barker.
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My thanks to Mary Lee Barker, who continues to paint today. You can see some of her paintings here.
My thanks to Paul and Wilda McConaughy. You can read more about Paul’s work at the website for Gray’s Watercolors, and even see three watercolors of Silver Bay.
Yearbook photo of Adele from The Syllabus, 1916, East Orange High School
Photo of women playing basketball in front of the Inn from The Silver Bay Association 1900-1935: A Pictorial History, Silver Bay Association, 1992
Watercolors “The Path” and “Oneida Bay” by Adele Hepbron from greeting cards published by the Silver Bay Association.