Press Release "Living Large" 6-1-15

June 1, 2015                                                                                                


The Historical Society of Woodstock presents

Living Large: Wilna Hervey & Nan Mason

June 12 - September 6, Saturdays & Sundays, 1-5 pm

Opening reception: Friday, June 12, 7 pm

Gallery talk and book signing: Saturday, June 13, 2 pm, Joseph P. Eckhardt, author of, Living Large: Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason.

This exhibition features works by Wilna Hervey (1894-1979) and Nan Mason (1896-1982), an artist couple who lived, worked, and socialized in Woodstock in the heyday of the Woodstock art colony.

It was the movies that brought Wilna and Nan together. Nan’s actor father, Dan Mason, was Wilna’s co-star in a series of 1920s silent comedies that showcased Wilna’s astonishing size—six foot three and three hundred pounds. Nan was nearly six foot tall herself, and the two artists were affectionately known around Woodstock as the “Big Girls.” Wilna and Nan got along instantly—both were free spirits, artistically creative and musically talented. From 1924 on they were rarely apart and together they enthusiastically explored every opportunity for expressing their boundless creative energies, enjoying life for all it was worth.

Chief among the pleasures these two artists pursued was the time they spent with their many friends. Starting in the early twenties, Wilna and Nan encountered and gathered into their ever-expanding circle a veritable sampler of notables in the world of American arts and culture. Film director Frank Capra, photographer Edward Weston, novelist and screenwriter Manuel Komroff, and the Whitney Museum's Juliana Force were all numbered among their cherished acquaintances. Woodstock artists Henry Lee McFee, William Pachner, Charles Rosen, Andree Ruellan, Eugene Speicher, Jack Taylor, and legendary children's book illustrators Maud and Miska Petersham—to name just a few—regularly exchanged dinners, cocktail parties, and hundreds of letters, cards and gifts with them. Illustrator and comic strip artist, John Striebel, and his wife Fritzi, never threw a party without them.

It is our good fortune that Wilna and Nan were incorrigible packrats who seldom threw anything away. Their astonishing accumulation of personal effects, letters, and photographs, stashed into every nook and cranny of their Bearsville home and their winter cottage in Florida, presented a daunting challenge to the friends they designated as their heirs when Wilna died in 1979 and Nan followed in 1982. Fortunately, all those entrusted with responsibility for those two properties had the presence of mind to preserve the legacy of this legendary couple. Living Large: Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason would not have been possible otherwise.

The exhibition includes paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and personal memorabilia from the Historical Society collections and a recently acquired archive from Doris and Edouard Blatter, supplemented by generous loans from Arthur A. Anderson, the Woodstock Artist Association Museum, Dan Gelfand, William Hitzig, Jr., and Paul Jaffe. The exhibition spans Wilna and Nan’s artistic careers, from an early 1912 charcoal sketch by Wilna when she was a student at Adelphi College, to a pastel still life by Nan from 1981, and includes many of their signature enamel works.

The exhibition will also include a continuous screening of one of Wilna Hervey’s silent Toonerville Trolley comedies: “The Skipper’s Narrow Escape” (1921), starring Dan Mason as “The Skipper,” and Wilna Hervey as “The Powerful Katrinka. Presented with permission from the Toy Train Operating Society. 

More information:


Bushnell Studio, San Francisco, Wilna Hervey in a comedy role. PR photograph, 8 x 10 inches, c. 1922, Historical Society of Woodstock Collection. Gift of Doris and Edouard Blatter.

Alfred Cohn, Two Women (Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason). Silver bromide print, 6 x 8 inches, 1927, Woodstock Artists Association and Museum Permanent Collection. Gift of Howard Greenberg.

Contact: Letitia Smith, curator, Living Large

Historical Society of Woodstock
20 Comeau Drive – PO Box 841
Woodstock, NY 12498