For the eighteenth day of Women’s History Month, I’m thinking fondly of Esther Hepler Inglesby (1909-2000), a well-loved member of the Merchantville community and an accomplished artist. For my wedding shower, she gave me a handwritten poem about marriage, and when it turns up, I’ll post it. Her joy in life and art was contagious, and she was an active member of the Merchantville Historical Society for decades. Fortunately, she has a granddaughter who curated her work, and kept her story alive, so I was able to find more biographical information and “Blue Curtains,” an oil painting by Esther that I had never seen.
As a Works Progress Administration artist in the 1930s, Esther was a paid, working painter. Among her projects were some murals in the East Camden schools and other works documenting construction projects in Camden. She contributed two drawings to the Merchantville Centennial Cookbook, below, and I would bet that there are many more works by Esther Hepler Inglesby preserved in family and private collections. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see them?
“Blue Curtains” and this biography are from the blog Art with a History
“Esther Hepler Inglesby, was an accomplished artist who has produced many beautiful watercolors oils, drawings, and mixed media pieces. Esther was a graduate of the Philadelphia Museum School. After her graduation in the 1930s during the depression, Esther was hired as a Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) artist. Some of the nursery rhyme illustrations given to her grandchildren are prototypes of her W.P.A. murals in schools and other public buildings in South Jersey. Raised in the town of Ventnor on the New Jersey shore, Esther moved to Pennsauken and Merchantville, New Jersey after her marriage to attorney Edward J. Inglesby. Throughout her career, she has been the recipient of many awards. Her work has hung in various galleries and museums, including the Camden County Historical Society, where her “Building of The Speedline” painting was hung above the director’s desk. While still in art school, Esther was honored by being chosen to be one of the judges in the first Miss America Contest, along with a group of national celebrities. Also, in order to help with expenses during art school years, Esther did portrait sketches for those waiting in line to get into movie theaters. She also had clothesline exhibits of work for sale in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. Esther came from a family of artists–her mother Carrie Salmon Hepler was a pianist, and her sister Emily Hepler Gillingham was an awarded harpist who played Radio City Music Hall in the 1930s, and her father Frank Fetter Hepler was a builder of fine homes on the New Jersey Shore, awarded a city planning degree in his eighties.” Credit: Special thanks to artist Pricilla Ingram granddaughter of the artist.