[From the catalogue-in-progress for “Landscapes & Livestock,” a loan exhibition for Agincourt Homecoming in the Fall of 2015]
SIBLEY, Ellen Jean [1926-1987]
“Farmer and Two Hens”
oil on canvas / 18 inches by 20 inches
In the late summer of 1941—on the eve of another World War—one exhibition of community art enriched another.
Janice Mainwaring organized the Domestic Arts Section of the annual Fennimore County Fair. For twenty years, she coordinated the display and judgment of canned and pickled produce, baked pies, cakes and cookies, as well as arts and crafts, with military precision. The blue ribbon winner that year—1941—in two-dimensional art was this painting by a freshman student at Fennimore County high school, Ellen Jean Sibley. “Farmer and Two Hens” was produced in the ’40-’41 school year.
Miss Sibley lived with her parents Howard and Dorothy on a farm five miles north of Fahnstock, but during the school year she boarded during the week with a cousin who lived in Agincourt; weekends and summers, she tended her goats and learned the domestic skills of farm-wifery. Indeed, her peanut butter cookies took a second prize that year. The Community Collection selection committee acquired her painting for $20, more than $300 today. It’s unrecorded what she did with the money.