Mabel Pugh led an exciting life as an artist in the early twentieth century. A 1913 graduate of Peace College – then Peace Institute – Pugh was famously known for her block drawings and portraits of notable politicians. Her portrait of Congressman Herbert Covington Bonner hangs in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. After leaving Peace, Pugh went on to study at Columbia University and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where, in 1919, she was awarded the prestigious Cresson Traveling Scholarship to fund studies abroad in Europe.
During her time at Peace, she studied art under Mrs. Ruth Huntington Moore and was involved in the Arts Student League. In the twenties, Pugh moved to New York City to establish herself as an artist. Her illustrations were featured in several magazines, novels, and children’s books. During her time in New York, her works were exhibited widely across the country. Her paintings have graced the walls of the Brooklyn Museum, the Library of Congress, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. During the first New York World’s Fair, Pugh exhibited her painting, My Mother.
Pugh returned to her hometown, Morrisville, NC in the 1930s. She became Morrisville’s first female author when she wrote and illustrated her book, Little Carolina Bluebonnet, in 1933. Pugh then returned to Peace College and served as an art professor until 1960. During her tenure at Peace, Pugh became the head of the Art Department and served on the boards of the Memorial NC Art Society, the College Art Association, the North Carolina Symphony Society, and the Raleigh Civic Music Club.
Mabel Pugh died in 1986. After her death, her family donated some of Pugh’s drawings to be auctioned off at the annual Peace Vintage Sale during Alumnae Weekend the following year. In 1987, the Mabel Pugh Art Award was created in memory of Pugh herself, and her beloved art teacher, Ms. Moore.
In her will, Pugh bequeathed Peace College with two of her works, a painting of her estate, and a drawing of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Raleigh. Both works are still proudly hung in Main.
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