Thursday, May. 23, 2019

Mabel MacIntosh: Champion of Local Art & Culture

By Richard Nielsen · March 15, 2017

Mabel MacIntosh <span>&copy; Richard Nielsen </span>

Mabel MacIntosh

Children attending the annual Grape Festival at the Kent Family home, circa 1921 <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span> 1925 Marin County Fair, Novato <span>&copy; Jack Mason Museum </span> S.F. Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, 1918 <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

Brown eyed, black haired Mabel MacIntosh, born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1874, made a lasting contribution to Marin County art and artists as well as numerous charitable causes. Her father, John S MacIntosh, was a Presbyterian minister and a native born American citizen who met and married his wife -Sophia Moore- while serving in Northern Ireland. He returned to America with his family in 1881.

In 1903, John MacIntosh moved his family to Marin from the East Coast when he was elected to the Stuart Chair and became the first president of the San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo. While Mabel’s youngest sister fell in love and married in 1904, becoming Mrs. Robert Menzies, Mabel would never marry.  She had many interests, and reveled in the out-of-doors and loved to hike.  Her love of music led her to join the San Francisco Musicale Club in 1905 and she was a frequent concert-goer.

Sadly, her father died of heart failure in 1905.  Afterward, she and her family departed Marin for Philadelphia. When her mother died in 1911, Mabel moved to Princeton, New Jersey and lived with her two older sisters.

In 1914, Mabel spent a few months in Dublin, Ireland, after which she returned to the United States to live with her sisters. In 1919, she travelled to Jerusalem to assist with relief and reconstruction. She came home in time to celebrate Christmas with her sisters in 1921.

Mabel returned to Marin in the early 1920s where she acquired a cottage in Bolinas. However, she spent much of her time with her sister –Mrs. Robert Menzies- in San Rafael, and rented out the Bolinas cottage.

Mabel became an active member of San Anselmo's First Presbyterian Church Woman's Association. She was also a hostess at the S.F. Theological Seminary’s Montgomery Hall. Simultaneously, she pursued an interest in the arts. In early 1924, along with Margaret Buck, she opened her first studio at 15 Ross Avenue in San Anselmo, which she named The Anvil.  She created a wide variety of hand-wrought metal pieces and also taught classes. She decided to rent one of the Coddington Apartments in Ross to be near her studio.  She also gave up her hostess position at the seminary to devote full time to art. 

Mabel was actively involved with the early years of the Marin County Fair and the Grape Festival. In September 1925, after the first Marin County Fair, she left for New York for six months to pursue advanced study in metal art.  Upon her departure, the San Anselmo Herald commented: "Miss Mabel D. MacIntosh of San Rafael has proved herself a patriotic citizen of Marin County by her untiring efforts on behalf of the Fair.  She has enlisted the interest and support of many artists in various lines and whatever exhibition is made of Marin County art is due largely to her."  Even at this early stage in her art career she was making a significant impact on Marin.

At the 1926 Marin County Fair, Mabel received second prize in applied arts for a brass and copper chest and an honorable mention for an iron and marble coffee table.  Friends she had supported also garnered awards. Harris Osborne walked away with a first place in watercolor with a piece titled Bolinas Beach, and Anita Dibblee of Bolinas took a second place with an oil painting titled Old Bridge.  Mabel’s art continued to improve over the years and she received numerous awards.

She showed her versatility as an artist at an exhibition of metal jewelry at the Don Lee Gallery in 1927.  Early that year she engaged other artists in the establishment of a permanent, well-lighted structure for art exhibitions at the Marin County Fair.  On June 6, she left for the East and a year of travel in Europe.  After her return, she worked out of The Anvil studio at its new location at 109 F Street in San Rafael. She was active in various art groups including the Marin Art Association and Mill Valley’s Outdoor Art Club.  She labored tirelessly to raise funds to support artists and art venues across Marin.

In December 1929, she held a show at her studio featuring her own metalwork as well as pastels by her friend Anita Dibblee. This was her last show at The Anvil studio in San Rafael. At the end of the year, she moved both her home and studio to Granda Vista Park in Bolinas.

Mabel continued to raise money and be involved in the woman's group at San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church, while also helping raise money to build the manse at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Bolinas. In 1930, she raised money in support of the Grape Festival, a benefit for the San Francisco Presbyterian Orphanage, today’s Sunny Hills Services.

In 1933, Mabel juried the first exhibit of applied art for the San Francisco Society of Women Artists which was held at the DeYoung Museum.  Around the same time, she represented Bolinas in acquiring funds for the Marin Music Chest.  On August 27, 1937, she surprised her many friends in Marin by closing her studio, selling her cottage, and returning to Princeton, New Jersey.  Her older sisters had passed away, so she lived alone at the old address in Princeton and died at age 82.  She did make one return trip to Marin, however.  Upon her death, her ashes were deposited at the family plot at the Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery.

Mabel may have left Marin, but her legacy of support for local art and culture remains.

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