Work of tragic Muncy artist to be re-resurrected at Muncy Artwalk
MUNCY – Long ago, but not forgotten, there was a successful artist and famous illustrator who once lived in Muncy and created mosaics, murals and paintings in some of the well known buildings that still exist today.
Eugene Mohr, who went by Jean, was born in 1877 to William and Emma Noble Mohr. They were prominent citizens of the town. Rebecca Cozine writes in a magazine article that William Mohr, the artist’s father, was the youngest drummer boy from Muncy to march in the Civil War.
The couple lived in a 13 room Victorian mansion on North Main Street located where the Paul Geringer Hall stands today. William being a business banker, President of the Citizens’ National Bank, allowed them to be quite wealthy, and according to Now and Then, ” a social center of the town.” Emma was well known for hosting her fine social teas of the day.
William Mohr died when Eugene was a young boy and just beginning to gain quite a talent for art. He was a true artist and attended art schools in New York and Paris. He drew cartoons for the New York Post, and worked in the studio of Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl for Life Magazine. During this time he met and married a beautiful young model, but when he brought her back home to Muncy, his domineering mother put an end to the marriage and sent her on her way.
Eugene then moved to Philadelphia where he worked as a cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Luminary reports in 1902 he worked for the North American as well.
After his mother passed away in the 1940’s, Eugene remained in the family home, which began to fall into disrepair until his death. Townspeople rarely saw him sober. He gave up his career as an illustrator and most of his work was done in taverns and restaurants to pay for food and liquor.
Neighbors said he lived in his kitchen for the last seven years of his life. A cot was located just a few feet away from his easel. He only got up to paint or to throw a log onto the fire that was nearby. Edward Grenoble and his wife, Eva, cared for him during his last few years, bringing him food and warm clothing. “He never asked for liquor,” said Chief Grenoble. Eugene turned to religion in his last years as his health deteriorated. He was taken to Muncy Valley Hospital where he continued to draw pictures for the nurses. He died there in 1961. His grave was unmarked until 1984 when Mrs. Jane Jackson bought him a headstone carved by Douglas Hayhurst, in a three line epitaph that reads, “Jean Mohr; 1877-1961; Artist.”
Much of Mohr’s work has been left behind, somewhat scattered, but the best is preserved at the Fort Brady Hotel, the Muncy Historical Museum and The Opera House which houses some murals and through STEP, Inc. Many of his works depict colorful nature scenes, barroom scenes and black and white illustrations. He lived to be 84.
For the first time in several years, the late Eugene Mohr’s historical works of Muncy’s past will be on public display on Friday, April 27 during a Muncy Art Walk that is being planned by Our Town and the Muncy Professional Business Association. Best known for his paintings of Captain John Brady at the Fort Brady Hotel, the Opera House will also be opened to view murals he painted on the first floor. The Muncy Historical Society has about 25 pieces of Mohr’s work including four barrel lids. He liked to paint on just about any surface he could using pencil, crayon, charcoal, and oils. Artist, Nella Godbey Storm said he had a dynamic brush stroke. “Like many artists, his work was virtually ignored,” she said.
Rachelle Abbott from STEP said that they are working with the Muncy Historical Society to preserve some of the murals and paintings that in their possession, and find them a permanent good home. One thought is to develop and educational series for local libraries and schools according to Abbott. “STEP is proud to be working with Muncy on this Art Walk,” she replied. “This will get them out more into the community.” The Historical Society will also be featuring Mohr’s work in October during their annual homes tour.
The building on 1 S. Main Street, formerly known as the Muncy Inn and Moran Hotel, had uncovered a large quantity of Mohr’s paintings in the basement after it was acquired by STEP who ran the Meck Senior Center there. Although, many paintings were ruined in the 1972 flood, STEP is attempting to restore some of them and find a permanent display for them. In the meantime, 23 of the preserved paintings will be coming out of storage from STEP and will be on display at Providence Engineering, 23 S. Main Street during the Art Walk from 5 to 8 p.m.
Other locations with works of art will also be planned for viewing such as the Muncy Post Office, the Muncy Fire Hall, and the Muncy Library.