Mary Huntoon's Biography

Photograph of Mary Huntoon taken at White Studio, Kansas City, Missouri.

Artist and pioneering art therapist Mary H. Atkinson, known professionally as Mary Huntoon, was born in Topeka, Kansas on November 29, 1896. The Huntoons were a prominent pioneer family in Topeka. Mary spent her early years on her uncle's ranch just outside of Kokomo, Oklahoma. Her mother, Mary Ruth Huntoon, who went by Ruth, married Harve Pearson, a newspaper cartoonist, when Mary was eight. Pearson encouraged Mary Huntoon in her artistic pursuits.

Mary attended school in Topeka, and graduated from Topeka's Washburn College in 1920. After graduating, Huntoon moved to New York with her first husband playwright Charles Hoyt, where she studied under Joseph Pennell at the New York Art Students League. Mary then spent four years painting and etching in France before returning to Topeka at teach art at Washburn College in 1931.  Huntoon spent 1932 painting in Germany, Italy, and what became Czechoslovakia. 

Mary Huntoon returned to teaching etching and painting at Washburn, 1934-1936. She then became a painting instructor at the Menninger Clinic, 1936-1937, as well as a marriage counselor, 1953-1960. From 1934 to 1938, Huntoon also served as the director of the Federal Art Project in Kansas. A strong believer in the power of public art, Huntoon was instrumental in installing works of art in schools across Kansas.

Mary Huntoon passed away in 1970. Outside of Kenneth Spencer Research Library and the Helen Foresman Museum of Art, Mary Huntoon’s artwork can also be found in places such as Topeka’s Mulvane Art Museum, the Newark Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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Mary Huntoon in her etching studio in Paris, 1931.

 

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THE THREE ARTISTS. Engraving of Mary Huntoon and two other Topeka artists working.

The Three Artists, 1934. Engraving of Mary Huntoon and two other Topeka artists working. https://spencerartapps.ku.edu/collection-search#/object/18569

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Mary Huntoon in her painting studio.

Mary Huntoon in her painting studio, 1936.

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"The Vote," a Poem by Mary Huntoon.

“The Vote,” a poem by Mary Huntoon, undated.

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Mary Huntoon and her fellow Manual Art Therapists at the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital.

Mary Huntoon and her fellow Manual Art Therapists at the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital, 1947.

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COLOR, PIGMENTS, AND ART TERMS, pamphlet by Mary Huntoon.

Color, Pigments, and Art Terms, pamphlet by Mary Huntoon, May 1956.

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Mary Huntoon in the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital Art Clinic, Topeka, Kansas.

Mary Huntoon in the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital Art Clinic, Topeka, Kansas, 1958.