The legacy of artist James Shell

To the editor:

For those of us who knew and loved James Shell, his passing on July 11 was a very sad event. At the same time, his legacy as an artist is somewhat of a milestone.

A native of Roxboro, he depicted aspects of his and our life in Person County in his prolific creation of lithographs and intaglio etchings, which can be seen in numerous venues throughout North Carolina and beyond the state. In Roxboro, for example, his works are displayed in a large number of municipal buildings, professional offices, banks and other public locations. A lot of people may not be familiar with the artist, but many more have seen and enjoyed his work.

Offering tranquil subjects such as winter scenes in rural areas, flowers, and seascapes, Jim’s works have a somewhat generic appeal to almost every artistic preference. They generally show sharp contrasts, with the pure white of snow and the darker hues of rustic barns, woodsheds, and rural landscapes on a typically somber wintry day, and very often a touch of red appears, offering even more contrast and perhaps symbolizing the passion of the artist.

His legacy has significance for Person County and North Carolina, as his artwork preserves some of the history of this part of the country, exemplified by tobacco barns and mailboxes with route number addresses, remote from the hustle and bustle of modern-day urban life. In his genteel modesty, he would likely not be very much aware of this wonderful legacy he leaves behind.

As I walk by my own collection of his work in my home, Elmwood, which has Shell artwork exhibited in a number of rooms, I’m grateful for a long-term friendship and perhaps even more for the peace and serenity of his art.


Leasburg, N.C.

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