One of Oklahoma's earliest professional woman artists, Nellie Ellen Shepherd was born in Thayer, Kansas, on April 30, 1877. Her parents, George T. and Martha Ellen Shepherd, brought their six daughters and two sons to a homestead near Oklahoma City in the Land Run of 1889. After graduating from high school, Nellie Shepherd attended at the Academy of Art in Cincinnati and then studied for three years in France, where her portrait of her sister Lottie was selected for exhibit at the 1910 Paris Grand Salon and won Honorable Mention. In 1916 she spent several months studying in the art institutes of Chicago and Kansas City. In autumn 1917 she became head of the art department in the Oklahoma College for Women, in Chickasha. She also taught privately and in 1918 was elected president of the Oklahoma Art Association. Plagued by ill health, after spending time in Arizona and Colorado, she died in Tucson of tuberculosis on July 18, 1920. An impressionist, Nellie Shepherd worked primarily in oils and preferred portraiture. She showed her works in Kansas City, Chicago, and Denver. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Santa Fe Railway Collection, Schaumberg, Illinois, hold paintings by Shepherd.
Most of the Shepherd homestead, located around Northwest Twenty-third Street in Oklahoma City, was sold to make way for Shepherd Mall and for a residential area. Shepherd Historic District, roughly bounded by Northwest Twenty-fifth, Northwest Thirtieth, North Pennsylvania Avenue, and North Youngs Boulevard, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 (NR 97000612).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Edith C. Johnson, "Oklahoma Girl Wins Fame as an Artist," Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 26 June 1910. Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998). Doris Ostrander Dawdy, Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 3 (Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 1985). "Shepherd Family," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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