The Kerkhoff Auction Center in Redwood Falls, will be conducting a most unique auction Sept. 17. More than 350 paintings by Dorothea Paul, noted Renville County farm gal turned artist, will be offered for sale to anyone attending this special event.

More importantly potential bidders from across America and beyond will also get involved via online bidding.

Paul was 87 when she died. As often happens with the passing away of a family member, a public auction seemed the logical direction. However, the items up for sale are not the traditional things one might find at an auction.

Instead a 52-year accumulation of watercolor paintings that had made Paul known to farmers and agricultural individuals across America is up for sale.

Her daughter Beryl Wernberg, 67, of Bemidji, was at Paul’s farm home Aug. 15 doing some of the “odds and ends” necessary to collect the many paintings. She shared some thoughts with this reporter that day.

Obviously a logical question was how many paintings will be part of this Sept. 17 auction?

“At least 360 plus,” said Wernberg, “which includes both framed and unframed originals and prints. As a prelude to the auction, I hired a company from the Twin Cities to come out and conduct an appraisal.” 

That included taking pictures of all the paintings plus the size and descriptions of each. These are all going to be part of the information online and to those people who personally attend the sale.

Paul was a busy daughter, wife, mother of three and farmer attending to the chores, gardening and family duties faithfully the first 34 years of her life.

“She always had an interest in drawing. That kind of runs in the family. She particularly liked to draw horses. She was born and raised right here on the farm, so she grew up with horses,” said Wernberg. “She did the farming. My dad worked construction and eventually went to work for MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation), so Dad was gone much of the time. Come winter farming was less a chore, so Mom started painting. She’s pretty much self taught but did take a couple of college classes on painting and went to occasional workshops here and there, but mostly she learned it all on her own. My mother is a great example of learning by doing.”

As hundreds of people can attest, Dorothea Paul’s artistic flairs didn’t specialize in any particular environment. However, her love of agriculture dominated. Country scenes, quite often involving horses, were her passion.

“She loved to garden and did many garden scene paintings which often featured just one individual flower,” said Wernberg. “She also did a lot of paintings of people’s farms. People would send her an aerial photo of their farm. She personalized those scenes often including their dog, horses and other animals, and if it was ‘hay making’ time with a team of horses hoisting hay up into the haymow that would be featured for certain.”

Paul also did some portrait work.

“She really excelled at water colors,” said her daughter, adding, “all her paintings were good but her water colors were exceptional.”

Yes, she had favorites among her paintings. Always it included farmers.

Due to her own heritage Paul’s paintings of farmers’ faces often depicted both the frazzled determination and the quiet continence so readily apparent in these masters of the prairie. Nope, there are no particular dignitaries in her “personality paintings.”

There are no governors, politicians or secretaries of agriculture.

“They were always farmers,” said Wernberg. “‘The souls of our landscape’ she would say. So that meant real life farmers, often their children too.”

Related Dick Hagen, staff writer for The Land but in earlier years the communications director of Trojan Seed, “We would buy the back cover of The Farmer magazine. A few times we would use a painting of Dorothea Paul. One particular ad was titled: ‘Trojan Country… Where Corn Fields are Classrooms.’ The painting by Dorothea featured a circular corn plot. As each row closed to the center, the plant populations increased dramatically. Dorothea included a grouping of farmers plus two Trojan DSMs (district sales managers) talking the vitality of these Trojan hybrids, regardless of planting density. That particular Trojan ad won the ‘Best of Print’ campaign in a national farm advertising competition. So Dorothea Paul was indeed an artistic catalyst for Trojan Seed, and I’m certain we helped spur her recognition also.”

The Farmer magazine wasn’t her only notoriety in the publishing world. According to Wernberg, her mother had 125 magazine covers over the years.

Locally the Master’s Coffee Shop in downtown Olivia features a six-foot diameter circular painting by Paul. This huge painting has seven scenes, each depicting an activity of Trojan Seed Company including that corn field classroom scene.

Did she have a “studio” devoted to her work and a special time for painting?

Not really said her daughter.

“If she had been on the tractor all day getting into her house and doing an evening of painting was her relaxation,” Wernberg said. “Eventually she did add a special section to her house which essentially became her studio.”

As fame and recognition happens so to do unusual requests. She started doing calendar pictures for seed companies, tractor firms such as IH and John Deere and even farm cooperatives.

“I used to joke with her that when I was growing up nothing but IH was allowed on the farm. When she started doing calendar paintings for John Deere I would tease her about getting green ink on her fingers,” added Wernberg.

Did Dorothea Paul like farming?

She loved farming, and she loved the land.

“We have that in common,” said her daughter. “Land is something that gets into your soul, and that showed in my mother’s paintings. She was painting right up to about a month before she died.”

In her later years Paul had moved into a mobile home in Redwood Falls but still went to the farm daily. Her husband died several years earlier, so farm life got to be a lonesome existence.

Paul had two unfinished paintings on easels when she died.

She donated many paintings for fundraising efforts.

“She always wanted to advance education in the arts. She has paintings in every state in the union and more than 50 foreign countries. She never advertised, but her paintings have traveled far and wide,” said Wernberg.

Is painting on the scope for Beryl Wernberg?

“I’m too much an outdoor person. I love gardening,” she said. “I’ve noodled with some paintings, and that’s likely where it will stay.”

The Sept. 17 auction starts at 11 a.m.

For additional information visit www.kerkhoff-auction.com, send an e-mail to Doug@Kerkhoffauction.com or call (507) 829-6859.