Scene from Rose and Book

Mearns - Scene from Rose and Book.JPG

Dublin Core


Scene from Rose and Book


The references in this uncanny painting aren’t clear. At the front of a stage we see a performer, seemingly dressed as a princess and like Cinderella wearing only a single slipper. She holds in her hand a white flower. Behind her, peeking out from seven “legs” receding into the distance, are stylized characters who seem to be drawn from folk tales: a king and queen, a dour stepsister, and so on. The scene is framed by footlights, curtains, and at far right a rope pull reaches out to us invitingly. Mearns’ title references a yearly festival in Barcelona; the painting’s anarchic energy also may derive from her experience with Hervey White’s summer “Maverick Festival” productions.

About the Artist:

Born Emma Mearns in Philadelphia, at age 19 she married the poet Laurence Jordan, was divorced from him in 1931, and then married medical writer and publisher Blake Cabot in 1937 (he died in 1974). Petra Cabot, as she was known thereafter, began work for designer Russel Wright in 1939, on his “Food Focal” exhibit at the World’s Fair in New York City. In 1947, President Harry S Truman denounced modern art as “the vaporings of half-baked, lazy people....There is no art at all in connection with the modernists, in my opinion.” Mearns-Cabot was one of the Woodstock Art Association members to sign a letter rebuking Truman: “[W]hen a man in high public office chooses to denounce and condemn a large and important group of artists, because he happens to dislike their art, it becomes a matter of immediate and grave concern to all artists” (Kingston Daily Freeman 23 June 1947: 3). In 1952 she made her best-known contribution to American design with the Skotch Kooler, which refashioned metal “minnow buckets” into attractive and affordable picnic totes that became ubiquitous throughout that decade (“How”). Throughout her long life Mearns-Cabot continued to create in a variety of forms: painting, drawing, woodblock, illustrations for books and educational filmstrips, jewelry, and mixed media. 5 works at Woodstock Artists Association & Museum. 2 works at Woodstock School of Art.

Sources Consulted: Douglas Martin, “Petra Cabot, Designer of the 1950s-Era Skotch Kooler, Dies at 99,” New York Times 29 Oct. 2006: A26; “How Two Young Men Saved an Ailing Business,” Changing Times: The Kiplinger Magazine Aug. 1953: 31-32.


Mearns, Petra, 1907-2006


Federal Art Gallery




Ritz, Abigail (photography)

Cooper, Ken (biography)


New Deal Gallery, Genesee Valley Council on the Arts

Object #FA18204


jpeg, 854 KB


Still image



Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Tempera painting

Physical Dimensions

17.5 x 21.5 in.
Condition: cracked glass, surface dirt