Above, Mission Concepcion de la Purisma by Mary Bonner (left) and by Mary Aubrey Keating (right)
‘I had always dabbled a little in artistic things in a sort of boarding school fashion, but I had certainly never taken anything I had done very seriously.’Mary Bonner (1887-1935) in a 1926 interview by Penelope Border in the San Antonio Express
Mary Bonner, well known etcher, in conjunction with her sister, Emma Jane, has a studio on Agarita Street. There, period furniture, rare objets d’art, first editions, and, of course best of all, etchings my be had. ‘Mary’ has won many medals and decorations from the French Government for her etchings. The Bonner place… is set in an ancient walled garden, hemmed in by giant cypress trees. In the garden there are many paths. One leads to Mary’s studio, another to an underground part of the Shop, known as the Caverns…. Beyond this, is the room for the gigantic etching press where the artist spends most of her time.Mary Aubrey Keating (1894-1953) described her fellow artist in Keating’s 1935 guide, San Antonio: Interesting Places in San Antonio and Where to Find Them.
In 1922, Mary Anita Bonner found lodging in the artsy area of Montparnasse in Paris and studied etching under printmaker Edouard-Henri Leon (1873-1968). By 1925, her traditional etchings merited medals in Paris’ most prestigious ‘salons,’ but her frieze of cowboys (cavaliers impassibles) in the Salon d’Automne took the art world by storm.
Mary Aubrey performed opera with various symphonies and companies before foregoing her career to marry and raise a family. Painting became the outlet for her artistic endeavors. She primarily was self-taught and was heavily influenced by the major muralists of Mexico.
Both artists returned home to San Antonio and were engaged actively in promoting art and fledgling art organizations as well as the San Antonio Conservation Society.
Executed less than a decade apart, these images illustrate the graphic difference in style these two successful artists employed approaching the same subjects. Mary Bonner’s prints here are from a series of postcards she designed beginning in 1928 as a fundraiser for the Conservation Society’s efforts to secure funds to purchase and restore the San Jose Mission Granary. Mary Aubrey Keating’s images are from her 1935 guide, San Antonio: Interesting Places in San Antonio and Where to Find Them.
The Witte Museum often showcases some of Mary Bonner’s works, and there are numerous pieces hanging in the collection of Villa Finale. Trinity University Press also published Mary Bonner: Impressions of a Printmaker by Mary Carolyn Hollers George in 2018. Some of Mary Aubrey Keating’s painted murals are found in the River House of the Steves Homestead Museum; the lobby of 110 Broadway; and the University Health System’s Robert B. Green Campus.