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The South has historically attracted numerous fine artists from outside the region—practitioners drawn to such picturesque urban centers as Charleston and New Orleans, as well as more isolated locations where landscape was the primary appeal. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Tryon, North Carolina, is an example of the latter. During the early twentieth century, Tryon offered good railroad connections, a mild climate, the amenities of a seasonal resort, and magnificent vistas. It was also a burgeoning art colony enjoyed by Homer Everett Ellertson, Lawrence Mazzanovich, George Aid, and Amelia Watson, who lived there year-round. Josephine Sibley Couper was a regular summertime resident, and Elliott Daingerfield visited from nearby Blowing Rock.

Ellertson was born in River Falls, Wisconsin, a small city in the western part of the state, to parents of Norwegian descent. His art education began during childhood and after graduation from the local normal school, he headed east to attend art school at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. After his first year there, Ellertson was awarded a scholarship to travel abroad in 1914. He took instruction in Paris, traveled in Spain, and came back to the states at the advent of World War I. Following his return to New York, Ellertson completed his studies at Pratt and found success at a Manhattan commercial establishment where he designed rugs, wallpapers, and textiles.

At the suggestion of a friend, Ellertson visited Tryon around 1920 and soon after settled there. In 1923, he designed and built El Taarn (taarn being the Norwegian word for tower), a grand historicist three-story mansion with a polygonal tower and Tudor-style finishes. Functioning as both home and studio, the house was located on a mountain spur with impressive views, which were rarely the subject of his paintings. In an article that appeared in the November 1931 issue of House Beautiful, Ellertson wrote that his goal in designing El Taarn had been to create a place that was “beautiful and aesthetic” which would serve as a space “to try out [his paintings] and live with them.” Ellertson made at least two additional trips to Europe, in 1922 and 1927. In 1928, he married Margaret Law of Tryon, a niece of the artist Margaret Moffett Law of Spartanburg.

While he tended to eschew pure landscapes, Ellertson painted scenes—at home and abroad—that were frequently rendered with a tilted perspective, as evidenced by Dean Homestead. These light-hearted modern works found favor with critics who once described him as “a talent of unusual felicity.” The word “lyrical” has also been used to describe his work, perhaps because his palette tended toward delicate colors. Watercolor was his preferred medium, which the noted cultural critic Lewis Mumford described in less than favorable terms: “Ellertson’s watercolors are betrayed by his love for the medium; he sacrifices too much to mere juiciness.”

Ellertson died on his forty-third birthday after suffering a heart attack. Although his career was brief, he exhibited consistently and was a member of several art collectives, including the Southern States Art League, the American Federation of Arts, and the Scandinavian American Society of Artists. His work was once exhibited at Alfred Stiglitz’s gallery in New York and, in 1926, Duncan Phillips purchased two Spanish scenes for his new private museum in Washington, DC; the works remain in that institution’s permanent collection.