A botanical portrait of the stem-end of a watermelon—possibly grown on her Jacksboro Highway farm—by prolific Fort Worth, Texas, painter Josephine Mahaffey. Rendered on artist’s paper in the early 1960s, the quick, rapid-fire brushwork and bold color selection produce a work that exemplifies Mahaffey’s somewhat dizzying but unfailingly coherent style. Signed by the artist. Hang it in your kitchen or solarium! Sight: 10" × 8".

JOSEPHINE VAUGHN MAHAFFEY (1903–1982) was dubbed “Mama Mahaffey—the Texas Dynamo” in 1957 by Coronet Magazine, an acknowledgment of her enormous gift for high-speed composition. Always working “in the moment,” Mahaffey combined rapid brushstrokes with earthiness and high energy to produce an astonishingly large and complex legacy of art.

Born into a rural farming family in Hopkins County in northeast Texas in 1903, Mahaffey spent her childhood further south in San Marcos. She studied art at the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman’s University) in Denton, where she won an art contest with a picture painted using different tones of shoe polish. She moved to Fort Worth as a newlywed in 1922 and began receiving art instruction from landscape artist Sallie Blyth Mummert (1888-1938). The tutelage continued until Mummert’s death. Mahaffey also studied with area artists Clinton Blair King (1901-1979), Octavio Medellin (1907-1999), and Kathleen Lawrence (1906-1983). She would later return to TWU to earn her B.A.

Mahaffey operated a grocery store in Fort Worth for several years and built the business to include three stores before selling to a chain. With the proceeds, she bought a ranch on Jacksboro Highway north of Fort Worth (a previously notorious strip of Highway 199) and opened a private art gallery where she focused on her art and her passion for communicating her love of painting to others.

Mahaffey worked primarily in water-based paints but was proficient in the use of oils and encaustics when economics allowed. She was known to execute paintings on newsprint, brown paper bags, bits of cardstock, and roadmaps. The choice of media and support was always secondary to the act of painting. She looked to the faces of family and friends for inspiration, to the barnyard and gardens of her farm, the shores of Lake Worth, and the urban landscapes of Fort Worth.

Over time, Mahaffey’s pursuits evolved into teaching and advocacy for arts education. She taught at the Woman’s Club of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Art Center, the Northside Boys Club, and the Arlington YWCA. Her policy was to provide lessons regardless of a student’s ability to pay. In addition, she participated in workshops, was a charter member of the Fort Worth Art Association, president of the Professional and Amateur Art Association, and a judge of many art shows. She exhibited work internationally and locally and was best known for shows at the Texas State Fair. In 1968, the Fair honored her with a “Josephine Mahaffey Day.”

Mahaffey had seven sons and a daughter over the course of her dual career as a businesswoman and artist. In later years, despite her gregarious nature, she eschewed the familiar and turned inward. She died in 1982. Her influence lives on in scores of private and public collections in North Texas. In 2010, the Fort Worth Community Arts Center hosted a retrospective of her work.

You’ve got to get it down fast, or else you lose it. – JOSEPHINE VAUGHN MAHAFFEY



Period/Year – 1960s

Origin – USA

Styles/Movements – AMERICAN; MODERN


Support – RAG PAPER


Condition – Excellent vintage condition. May show minor signs of previous ownership and use.

Dimensions – 15" H × 13" W × ¾" D

Quantity Available – 1