Georgine Shillard-Smith

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Portrait of Georgine Shillard-Smith,
by Hugh Henry Breckenridge.

Georgine Northrup Wetherill Smith, later known as Georgine Shillard-Smith, was an American artist and arts patron, and a member of the Theosophical Society in America. She was responsible for commissioning the murals that were painted for the L. W. Rogers Building on the Society's headquarters campus. She also donated other art works and a large parcel of land.

Personal life

Georgine Northrup Wetherill was born on March 2, 1873 in Philadelphia.[1] On April 18, 1893 she married Charles Shillard Smith (September 10, 1864 - November 25, 1946) at a Unitarian Church. He was a wool merchant and a director of the United Security Life Insurance and Trust Co. of Pennsylvania[2] They had a daughter Christine who was born in 1910. The family was affluent and traveled the world.[3] Active in mainline Philadelphia society, their names appeared in periodicals such as Town and Country, the New York Times, and in society columns of other newspapers. Georgine was a member of National Society of Magna Charta Dames and Barons, and of other civic and cultural groups. She and Charles lived in Florida in their later years. Mrs. Shillard-Smith died on October 12, 1955 in Pinellas, Florida, but was buried in Philadelphia.

Christina became a fashion designer under the name Tina Leser, living in Hawaii with her husband Curtin Leser.[4]

Mrs. Shillard-Smith had a younger sister, Sara Northrup Wetherill (October 11, 1874 - December 2, 1938) who was also a Theosophist. Sara and her husband Robert Restalrig Logan had a large estate, "Sarobia," in Eddington, Pennsylvania, and were very active in the Theosophical Order of Service. Another Theosophist sister, Christine Northrup Wetherill, was also prominent in society as Mrs. Yorke Stevenson.[5] She sponsored the production in old Krotona of The Light of Asia as a play.[6]

Involvement in the arts

Georgine studied art with Cecilia Beaux. She signed her paintings as Georgine Shillard. She was associated with the Philadelphia Museum and School of Industrial Art for decades, as a donor, on the Instruction Committee, and on the Board of Trustees.[7] A prize in illustration was established in her honor.[8] In addition, she served as president of the Plastic Club, a group of women artists, during the years 1922-1926 and 1932-1936.[9] For many years she maintained her own art studio.[10] There is a Shillard-Smith Gallery in Belleair, Florida.

In 1944, Mrs. Georgine Shillard-Smith donated seven acres of land to create the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center.[11] "On Sunday, April 2, 1950, The Tampa Tribune announced the establishment of the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center in Belleair. The center began as a group of buildings consisting of modern studios, dormitories, galleries and lecture halls that were constructed on the property of its founder, Mrs. Shillard Smith."[12] A gallery is named after her.

In 1952 or 1953, Mrs. Shillard-Smith published a book of poetry illustrated with her own full-page color illustrations.[13]

Theosophical Society activities

Mrs. Shillard-Smith became a member of the Theosophical Society in America on July 2, 1914.[14] Charles was also involved; in 1920 the family were living in the Krotona colony in Hollywood, California.[15] After leaving California, the family lived in Edgewater Park, Burlington, New Jersey for some years, but visited the Society headquarters in Wheaton, Illinois. She established a book shop and lending library in Atlantic City, New Jersey which resulted in the formation of a lodge. "From ten members on Nov. 11, 1927, the Lodge has grown to thirty-six on Nov. 11, 1928, seven having joined after Mr. Rogers' recent lecture."[16]

At the 1930 national convention, she proposed a project to have Philadelphia artist Richard Blossom Farley paint a mural on the walls of the lobby in the new L. W. Rogers Building. Later she donated a marble pedestal to hold a bust of Annie Besant, and several acres of land adjoining the headquarters estate. The land was intended to provide space for an arts center, but funds were never available to put up the proposed building. In the 1950s, TSA President James S. Perkins used the land to create a pond. When the couple moved to Clearwater, Florida in 1940s, they belonged to the Hermes Lodge.


  1. U. S. Passport application, October 5, 1893.
  2. Trust Companies of the United States, 1917 edition. Page 423. Available from Google Books.
  3. "Label Resource: Leser, Tina". Vintage Fashion Guild website.
  4. "Label Resource: Leser, Tina". Vintage Fashion Guild website.
  5. Town & Country 66.11 (May 27, 1922), 23.
  6. Anonymous, "A Festival Drama" The Messenger 5.12 (May, 1918), 789-790.
  7. Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum January 1911.
  8. "Notable Alumni", The University of the Arts web page.
  9. Plastic Club Records, 1888-2007. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Collection 3106. Records in Appendix A at this website
  10. U. S. Census, 1910.
  11. "A Brief history of Belleair", available at Belleair, Florida web page
  12. Mark Ormond. "Modern Art in Florida, 1948–1970". Available at this website.
  13. "Poems Published." 1952 or 1953. Newspaper clipping found in St. Petersburg Lodge Records, Records Series 20.02.15, Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  14. Membership records. Blue series, microfilm reel #6. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  15. U. S. Census, 1920.
  16. "What Lodges Are Doing" The Theosophical Messenger 16.7 (December 1928), 150.