Beauty before age: 101-year-old artist to open exhibition at cultural center

Nov 1, 2022

At 101 years old, Dartmouth resident Christine Bean may not be as spry as she once was, but the centenarian watercolorist still finds the energy to paint — at least a little bit — every day.

In fact, she says it is one of the things that keeps her going.

“I couldn’t live without it,” she said. “It’s just something that I have to do.”

Now, as she approaches her 102nd birthday on Nov. 11, Bean’s works will be displayed for all to see in a solo exhibition at the Dartmouth Cultural Center starting Nov. 4.

It will be Bean’s first appearance at the center despite living in Dartmouth for the past 60 years where she taught private art classes for decades.

Though she no longer completes “a painting a day” like she once did, Bean’s son Jim said she still has over 50 framed pieces that have not been sold and over 100 more that are unframed.

“She was prolific for a while,” he said, adding that although she can’t keep up the pace she used to, her artist’s mind is something she can’t turn off. “I think that eye is always working.”

Many of those paintings will be on display at the center’s Reading Room Gallery starting this week.

“I know that there are a large number of paintings,” said DCC Gallery Director Jill Law. “I’m looking forward to hanging them.”

Law said that Bean will be present at the exhibition’s opening reception on Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., where attendees will not only get the first chance to explore the gallery, but also to celebrate her birthday over cake and other refreshments.

The event is likely to have a large turnout, as Bean is well-known in Dartmouth for her art classes as well as her time as a home ec teacher at Dartmouth Middle School, her son said.

Jim recalled taking his mother to get her Covid vaccine and bumping into several of her former students along the way.

“It was like everybody knew her,” he said. “I’m hoping this show will bring them out again.”

Others may know Christine simply from seeing her painting around Dartmouth, where she used to delight in creating her works en plein air.

“Being there is just entirely different from imagining,” she said.

She said that Dartmouth’s plethora of panoramic scenes were one of the things she likes most about the town, summing it up succinctly as “a nice place to live, nice people around, and nice places to paint.”

Though she doesn’t paint on-location anymore, Christine said she still enjoys going out occasionally for ice cream with her son, watching movies, and painting with her friend Paul Sullivan for about an hour a week.

“I just feel so lucky to be able to do what I want to do,” she said.

When asked about the secret to her longevity, Christine gave the credit to her devoted children for caring for her.

“I’m just lucky and my kids take care of me,” she said.

Jim, though, had a different explanation, stemming from his mother’s upbringing in the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia.

“I tease her that she built up all this strength walking up and down the hills of Morgantown,” he said.