In 1930, at the age of twenty, Eleanor King was one of the leading artists in Pensacola. While still a student at Pensacola High School she taught a class of twenty-five art students at her home and founded the Pensacola Junior Art Club, for artists under 18. Later King did commercial art work for local businesses and decorative home murals. The Pensacola Journal, March 2, 1930, lists a number of her works including portraits of her sister Mary Etta King, Anna Monroe, Elizabeth Hayward, Betty Whitrey and Lieutenant Ted Kobey. Her landscapes included, Twin Oaks, Fall Fabric, Pirate’s Oak, Old Spanish Trail, and The Gulf. The Pensacola Journal, April 29, 1932, in reviewing the Pensacola Art Club’s spring exhibit commented on Miss King, “In the paintings of Eleanor King one finds here and there a touch of modernism that is not always pleasing. But in one corner of the window at the front there is a woodland scene as delicate and charming as anything could be and at the rear of the exhibition hall is the painting of Miss Margaret Axelson and Miss Annie Cromartie that offers scope for study by artist and novice. This is the picture that won first prize for portraits at the Gulf Coast exhibition in Mississippi and just came home last night after a month in Mississippi and two weeks on exhibition in Mobile. In November she exhibited a remarkable portrait of Captain Axelson. This later portrait of Miss Axelson and Miss Cromartie has aroused much comment and has given to Miss King something more than a prize; it has placed her in the ranks of leading artists of the South.”
The Pensacola Journal of April 6, 1934 carried a picture of Eleanor King’s painting, General Jackson Besieging Media de Luna of San Carlos, with the following comments, “Photographic reproduction of a painting by Eleanor King, young Pensacola artist, who is rapidly gaining more than local distinction. This scene was painted in competition for art work to be placed in the Florida exhibit at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago and received special mention. Miss King has exhibited in New York at the National Academy, and in Birmingham, Alabama at the annual exhibit of the Southern States Art League, her work attracted much attention…Paintings by Miss King were among those shown in St. Petersburg by the Florida Federation of Art.”
King married Lawrence Salley in 1935 and moved to his home in Tallahassee. Mrs. Salley was in New York City in 1939 for the New York World’s Fair. A letter home to her family is quoted in the Pensacola Journal, May 2, 1939, “The Montross Gallery on Fifth Avenue is going to handle my work all the time and plans to open their season in the fall with a one man show of my watercolors, thirty of them. They will reserve ten out of the group I took up for the fall show. They will keep about ten of my pictures to show all the time, and plan to give me a special show every two years.”
The Ferrigil Galleries on 57th Street carried her oils, landscapes, and seascapes. King did portraits of many prominent Floridians including historian Caroline Brevard, hung in the school named for her in Tallahassee; a portrait of Chief Justice Fred Davis, hung in the Supreme Court in Tallahassee; and a portrait of William Sheats, who for twenty years, was state superintendent of schools in Florida, hung in the education room of the state capital. In 1940 her painting Sand Dunes at Sunset, was hung on the stage of the Tallahassee Woman’s Club and Wakulla Springs hung over the mantel in the Woman’s Clubs reception room. The Live Oak Woman’s Club owned Waterfront. A list of King’s portraits in the Pensacola News Journal, June 16, 1940 includes, Mr. and Mrs. George Saxon; George Saxon for the Capital City Bank of Tallahassee; D. M. Lowry for the Capital City Bank; Dean N. M. Salley , Florida State College for Women; Miss Mari Pearson, Tallahassee May Queen, 1937.
Artist Adam Empie reviewed King’s exhibit at the Pensacola Art Center in the Pensacola News Journal, June 23, 1940, “Eleanor King Salley is a painter who is devoted to Florida, its scenes, its character types, everything that represents this section of the United States. She has studied here, worked here and, although she has traveled extensively and exhibited in metropolitan centers, she returns here, to Pensacola, feeling that the best American expression to be found, is right here on the coast which she loves so well. The current exhibition of watercolors and oils by Mrs. Salley now on display at the Pensacola Art Center, WPA, illustrates this fact very clearly. Scenes of the dunes and gulf are numerous with studies of water and trees. With only one or two exceptions, all the watercolors show the sea or the bayous. These studies were made under different conditions of light and shadows grow long or short according to the time of day. What might be called a series of dune pictures should appeal to all lovers of our coastal scenery. Here Mrs. Salley often shows her cleverness in handling her medium. When the sun shines on white sand, she leaves the white paper, only bringing out some details in shadows. The wild grasses silhouetted against the sky make a decorative pattern in many of these paintings…A second technique of watercolor painting which is well illustrated in the exhibition is what Mrs. Salley calls ‘character sketches.’ These are rather impressionistic studies of women of various ages and conditions, shown not as they would look to a camera, but more as seen ‘in the mind’s eye.’ ‘Coney Island Girl’ is a study of a type of a person, but she is one of many thousands, who by day and night tramp among the crowds. This girl is more of a commentary on Coney Island than on herself and her sisters. Other character sketches are nearer home. In ‘Sit Down Sister’ and ‘The Flirt’ two Negroes are the subjects. The first sketch is quiet, serene. The shoulders droop, the lines run downward, and fatigue is suggested by the whole figure. Not so with ‘The Flirt.’ Here there is vitality, mischief, the joy of life. Black eyes roll in a killing glance, a broad smile reveals white teeth, the spirit of a coquette shines out from the painting in gesture, color and line.” Eleanor King Salley is listed in Who’s Who in American Art and in American Women, Who’s Who of the Women of America. Eleanor later married United States Navy Commander Robert Hookham. They moved to Elmhurst, Illinois in 1946 and that year Eleanor helped co-found the Elmhurst Artist’ Guild. Eleanor continued to paint under the name, “El King.”
Born: April 5, 1909, Marlow, Oklahoma.
Died: January 1, 2003, Elmhurst, Illinois.
Education: In Oklahoma City College with Martha Avey.
Membership: Pensacola Art Club; Florida Federation of Art; Tallahassee Art Association, president, 1940 (as Mrs. Lawrence Salley); Gulf Coast Art Association, Biloxi; Southern States Art League; Elmhurst (Illinois) Artists’ Guild, co-founder.
Exhibits: Florida Federation of Art; Pensacola Art Club, 1928; Gulf Coast Art Association, Biloxi, Mississippi, 1929; Pensacola Art Club, San Carlos Hotel, April 1931, Portrait of Marietta King; Pensacola Art Club, April 1932, Pelicans on Pilings, Captain Axelson, Portrait of Miss Margaret Axelson and Miss Annie Cromartie, also exhibited and won 1st Prize, portraits, Gulf Coast Art Association, Biloxi, Mississippi, 1931; Cincinnati Museum Association, 40th Annual Exhibition of American Art, June-July 1933; National Academy of Design, NYC, 1933; Southern States Art League, Birmingham, Alabama, April 1933, Portrait of Miss Cromarty and Miss Axelson; Pensacola Art Club, May 1933, ten paintings including Three Trees; National Academy of Design, New York City, March-April 1933, Portrait of Nancy White; Cincinnati Museum Association, 40th Annual, June 1933, Pensacola Waterfront, Florida Landscape; Competition for the Florida Exhibit, Century of Progress, Chicago 1934, General Jackson Besieging Media de Luna of San Carlos; Pensacola Art Club, May 1934, Gypsy Camp Fire, Gypsy Fortune Teller, Little House and Fence, Trees, Lazy Day, Old and Young, Fishing Fleet; Cincinnati Art Museum, 42nd Annual Exhibition of American Art, 1935; Palm Beach Art League, 1935, Asters, A Girl in Bandana; Tallahassee Woman’s Club, October 1935, one woman exhibit, oils, watercolors, crayon; Leonard Clayton Galleries, New York City, 1937; Montross Galleries, New York City, November 1939, one woman show, including watercolor, Madonna of the Swamps; Pensacola Art Center, one woman show, June-July 1940, fifty paintings; Elmhurst Art Guild, 1952-1954; Collections, Tallahassee Women’s Club; Pensacola Art Club; Capital City Bank, Tallahassee; Elmhurst College; Florida Capital Building, Senate Chamber, Supreme Court of Florida; Pensacola Beach Corporation; Naval Air Station, Pensacola.
Directory: Listed in the Pensacola City Directory in 1931 as an artist, commercial artist and china painter with studio at 1912 East Gadsden and 23 West Brainard.