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Exhibit to celebrate Martinsburg artist's work

May 29, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As a boy in Martinsburg, Edward Ryneal Grove used to carry around a small tablet, on which he sketched pictures of animals and other scenes.

It was a precursor of bigger things to come. He became part of a small, distinguished group of artists who designed coins for the U.S. government and commemorative medals honoring people such as Bob Hope and Winston Churchill.

He also kept his hand in painting, receiving commissions to paint everything from residents of Martinsburg to a two-story, 400-square-foot mural in a church just outside Philadelphia.

A collection of works by Grove, who now lives in Florida, will be on exhibit at the Boarman Arts Center from June 6 to July 31.

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It is not known how many works Grove created, but his friends and family members were able to gather 36 pieces of the artist's works to show in the exhibit, said Matthew Grove, a local architect and nephew of Grove.

At least two of the works show Martinsburg ties.

One is a painting of the Rev. Harry Lee Doll, bishop of the diocese of Maryland, which was commissioned for the Trinity Episcopal Church in Martinsburg in 1969. The painting is still at the West King Street church, but the art gallery has borrowed it for the two-month show. To the right of Doll is a faint outline of the Eastern Panhandle and Western Maryland, which Grove included in the picture.

Another portrait is of Sallie VanMetre, a Martinsburg resident. The painting shows the woman in a pensive moment, with a ray of light passing over her face.

"There's almost a lifelike quality to them. You can feel the person," said Patricia Perez, director of the Boarman Arts Center.

Born in 1912, Grove left Martinsburg after graduating from high school and went to Washington, D.C., where he landed a job as an apprentice for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The federal bureau is where the nation's stamps and coins are designed, although the identities of the artists there was kept secret.

"Any work he did there was not his because of security issues. Engravers could not sign their works," Matthew Grove said.

While in Washington, Grove attended the Corcoran School of Art, where he met his wife, Jean Donner, a sculptor. The couple lived mostly in Philadelphia and Washington during their professional careers and worked on projects together, such as the church mural, which is in the Church of the Holy Comforter. The mural, titled "Communion of Saints," includes 54 portraits and required seven years of research and painting. It was completed in 1958 and was rededicated last year on its 40th anniversary, according to the Boarman Arts Center.

Grove worked on a number of projects for the federal government and the Franklin Mint. He created commemorative medals honoring Winston Churchill, Harry Truman and one of the Apollo space missions. He also designed a commemorative medal honoring comedian Bob Hope, which was commissioned by Congress.

His works popped up across the nation. He designed a bicentennial coin for Berkeley County, and sculpted a 6-foot-high eagle that sits along a primary boulevard in West Palm Beach, Fla., according to Matthew Grove.

Grove and his wife moved to West Palm Beach in the late 1960s. Although he retired from painting in 1990, he might travel to Martinsburg for part of the exhibit, said Matthew Grove.

Grove said his uncle seemed pleased about the effort to gather his work for a show. "He lit up at the idea," Matthew Grove said.

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