Interesting Things

By Ray L. Bellande

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William Steene (1887-1965)

Biloxi Trawler

[Possession of OOMA in Biloxi, Mississippi]


William Robert Steene (1887-1965) was born at Syracuse, New York on August 18, 1887.  He was a nationally known portrait painter and muralist. Steene studied under Colarossi and Julian in Paris, after his initial art education at the Art Students’ League and National Academy of Design in New York City. Among his portraitures possibly familiar to local residents are: President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi; Governor Henry Whitfield of Mississippi; Dr. Karl Meyer, head of Cook County Hospital at Chicago; E.V Richards, president of the Navy League of America and Paramount Richards Theatres; and golfing legend, Robert Trent “Bobby” Jones.(Who’s Who in America, Vol. 31, 1960-1961 and Bradford-O’Keefe Burial Book 48, p. 245)

Probably William R. Steene's first visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast was in April 1931, when he was a guest of the Buena Vista Hotel at Biloxi. He had painted in Mississippi earlier in his distinguished art career.  Steene had come to Biloxi after completing two portraits.  They were of Frank G. Logan (1851-1937), philanthropist and honorary president of the Chicago Art Institute, and Dr. Harry Woodburn Chase (1883-1955), president of the University of Illinois.  Mr. Logan's portrait was hung in the Grand Central art gallery at NYC.(The Daily Herald, April 18, 1931, p 2)

In 1956, from his Gulf Hills studio, W.R. Steene completed a large mural depicting the 1953 Louisiana Sesquicentennial Celebration, a remembrance of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, at New Orleans.  President Eisenhower is at the center of this 50-foot long, ten-foot tall, triptych mural, which took a year to complete.  The painting hangs in the Presbytery of the Louisiana State Museum at New Orleans.(The Daily Herald, “Know Your Coast”, November 15, 1957)

Blossman Collection

Landing of Iberville-1699

Locally, Blossman Gas on Washington Avenue has a fine collection of Mr. Steene’s paintings.  E.W. “Woody“ Blossman (1913-1990) commissioned "Landing of Iberville" from Steene to hang in his refurbished Gottsche Building, which was acquired in 1962.  The architectural firm of Slaughter & Smith of Pascagoula directed the buildings restoration and W.R. Steene served as art consultant for the project.(Down South, March 4, 1964) 

The City of Biloxi has a Steene painting in its City Hall on Lameuse Street appropriately titled, “Blessing of the Fleet”.(The Ocean Springs News, June 3, 1965, p. 7)           

Gulf Hills

In November 1950, the William R. Steene home and studio in Gulf Hills was under construction.  The Steens were domiciled in the Ed Brou residence on Washington (sic) Avenue.(The Gulf Coast Times, November 3, 1950, p. 8)

William Steene and his wife Eula Mae Jackson Steene (1888-1969) resided in Gulf Hills north of Ocean Springs from 1950, until his death at Biloxi on March 24, 1965.  They married in 1914, and had two daughters, Betty S. Painter and Marianne S. Ware (1919-2001).  Mrs. Steene’s sister, Miss O. Jackson, a native of Lexington, Kentucky, was once the manager of the Town And Country Restaurant on Park Avenue in NYC.(The Daily Herald, March 24, 1965, p. 1 and The Gulf Coast Times, January 22, 1953, p. 1)


Eula Jackson Steene(1888-1969) expired in July 1969 at Jackson, Mississippi.(SSDI)

Betty Steen Painter(1915?-1998?) married? Lawrence Painter (1915-1980)

Marianne Steene Ware(1919-2001) died at Bronxville, New York on March 3, 2001.(SSDI)




Bradford-O’Keefe Burial Book 48, “William Robert Steene”, (Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home-Biloxi, Mississippi-1965).

Who’s Who in America, “William Steene”, Vol. 31, 1960-1961.


Down South, “William Steene-Artist Laureate of the Gulf Coast”, Vol. 5, No. 1, January-February 1955, pp. 13-14.

Down South, “Preserving the Past”, Vol. 14, No. 2, March-April 1964.


The Daily Herald, “Portrait painter here", April 18, 1931.

The Daily Herald, “Know Your Coast”, ‘Portrait Painter Of Distinguished Americans”, 1956.

The Daily Herald, “Know Your Coast”,‘Self portrait’ (photo), November 15, 1957.

The Daily Herald, “Know Your Coast”,‘Another Mississippian Adds to the Luster of the Little Church Around the Corner’, December 8, 1959.

The Daily Herald, “Gulf Hills Artist Dies in Hospital”, March 24, 1965, p. 1.

The Gulf Coast Times, “Personal Items”, November 3, 1950, p. 8.

The Gulf Coast Times, “Miss O. Jackson dies here after long illness”, January 22, 1953, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs News, “Steene Exhibit Opens Sunday At Gulf Hills”, March 8, 1962, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs News, “Painter of Great, Lives Quietly at Gulf Hills”, September 27, 1962, p. 2.

The Ocean Springs News, “Steen (sic) to Judge”, February 11, 1965, p. 6.

The Ocean Springs News, “Gulf Hills Artist Dies”, March 25, 1965, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs News, “Plan Award in Name of Coast Artist”, April 22, 1965, p. 1.

The Ocean Springs News, “Blessing of the Fleet”(photo), June 3, 1967, p. 7.