Genesee County has had its fair share of remarkable artists and leaders in the arts community.
But very few have had a larger impact on the local arts — both as an artist and as a supporter of the arts — than Nina Mason Booth. A member of the famed Mason Family of artists in Batavia, she took her father’s love of painting and brought it to many other young artists and the local community as a whole.
Nina Mason was born on Aug. 25, 1884 in Gilbert Mills, N.Y., the eldest child of Frank and Sarah Elizabeth Mason. Her father first moved the family to Batavia to work for the Baker Gun Company as an engraver.
He would later go on to open his own business, the Mason Seal Company.
Frank was a high quality artist and passed along his love of painting to his three children, Nina, Roy, and Max. Nina took to her father’s tutelage quickly and avidly, and began painting simple works at a young age.
By her late teens, she had progressed and was producing her own paintings. She came to specialize in oils and particularly enjoyed floral arrangements and portraitures.
On Oct. 17, 1921, Nina married Herbert Tomlinson Booth, who was a well-known banker in Batavia. Booth was active in the community, serving on the city school district’s board of education, Elks Lodge, and the Exempt Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
Mr. Booth died on June 14, 1944 after a short illness at 75 years old. After her husband’s death, Nina continued her passion of painting and playing the piano.
By this time, she was a member of many art societies, including the Buffalo Society of Artists, Pan-Arts Club of Buffalo, Genesee Group of Rochester, Catherine Lorillard Wolf Art Club of New York City, and the Academic Artists Association. Her propensity for painting only grew in her later years, as did her urge to pass on her knowledge and skills to the next generation of artists.
In 1950, Nina, along with one of her pupils, Rose Pontillo DiCarlo, cofounded the Batavia Society of Artists. The society was created to promote enthusiasm for art in the community and to encourage young artists.
The initial meetings were held at Nina’s home at 45 Ellicott Ave.
The first group of members totaled 35, but it soon grew to over 100, with members coming from beyond Genesee County and as far as Buffalo and Rochester. Even at the age of 70, Nina still painting regularly, saying of the alarm clock in her studio, “I set it for a four hour period. Otherwise, I’d forget to eat and keep working all day.”
She would also go on to say, “Our work keeps us young. Through it our hands retain their skill, and our minds are occupied by an interest so engrossing that we lose count not only of ours, but of years.”
Throughout her painting career, Nina Mason Booth’s work were spread across New York and the United States, housed in private homes and art galleries alike. Many of her works stayed here in Genesee County, among local organizations, churches and friends.
Nina Mason Booth passed away on Jan. 22, 1958 at her home on Ellicott Avenue at the age of 73. Many of works today are still on display locally, including at the Holland Land Office Museum and the Genesee-Orleans Art Council.
Ryan Duffy is executive director of the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia. His “History with the HLOM” column appears twice a month in The Daily News.