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February 2016 – Douglas Arthur Teed

Sunday, February 21st is the anniversary of the birth of Douglas Arthur Teed, the son of Cyrus Teed. Most people familiar with the Koreshans, and anyone who has ever visited the Art Hall, has seen the many paintings by Douglas Arthur.

Douglas Arthur was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned by his father, Cyrus, in order to pursue what he believed to be his calling. There is no evidence to suggest however, that Cyrus Teed gave up all contact with his wife and son. Douglas Arthur eventually visited his father in Estero, but even that part of his relationship with his father isn’t totally clear. This excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Douglas Arthur tells of his reunion, of sorts, with Cyrus.

Douglas did seek out his father later in life. In 1905, he visited the Koreshan Unity. An article in the Fort Myers Press expressed gratitude of southern Florida receiving such a distinguished painter, and suggested the possibility of Teed remaining in Florida to paint. There are numerous accounts in the communal paper espousing the talents of the artist son of Koresh. A special hall was built to house 27 of his works, which Teed painted especially for the commune. The people of the Unity were flattered by Teed’s interpretation of Estero, and the uncharted surrounding Florida land. Many of these works were painted in an egg-tempera and have faded quite badly. Only a few oil paintings retain the artist’s original intent. ((1))

One such painting, “Tropical Dawn”, was presented to a member of the Unity, Victoria Gratia, at her birthday celebration in April 1905. In May 1905 a celebration was held and the Art Hall was officially opened. Douglas Arthur’s paintings were the focal point.

Lyn Millner, in her book, “The Allure of Immortality” wrote:

There was an especially surprising guest at the Art Hall celebration: Arthur Teed, Cyrus’s son, now in his forties. He had become an artist of some renown a romantic impressionist who worked in oil, egg tempera, charcoal, and ink. When Arthur was fairly young, he had found a sponsor in New York who paid for him to study at the best schools in Europe. For the party at the Koreshan Art Hall, thirty of his works were on exhibit, including one he painted as a gift for Victoria’s birthday. There were landscapes, studies, and scenes, like the vividly colored Triumph of Death, which the visitor described as styled after the Old Masters. The collection was eclectic, including a sunset in Estero, a Dutch hut, and a study entitled Combat between Egyptian and Assyrian Kings. Arthur’s work was the first permanent exhibit in the hall.“ Teed had purchased some of his son’s paintings-—or that was Arthur’s understanding, though he had not been paid; Teed might have thought the paintings were gifts. There had been ugliness between them several years before, perhaps related to Teed’s abandoning Arthur and his dying mother in Binghamton, but it’s apparent that by 1905, they had moved past this. In fact, Arthur was full of admiration for his father. For Teed’s sixty-sixth birthday, Arthur dedicated a poem to him, one he had written in Rome. It was printed in a small booklet bound with a woven cord. On the dedication page, Arthur had written, “A son takes pleasure in dedicating this little fancy to his father, Dr. Cyrus R. Teed (Koresh), . . . with a wish for the continued felicities of a ripe age and great work done. ((2))

The Wikipedia article mentions that in 1907 Douglas Arthur sued the Koreshan Unity for overdue payment, citing the paintings which hung in the Art Hall. In 1908, a full settlement was made out of court between Douglas and the Unity. That same year his father died.

Throughout the years there have been problems with Teed’s paintings and the Florida environment. The Florida Park Service continues to help to preserve these artifacts. In July 2010, the Douglas Arthur Teed’s paintings were digitized. You can view the painting mentioned in the Wikipedia article by. You will also be able to view the other works that hae been digitized.

  1. “Douglas Arthur Teed.” Wikipedia. []
  2. Millner, Lyn. The Allure of Immortality: An American Cult, a Florida Swamp, and a Renegade Prophet. p.204-205. []

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