It’s fitting that Fort Worth painter Josephine Mahaffey’s nickname is “The Texas Dynamo.” A prolific, enthusiastic painter, she would slather watercolors on almost any surface that wasn’t moving. Paper sacks, note pads, pieces of wood, pages torn from the Yellow Pages, it didn’t matter – if she didn’t have a canvas available, most anything would serve as a fitting substitute.


Sometimes, as the legend goes, she would paint two paintings at once with a brush in each hand. As a result, her works are abundant but still coveted by local collectors who appreciated her bright colors and dizzying variety of subjects and styles.


Her prolific nature worked against her for years, in a field where over-production can sometimes curtail collectibility.


“Josephine Mahaffey has a big place — bigger maybe than people want to give her — in Fort Worth art,” local collector A.C. “Ace” Cook said. “She is an interesting person and extremely talented. She used the talent loosely because she produced so much work that she didn’t bear down like maybe a real serious artist might because she had to produce so much work. Primarily that’s the way she fed her family. I don’t know that she had the time to sit down and turn out some masterpieces.”

Her rapid-fire nature of production has made some local collectors take her for granted. That appears to be changing in recent years as more of her works have found their way into collections and exhibitions.

“If you are a Fort Worth collector you’d have to consider her as an artist you would want in your collection — I see merit in all of her work,” Cook said.

Mahaffey studied under legendary Fort Worth art teacher Sallie Blythe Mummert. Later she became an art instructor herself at the Woman’s Club of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Art Center.

The mother of eight children died in 1982.

“Remembering Josephine Mahaffey: The Texas Dynamo” is a new exhibit that features a wide array of her works. The show runs through July 30 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

An opening reception is at 6 p.m. tonight.


  1. Are you and Mr. Cook suggesting that Josephine Mahaffey was not a serious artist? You have to be pretty serious to produce the amount of art she did. You might even say as “serious as a heart attack.” You don’t consider painting to feed your family serious work? Hey, man have you lost it? Too many enchiladas have dulled your senses. You better start eating some brain food. You keep this up and we’ll try to get you a job at the Startle Gram doing the art reviews.

  2. This is why I love Fort Worth! Most art communities are provincial and snobby. Around here, though, art enthusiasts wear jeans and hats and don’t mind duking it out over a local artist’s status.

  3. P.S. I saw the Mahaffey exhibit last night while the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards was cranking up the Community Arts Center. I love Mahaffey’s work.

    I even have a personal story (yes, I know, I’m like Forrest Gump but when you are a Cowtown native and lived here for years you garner lots of stories):

    My mother took painting lessons from Mahaffey back in the 1970s. One day, dear old mom was putting the finishing touches on a watercolor portrait of me but was having trouble getting my teeth right. She asked Mahaffey how she could create definition with white paint to show the individual teeth. Mahaffey reached down and drew my teeth in with a pencil. This made my mom angry — she didn’t like the fact that Mahaffey marked on her painting without asking, and she hated that Mahaffey had done it in pencil that couldn’t be erased or covered up with white paint.

    My mom never went back to her class. But I’ve still got that portrait hanging in my house, pencil-marked teeth and all, and it’s all the more special because of the story behind it.

  4. If you had given up some of your down time to come to the opening Friday night you could have met several of Momma Maheffey’s grandchildren and great grandchildren. They have lots of her art and have lots of stories about her. Now I know why you are independent, you learned it at home, but you are a good writer.

  5. Enjoyed reading the comments–I am one of Josephines many grandchildren–my Mom one of seven and the only girl was so hoping I would develope some artistic skills but as it is, did not. It is all been said before but as with many children and grandchildren I did not fully apprecieate Grandmas work until I became an adult. I am so thankful for the many memories of her sketching while visiting our home in Weatherford. Thanks to the Arts Center for remembering her. Thanks to all for your comments—

  6. I find Jeff’s story about his mother’s art lesson and the teeth very amusing and so true. I remember Josephine (my grandmother) often showing me what I needed to do to a painting by reaching over me and doing it. One time (as a teenager) I had worked really hard on a floral painting and was pretty happy with it, when Grandma came in with her paintbrush and showed me where I needed to put more leaves. It upset me then because her brushstrokes were big and bold and I was trying to be neat. I have many good memories of walking up to her gallery to take art lessons on Sat. morning in the 60s and early 70s.