Austin artist Mary Doerr entered the world as Mary Hugh Colley on January 15, 1934, in Memphis, Texas. After her sister, Jane, entered the world, it became apparent to parents Hugh and Eva Colley that their Depression-era school teacher wages could not support the family, so the family moved to Austin in search of opportunity.
Mary’s father got a job with the state. Mary’s mother put her art degree to work as curator of UT’s Rare Book Collection, where she rebound and repaired old books and manuscripts.
The Colleys lived on East Avenue (now I-35), just south of 19th Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.). It was at John B. Winn Elementary (later the site of UT’s baseball stadium, Disch-Falk Field) that she was introduced to a major influence on her life: Girl Scouts. She loved scouting because it was the one place she could do things considered “too strenuous” for girls at the time.
At University Junior High, she discovered that physical education was her favorite subject. At Stephen F. Austin High School her love of sports led her to join the tennis team, and her love of Girl Scouts took her from camper to counselor at Camp Texlake on Lake Travis.
Throughout those years, her love for creating art grew to wanting to major in art in college. But with practical advice from her mother, Mary entered the University of Texas in 1952, studying to become a physical education teacher. That led to teaching middle school PE in Alvin, Texas, which led to marrying Danny Doerr, which led to the birth of a daughter, Robin, in 1962.
In 1966 Austin called again and the Doerr family answered. Now Mary’s love of Girl Scouts led to a career with the organization, including teaching adult leaders the outdoor skills they needed for teaching the girls.
With similar interests and children of the same age, Mary and Ginny Findeisen became friends and Girl Scout colleagues – a friendship that was to have a profound influence on Mary’s life. Mary credits Ginny with encouraging her to take the first step toward realizing her lifelong dream of becoming a professional artist. By then in her late 40s, Mary took that leap of faith and earned a masters in art at UT.
At her first art show, she received a commission for 10 watercolors. At her second show, at the Old Pecan Street Arts Festival, she realized the success of her Austin scenes meant her dream really could become a reality. Then with proceeds from publishing prints of her paintings, she started her own business – Mary Doerr Studio – in 1985, with Ginny as her business partner. Ten years later she was able to open her own gallery, Images of Austin and the Southwest, on Burnet Road.
Through the following decades, Mary became one of Austin’s most prolific and popular artists, earning her the title of “The Lady Who Paints Austin.”
In 2005, however, failing eyesight meant she could no longer paint. Daughter Robin – who got her own art degree, from UT-El Paso – took over the gallery and frame shop in 2006, letting Mary and Ginny retire to a ranch and enjoy life outdoors in Lampasas County.
Now back in Austin again, publishing “Watercolor Memories of Austin: The Art of Mary Doerr” lets her add “author” to her list of accomplishments – and share her love of her colorful hometown with even more people through her colorful art.
Contact Robin, Mary’s daughter:
Contact our fine art specialist, Dana Burton, for more information on fine art scans and reproduction.