After returning stateside in 1935, Binford and his wife, Elisabeth Bollee, settled in Powhatan County, Virginia. Upon arrival, the couple purchased the ruins of the Old Foundry, an early 19th century structure constructed along the banks of Fine Creek. Elisabeth described the state of the house as “a windy shack with no water, no lights, and no heat located on Lee’s Landing Road northeast of the Foundry.” Over the next few decades, the couple undertook massive reconstruction projects, effectively making the Old Foundry their permanent residence. 

Julien Binford, Untitled (Richmond state library sketch in green), graphite and oil pastel on paper, promised gift of Maureen Paige, L.2023.MP018.

While living in Powhatan County, Binford’s surroundings became his primary artistic inspiration. Most notably, he fostered a strong relationship with his African American neighbors, using them as the subject for his works on numerous occasions. The Virginian terrain additionally became an important source of inspiration for Binford’s artwork. This is displayed in the sketch of the Rappahannock River, as well as other sketches selected for this exhibition that feature prominent buildings from Washington D.C.

Julien Binford, Untitled (sycamores at the Rappahannock River), pastel on paper, promised gift of Maureen Paige, L.2023.MP169.

In 1950, the Virginia State Library commissioned Binford to paint a mural for their newly erected building. The work, which faced the entrance of the library and occupied approximately 14 square feet, depicted the enactment of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. The two drawings of colonial figures shown here are preparatory sketches for the mural, which has since been relocated to the Library’s Records Center.

Julien Binford, Untitled (Richmond state library sketch in red), graphite and oil pastel on paper, promised gift of Maureen Paige, L.2023.MP046.

Beginning in 1946, Binford established a relationship with the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia that would last for over 25 years. As a professor of Studio Art, Binford was deeply dedicated to his students, and was considered to be the school’s “most motivational figure” of the 1940s. As stated on the University of Mary Washington website; “Fellow faculty member Edward Alvey, Jr. wrote that Binford was a warm, friendly, natural person. He painted with a sensitivity and devotion, establishing a feeling of rapport between the artist and the viewer. His work has a freshness and originality that well exemplifies Binford’s own zest for life and his desire to share its beauty with others.” 

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