Howard Garrison was an early 20th-century businessman and colorful character native to Ozark, Missouri. Garrison is best-known in Ozark lore for being the proprietor of the Riverside Inn, a popular restaurant that served as a speakeasy and gambling den during the prohibition era—activities for which he served some jail time. Garrison was also known, however, for being an artist who specialized in still lifes and landscapes.
Garrison was a self-taught but avid painter who experimented with different techniques, tools, and media, and who was fully dedicated to painting not what one sees, but what one feels. Garrison took inspiration for many of his landscapes from his property around the Riverside Inn. The Landscape Painting of Trees and Lake and the Landscape Painting with Bridge are two canvases in a series of seven paintings that were donated to the Christian County Museum. All together, these paintings illustrate a landscape that strongly resembles the terrain around the Inn, albeit with added imagined features such as the tall, arched bridge.
Garrison was also dedicated to promoting art, including offering support and holding exhibitions for local and aspiring artists. Garrison originally bought the land and the structure for the Riverside Inn as a home, studio, and gallery space for his paintings. He first hung his paintings around the building, and then he painted murals that covered the doors, walls, ceilings, and floors of the building’s interior. After he converted the building into a restaurant, he refused to sell the paintings in the inn–but he gladly painted reproductions upon request. Garrison finally sold the Riverside Inn to his business partner Jack Engel and retired in 1970, but he then moved to a new house and started another studio. He continued to paint every day until he died in 1974.
For more information, you may contact the researcher(s) noted in the title of this exhibit entry, or Dr. Billie Follensbee, the professor of the course, at BillieFollensbee@MissouriState.edu