Rickert’s Painterly Side
Fascinating finds on the campus of Unity Village
When I sought out the Heritage Rooms, Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore’s offices, for an earlier column, a pair of paintings in Myrtle’s office caught my eye.
Hung in matching frames, they featured sweet subjects and beautiful impressionistic strokes. I would soon learn that five more paintings by the same artist hang throughout the Unity Archives, all painted by Rickert Fillmore—Charles and Myrtle’s second son.
Rickert spent four years as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1900s, after which he traveled abroad and began working as an artist and an interior decorator. He even started a successful interior design studio in Kansas City, a career that was cut short by World War I, in which he served as a corporal in a tank corps. After that, he turned his attention to Unity. In 1919, the Fillmores purchased the land they called Unity Farm that would later become Unity Village, and in 1923 Rickert became the secretary of the Unity School Board of Directors—a position he held until his death 42 years later.
Rickert was instrumental in the creation of Unity Village, planning the landscaping and designing all of the original buildings and setting the style that has been a hallmark of the Village for a century. His artistic side is palpable throughout Unity Village, in the architecture and landscaping and across many design details. But I had never known of his painting prowess.
The paintings were originally unnamed—before longtime Unity archivist Mark Scherer, Ph.D., gave them titles for ease of recognition when they were installed in the Archives. Swimming Pool Fun and Winter Haying are reminiscent of the Village’s early days as a working farm and countryside retreat. Other paintings evoke a Norman Rockwell quality of simpler times—children playing together or a young woman sitting beside the water under a large sun hat.
In Charles’ office, Be Still and Know is a portrait of the artist’s father. It includes the figure of Jesus behind him, hands open, possibly offering spiritual guidance or wisdom. And in Myrtle’s office, Preparing for the Bouquet and Girl Among the Flowers show off Rickert’s skill at depicting florals. Also on display here is an original painting—likely not painted by Rickert himself but based on his original sketch—depicting a cherub sweeping the earth, which was used as cover art for an issue of Wee Wisdom®, the long-running Unity magazine for children.
A Unity Digest article from Christmas 1932 says that Rickert “was born to be an artist.” His early artistic talent had been encouraged by his mother, who had also painted as a child. Later, Rickert would put that talent to use as an illustrator for Unity publications, including Wee Wisdom.
“And what of his art?” the article asks. “Rick Fillmore says that someday he will give more time to it, for that is his real vocation.”
To view Rickert’s paintings, visit the Unity Archives in the 400 Building at Unity Village. Please call 816-524-3550 in advance to make an appointment.
This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.