Janis Joplin’s Purple Painting

Rebecca Wood donated Purple Painting replica of painting by Janis Joplin to Museum of the Gulf Coast

Joplin, The Artist

Janis Joplin in Port Arthur

We know Janis Joplin as a heartfelt singer and performer, an artist and creator. Her voice touched an generation and beyond. Embellished stage costumes, flowing hair, silver bangles and beads and feather boas are part of her artistic aesthetic of the hippie 1960s. Janis, as a high school girl in Port Arthur, was known as a painter as well.

Unveiling of Janis Joplin Replica Piece

The Museum of the Gulf Coast accepted a donation of big, purple proportions. It’s replica of a large painting by Janis Joplin from one-time Port Arthur resident Rebecca Wood (Becky Hall). Unveiled June 7, 2024, it has a permanent place in the Music Gallery. Wood has described the large reproduction as “nearly indistinguishable” from the original.

San Francisco Connection

Janis Joplin singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company

Janis Joplin left Port Arthur after graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1960 and returned from San Francisco in 1965. She enrolled at Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont (now Lamar University), majoring in anthropology. While attending classes, Joplin reconnected with Rebecca’s mother, Ruth Hall, whom she had met through a mutual friend, Karleen Bennett, in high school. Ruth also attended Lamar classes and they began communicating.

Bohemian Crowd

Black sheep, bohemians and beatniks needed a place to gather. Hall, 17 years older than Joplin, opened her home as a gathering place for Port Arthur residents of like mind. On one of her visits, Hall learned Janis needed money. She commissioned Joplin to create a painting. Turns out, they both considered purple their favorite color.

Strange Kozmic Experience

Janis Joplin by Summer Lydick

Janis’ sister Laura orchestrated the only other exhibit of this painting.  “Strange Kozmic Experience: The Doors, Janis Joplin & Jimi Hendrix” showed at three sites, including the Grammy Museum of the Recording Academy of the United States.

The Purple Painting

The reproduction is an impressive 5 by 3 feet, also the size of the original. Wood refers to the painting as “The Purple Painting.” She believes that Janis may have named it “Two Ladies playing Bridge.” Joplin painted it on the back of a piece of Masonite. The texture is visible.

“Janis Joplin was a gifted artist, and the Purple Painting represents one of her finest works,” Robert Fong, museum curator, says.

Rolling into Rock History

replica Joplin porsche at the Museum of the Gulf Coast

In May of 1966, Promoter Chet Helms recruited Joplin to return to Haight-Ashbury. Helms managed Big Brother and the Holding Company.  She abruptly left Port Arthur, and only 13 months later, Janis Joplin and Big Brother stepped onto the stage at the Monterey Pop Festival and made rock and roll history.

Learn more about the painting’s provenance here. 

Janis Joplin Tour

Janis Joplin's historical marker at her childhood home in Port Arthur, Texas
Photo by Cajun Scrambler

Sing along to some Joplin tunes, or wear a Janis T-shirt from Museum of the Gulf Coast when you drive around Port Arthur. Get some guidance from a home tour, here. 




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