Saturday, January 24, 2009

Some things I have seen

Here is a photo from my high school yearbook, that's me below the arrow!
I have been lucky enough to have known most of the professional landscape painters in this area and I have had the opportunity to paint alongside a good number of them. Many of them were a lot older than I was and I remember their kindness in allowing me to tag along. Outdoor landscape painters often work together and in groups, which makes it a little more social occupation than the more cloistered life of a studio painter.
I often feel like I am collecting butterfly's as I so enjoy meeting and painting with other artists. I photograph them and keep a file, someday it may be of use to some historian or will illustrate my memoirs.
I have spent much of my life as the proverbial fly on the wall and wandered through the last 35 years of New England's traditional painting world like those scenes from the movie Forrest Gump that drop him into all that archival footage. Unless you are a an art dealer or a keen student of New England painting you won't know all these names, but you will know some of them, come along and let me tell you about some things I have seen.
I have known for instance two students of Wlliam Merrit Chase (one who spoke of painting with Monet) and several students of Frank Vincent Dumond. I have known students of Raphael Soyer ( I found his summer home on an island off the coast of Maine), Robert Brachman, and Lester Stevens.
Besides the Ives Gammell era I was also present for the end of the Rockport art colony in the 80s and in the mid 70s saw for a summer. what I think was the last of the Provincetown art colony. Hans Hoffman had taken over Fredrick Waughs old house and was teaching there. Henry Hensche was then at the end of his long career. I saw Hensche do a demo of a head outside in sunlight.It was like watching him chop it out of a rainbow with an axe.. I painted that summer on the dunes with Robert Douglas Hunter. I slept each night in the studio once owned by Charles Hawthorne. Hunter and I sometimes drank adult beverages late into the night with"The Green Dolman", perhaps Paxtons finest portrait above the mantle looking down on us. There was a great Enneking of a woodland pool that is now in the Boston museum in that room as well. I took a seascape workshop from Charles Vickery,. what magic he could do, my wife made a carved and gilt sign about 8 feet long for him in return for a painting. What a lovely, kind and deeply religious man, he has been dead many years now. I remember him coming into the little gallery I had in Rockport in the early eighties and painting seascape demos for me at my own easel. He didn't say too much as he did it, but I kept telling myself, "remember this".
I helped the late Sam Rose find a William Kaula in an attic in the slums of Roxbury hidden behind a dusty old still life I think was a Harnett. I was given the left over frames from the Reynolds Beale estate, by his son. I have sat and drawn with the sculptor Walker Hancock in his studio and painted alongside Bernard Corey on numerous painting trips. I have stood in Harrison Cadys round studio and I have shuffled through Frank Beattys' illustrations for Popular Mechanics from the 1950s with the daughter of Tod Lindenmuth in the attic of a tavern from the early 1800s, the Anthony Cirino estate was up there too. I knew Helen Van Wyk, who taught so many about painting on her P.B.S.television show ,Welcome to my studio.
I have known Aldro T. Hibbards daughter and held Paul Manships' sons' hand as he lay dieing. and I was the punk who was along to hold up the paintings when Phillip Vose and Robert Hunter first opened the storeroom where the Paxton estate had lain unexamined for decades I was given a signed drawing by Paxton and later sold it for 100 dollars to buy groceries when I was starving. I have sat on a painting jury with Harry Ballinger, who was 100 years old and shown wet paintings against the wheel of my car to Neil Welliver out in the snowy woods of Maine.. I moved out of an apartment once and accidentally left behind a portfolio of 19th century academic figure drawings done at the Academie Julien by Charles Allen Winter. I have sat at a dinner table and listened to Alden Bryan reminisce about painting with Gruppe and Hibbard during the depression. I had breakfast with Ken Gore. I had lunch once with the late Charles Sovek.
I was the studio boy who unloaded the truck bearing the A. Laselle Ripley estate at the Guild of Boston artists in the mid 70s. I have had Winslow Homers watercolor kit in my hands. I have also painted with chrome colors from a paintbox unopened like a time capsule since the nineteen twenties. I studied with R.H. Gammell who met John Singer Sargent at the opera when introduced to him by Isabella Stewart Gardner. I have listened to Loring Coleman describe being entertained by the singing of John Carlson on cold winter evenings after he had spent the day painting in the mountains of Vermont with Chauncy Rider
I was taught to paint with real vermilon by a student of Fredrick Vinton in a studio once used by Tarbell and hung with Paxton paintings worth a fortune today and valueless then. I had drawing lessons from Richard Lack. I briefly attended the Art Students League when you could still smoke on the stairways. I met Gardner Cox in his studio. when he was painting the Kissinger portrait.
I visited Caproni, the cast makers when they were still making plaster casts from iron molds, in a warehouse in a frightening neighborhood under the elevated transit tracks on Washington street, in Boston. That was near where Simon and Aaron Willard made their banjo clocks. I have shaken the hand of Albert Sack. I have sat in an idling Plymouth Fury on a cabstand overtop the location of the Boston Massacre wearing a black leather jacket with a 12 inch crescent wrench in the pocket. I was wearing the high heeled boots of that era which made me six foot six, and I weighed one hundred and fifty two pounds, including the wrench.
I have copied Ingres drawings with the originals sitting on the table beside me. I have found painting locations all over New England used by Metcalf, Hibbard, Thieme, Gruppe and Luigi Lucionne, Carl Peters (I shuffled through the paintings in that estate as well) and Childe Hassam. I drove down a muddy rutted farm road to find the studio of Jay Conaway in Vermont. I have mourned at the grave of Charles Woodbury and held a dazzle painted wooden model battleship made by the artist Alfred Thayer when he invented camouflage during World War One. I have carried Theresa Bernstein in her wheelchair and learned how to precut rolls of canvas on a power saw from Paul Strisik.
I introduced myself to Tom Kinkaid at Art Expo who invited me to a party in Connecticut where I met James Gurney. I met Wayne Thiebaud once too, Benjamen Spock and Leo Kottke as well. I knew a man who was in a fistfight with Pietro Annigoni and another who studied with the great American sculptor Bella Pratt.
I saw Hendrix and Count Basie. I heard the Who, the Airplane, Spirit and Led Zeppelin play , and once had Herold Melvin and the Bluenotes smoke a joint in the cab I was driving. I saw Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner , Phil Woods, Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn.I heard Marty Robbins sing El Paso and walked out on Bob Dylan. Twice.
I was both the janitor and the president of the Rockport Art Association and the janitor of the Guild of Boston Artists as well. I have sat at the gate leg table used in Marguerite Pearsons paintings and discussed the silver leafing techniques of Max Keuhne with his son Bill. I wrote the forward to the Thieme book and helped stage a show of his work.
I have struggled to keep the mortgage paid and the car from being repossessed while putting two children through private school. I was a hippie and I went to a Military Academy.
Ives Gammells studio was now so long ago as to have taken on the glow of legend. I noticed a blog speaking of the dearth of technical information given in I believe, the Gerome atelier. I can assure you that Paxton and Gammell passed on that dearth of information to me , which I have carefully maintained till present. When people ask me if I teach I always reply ;" I don't know anything". What I did hear from Ives was how men like Paxton, Tarbell and Vinton, Enneking or Benson thought about what they did. These are some of the things I have seen along the way.

2 comments:

ramon said...

That's absolutely amazing! I wish I could have met half of the people you mentioned. Guess I was born a couple of decades too late!

Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

Incredible, moving, I read it twice through and my emotions went from envy to awe and everplace between. Thanks for sharing.