Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Things as the are

A wonderful person and fine artist, William (Bill) Reese left this earth recently. Bill was a 'salt of the earth' type of man and will be sorely missed in life and in the art world. You would recognize him if you happened to be in the same room with him. He would be at the center of the group of people having the most fun discussing art and sharing stories and gregarious laughter. What a generous soul and an inspirational painter. The last time I saw him he was at a large table at an OPA event in Kirkland, WA. Even with his oxygen flowing to aid his breathing he would be telling stories that made everyone else laugh until they were out of breath. He and his family welcomed strangers as if family. You may have been one of his many students over the years, shared some stories, or visited his website. In any case he is a memorable painter who lived up to his reputation as a fine artist. An API member, Susan Greaves who attended Bill's funeral shared the poem that he had requested be read at his service. Yesterday a good friend of mine was able to recite this poem from memory when I mentioned the title: "When Earth's Last Picture is Painted." I would like to share it with those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of hearing it. What a fitting tribute to one sitting in a golden chair....
When Earth's last picture is painted
And the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colors have faded
And the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it
Lie down for an eon or two
'Til the master of all good workmen
Shall put us to work anew.
And those that were good shall be happy.
They'll sit in a golden chair.
They'll splash at a ten league canvas
With brushes of comet's hair.
They'll find real saints to draw from,
Magdalene, Peter, and Paul.
They'll work for an age at a sitting
And never be tired at all.
And only the Master shall praise us.
And only the master shall blame.
And no one will work for money.
And no one will work for fame.
But each one for the joy of working,
And each, in his separate star,
Will draw the thing as he sees it
For the God of things as they are.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Artist Who Lived Twice

For those of you who love art and especially figurative work I hope you have been introduced to this fine artist from the past (ESJ). Elizabeth Sparhawk Jones lived to paint and after reading her story you will find out how she lived twice! Author Barbara Lehman Smith became interested in learning more about ESJ after stumbling upon her scrapbooks that were almost lost forever. You can read the circumstances that drew these two amazing women together across time. Barbara's book will be available this summer. Hopefully she will be visiting our area so please watch for announcements of her tour, book signings, or sign up for notifications on her website.

On a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago many years ago I stood in front of this very painting of "The Shoe Shop" (courtesy of AIC) by ESJ. I was mesmerized and wanted to know more about this artist. The museum gift shop had artist's images on everything from books to T-shirts but nothing with works from ESJ. Disappointed, I began my quest to find as much as I could about this artist who inspired me to pursue my own passion for painting. I did learn she was one of the early plein air artists (1889-1968) and part of a group of Urban Realists sometimes refered to as the "Ashcan School" since they painted outdoors, in streets and alleys of the city. The book covers her story as well as her friendships with other renowned artists of that time such as Marsden Hartley, Morton Schamberg, Charles Sheeler, and of course her reliance on William Merritt Chase during her studies with him. At the time I was searching the web there was very little information available. However, I discovered I was not alone in my search and touched base with many inspired artists looking for the whole story including author Barbara Lehman Smith. I am so grateful for her persistence to tell Elizabeth's story. As an artist I can relate to her struggle to find her own voice but in the strict social mores of the past it must have been significantly more difficult. Part of her story includes those family responsibilities she was expected to put before her own passions. Have any of you heard of this gifted artist who was christened by New York critics as its "find of the year" in 1908? You will be able to learn what transpired to allow her to become " ESJ: The Artist who lived twice". Her story is a wonderful reminder of the importance of listening to our own artist's voice.