I am confused. I have lost an artist. I seem to have two R. Jarrells. I have the one whom I know definitively to be a printmaker of the first order. I bought three of his etchings in 1976. This Jarrell (Richard, he is) lives in Durham, North Carolina, USA. He is well-known now, but he was a young man (we used to call them starving artists) selling his watercolors and etchings at a mall in Greensboro, North Carolina, when I met him. I was struck by three large etchings of old men, but they were expensive for the time so I didn’t buy them. They stuck in my head. After we moved to Texas, I felt an urgency to have them. I was silly back then and knew nothing about buying art. I knew Richard didn’t want to ship off his prints without payment, and I was hesitant to send the money without the prints in my hand. But, I had to have my old men. We worked it out.
I have been angry with Richard Jarrell for at least ten years now. Since I saw a slick spread in Southern Living magazine on his current work at the time. I read the magazine in a doctor’s waiting room so I could not take it with me. I was so annoyed that I refused to buy my own copy. He had sold out. To the retail market, no less. The photographs were pictures of garish landscapes done in bold primary colors. Over-the-sofa paintings. I think they were acrylics. (I refused to credit him with a difficult medium like watercolor.) I am still annoyed.
There are three old men in this large etching. It is beautifully composed. This is not a fair reproduction of it, but it will have to do. Mr. Jarrell would not be pleased, but he isn’t here.
The next photograph is of a transparent watercolor. I bought it from another R. Jarrell in 1997 0r 1998. I know that because I recall having been surprised to have found it among his other watercolors which were mostly of wonderfully rendered chickens and old plows and farm scenes. He was good. I just never expected him to rise to brilliant. He did. Right in the middle of the chickens. I was astounded. He titled this piece, The Pensioner. I contacted him immediately and arranged to buy it. I can no longer find him online. I have no idea to where the information on this watercolor walked off. Or, to where R. Jarrell walked off either. Both disappeared while I was not paying attention. Artists should not do that. It is disconcerting to say the least. Perhaps he died. In that case, all is forgiven. I could do that myself. In spite of his misbehavior, I continue to have warm feelings for R. Jarrell because I always suspected that his Pensioner was a dear relative, perhaps his father. I imagined that he had fallen on hard times and was forced to sell it. Never mind that he’s probably obscenely wealthy and based his character on some eccentric old man from the coffee shop whom he hardly knew. I like my story better.
Oh, and there is another artist who disappeared from me too. Joseph Wyatt. He painted one-hundred transparent watercolors based on a safari to Kenya. They were exhibited for sale for several years in an online gallery called Watercolor Safari~The Art of Joseph Wyatt. It was a beautiful website and the watercolors were superb. I bought several of them. My most treasured one is this one which he painted in 1989. If anybody knows what happened to Joseph, please let me know of it.
Somewhere in the depths of my storage closet in some old box, I am certain that all of my correspondences with these artists and other records of these pieces could be found. Perhaps, my family will trouble themselves to look one day. If not, that’s okay too. I have loved so many of the works that I have been honored to keep for many artists over the years. I used to change the etchings and paintings routinely so that I could look at different ones again with new eyes. Somebody, somewhere, will look again too … just the way I have for so many years. And, they will smile too. Just the way I did.