How I Misplaced An Artist

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.

Detail of one of the three Old Men in the Etching

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.

The Pensioner by R. Jarrell

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.

33 Comments on “How I Misplaced An Artist

  1. Beautiful pictures. It is always a story, the business of owning or purchasing art, the feelings that we have… that often change with time… and sometimes, the connections to the artists themselves.

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  2. Oh my, I don’t know how this post slipped by me–well, that’s another lie–I know very well, because everything slips by me and always has.
    But there is nothing which touches me more deeply than stories surrounding favourite art. And for you to have such magnificient specimens of watercolour and etchings is very touching indeed. Add to them, your hunger to know what became of their makers and what motivated the painting, and I just want to give you a hug so big, you’d be smiling on the other side of your face!

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    • Lance, the great love of my life has been in collecting art. I bought paintings and etchings before I had decent furniture. I never cared about furniture. I have these pieces hanging on every wall in my house. I have given away as much as I still have. I bought an old print of Vermeer’s “Girl In A Turban” at an estate sale years ago. It belonged to an old woman who came to Victoria to take care of her elderly mother. She brought a baby grand piano too. The prints covered the walls almost to the high ceilings in the old frame house where she died. I loved her for that although I never met her. The print is still one of my favorite pieces. It hangs over my bed. I didn’t know her, but we shared our love of art and the creative process. My life would be barren without the art that peoples my walls. I have no idea how people live without art. I always felt that the original pieces were on loan to me. How can one buy such a creation? I always told the artist that his piece would always be available to him if he needed it again. I shipped one piece once to an artist who had decided to make prints of it. He sent it back as carefully as he had sent it in the first place.

      I worried that I bought prints that I was not ready to frame so I had the gallery where my framing was done to make an acid-free box with sheets to lay between the prints. I store unframed pieces in it still. I always wanted a print cabinet. I don’t buy many pieces anymore. I have too many! 🙂 But, if I had to list the one thing that has made my life richer, it would have to be the paintings and etchings. Sometimes, I wonder whether artists realize their contribution to the lives of others? From the moment I open my eyes in the morning until I turn off the lights at night, my spirit is fed and comforted by the most beautiful of gifts. I am grateful to these men and women.

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  3. I can see your attraction to each of these pieces. They have a depth and soul to them that draws you in, makes you wonder what’s beyond what you see and, for me, has me feeling empathetic for them and can I do something for them….I hope you find your papers. I’m sure they are in that super safe secret spot that you knew you would never forget where they were…oh wait, that’s my filing system. 😉

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    • Ah, you are too funny. That’s unfortunately always been my filing system. People tell me that they make a note of stuff. If I made a note, I’d lose the note. There is no idiot-proof system since the idiot has to input info. in the first place. My filing cabinets have large objects hidden in them. My files are on the kitchen cabinets, piled on my desk and spilled off onto the floor. and I do not want anybody to touch them. My housekeeper reported me to my daughter last week. Just wait until SHE needs another advance! 🙂 (Actually I love her so all is forgiven,)

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  4. These wonderful faces hold so many stories. I’m curious now about the other two old men in the etching. The Pensioner is stunning. I just want to reach out my hands and place them ever so gently on his face… he looks so weary.

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    • It is too large for me to get the whole thing in the frame. Well, maybe not. I’ll give it a shot when there is enough light. It is very interesting. I love the Pensioner too. A sweet old man. I have known many old men like him.

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  5. Oh George these are stunning! It makes me itch to draw again. Drat these eyes! I miss drawing more and more these days. When I could, I didn’t do nearly a percentage of what I wish I could do now! ‘sigh*

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  6. I like “The Pensioner” too. I understand about you wanting to know what happened to your artists. I had an author that I wanted to find – I had all of his books – but that’s another story. Maybe someone will find your artists. We are still enjoying their art so they still exist..

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  7. The greatest works always have a piece of the artist with them. And these three carry all the pieces. Damn, I love it! If only I have the talent to paint my grandparents too. Now wouldn’t that be wonderful (dream on, Jenn, dream on). 🙂

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  8. Loved them ..each painting a life with its own story…An artist true to his/her soul paints so much more than just a face or a house on a canvas and often leaves it for the people to read what they want or like…..beautiful write up 🙂

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    • Thanks, Soma. That’s precisely the way I feel about every piece of art that I ever bought. I have given away many of them because I thought the people would enjoy them as much as I do. If I could magically acquire a talent, it would be to paint watercolors.

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  9. I love looking at people’s faces. I especially appreciate older people’s faces. I have a picture (that I did not take) of my abuelito that I just love.

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    • Rosy, almost everything in my house has a face. Yes, a face! Lamps, platters, art, even the flatware pattern I bought a little of several years ago called Love Disarmed. Look it up. It’s cool. Faces fascinate me. My daughter told a friend who is the design person for a store here that her only requirement for replacing a lamp that my grandson broke was that it “have a face”. The girl sent a monkey lamp with a mama and a baby on her back and one rowdy adolescent hanging from the arm of the lamp. It’s adorable. I loved it. I was almost glad Boy broke the old one! 🙂

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    • You love the same things I love, Nia. You just have the ability to transform the ideas into photographs or other art. Thanks.

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  10. I really liked, “The Pensioner” and the story You tell for it.

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    • He is one of my very favorite watercolors. I imagine that I know him. What pleasure an artist can give to so many.

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  11. Beautiful etching and watercolors. They’re not lost, because they’ll always be with you….

    e.

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    • I know. It’s just frustrating that I am so careless. Anybody in her right mind would keep records of this stuff. I just enjoy and forget. Ugh. Then later, I want to know the story. I guess this R. Jarrell will forever be a mystery since he’s left my old brain. There are so many of them and my memory was never good.

      Hey, I tried the bubbles again yesterday to be sure I was right. I could see them through my lens. I was right. The sun has to be shining directly on the object you’re photographing, and there has to be an open space beyond the subject that is darker. The angle of the sun is critical too. Here, it shines on that group of palms late in the afternoon. There is really too much light on the foliage, but that’s required. It shines at an angle behind me onto the palms. Move your camera around until you see bubbles. You’ll get some even if you don’t see them, but you’ll get a whole field of them if you can see them through the lens. That will save lots of tries! You’ll have to coax them out of the recesses of the DOF in post processing. Lighten the background lots more than you would normally and fill back in with shadow until you get the effect you like. As you do that, you’ll discover more bubbles. Don’t use a prime lens because the DOF will be too shallow. I can’t believe I found something I know how to do. Remarkable, huh? 😉

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  12. I hate when that happens…and that happens more frequently to me than I car to admit. So I’ve learned the skill of gratitude for what I have at the moment and letting go of what I don’t have at the moment. Sometimes it makes me feel better… 😐

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    • Lorna, my bad memory has annoyed me for most of my life. I am scattered. I don’t pay attention. I’m surprised I haven’t walked off into a very deep hole somewhere. I throw papers down wherever I am. My kitchen cabinet tops hold my history for all of last calendar year. My CPA threatens me. My housekeeper is talking to my daughter about me. She doesn’t dare to shovel it all off into a box again. I have two boxes in the closet that the housekeeper dumped my stuff into last year. Sigh… I form an opinion of and a kind of connection with the artist of every piece, unfortunately. When I discover that he is gone or I can’t put him back together with the piece, it annoys me. Otherwise, it’s not important because the painting is unchanged. How did I get onto THIS? Good grief! I need to go listen to Lorna’s Voice. 😉

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      • When my husband left me and I had to move on, I left a lot of things behind. It forced me to sort out and throw out. I’m so grateful I did. Now there are fewer things to misplace and fewer places to look!

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  13. These really are wonderful paintings. I hope you find your lost documents and lost artists too!!!

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