Maryland Plein Air Oil Sketches, Circa 1920-30's: Artwork As Personal Story Series, No. 3

This is a picture I call The Red Barn.
It is unmarked with either a title, a date, or the name of the artist.

Today it hangs in my daughter Robin's dining room. There are three more similar plein air oil sketches on canvas of the same size - probably done on the same day. None have any identifying words on them.

On a Fall Saturday afternoon in 1976 I stumbled upon them in sort of art-junk shop in Funkstown, MD . Funkstown is a small town with a lot of history. At the time we went it also had many second-hand shops with "stuff" and other shops filled with old books. Just the sort of places I love.

The day before my cousin Tom called saying he had discovered a place in the country that we were sure to fall in love with and enjoy. It was also a place that had interesting small restaurants with "good food." We were game. Tom and his then wife Pam picked us up and we were off.  All his promises about Funkstown came true along with a good afternoon with  Tom - a fascinating word smith and artist who had charmed me since our childhood in Charlotte, NC.

I don't remember the name of the shop where these small paintings were hanging on a crowded wall but I remember being drawn to them. Jim too was smitten with them - the subtle light, the simple shapes and composition. These oil sketches are the kind of notes an artist makes as they think out the plan for a larger painting which would most probably be painted in the studio. For me, this is like the handwriting in a letter which takes you close to the person who wrote it. When I asked about the artist the shop owner said he did not know a name but he had been told it was a Baltimore woman and that the sketches were probably done in the 1920's or 30's. Being a woman and a painter, I knew I wanted them to go home with us. It was a lucky and surprisingly cheap decision - $10 each.

These pictures hung in our dining room for years. Until - you guessed it - I wrapped them up and carried them on the plane to Manhattan Beach hoping Robin would like them for her new home in California. She welcomed them - and they moved to the Bay area when she and her family did and I will be able to see them as I eat Turkey this week at her table on Thanksgiving.

No comments: