Friday, January 17, 2014


"Shore Leave" -  Version I

About thirty years ago, I did a series of paintings that were some of the best I have ever done. It was like the sun the moon and the stars were all in alignment and each piece was better than the last. For once, I had lots of uninterrupted time (more important than you realize), rolls of good, rough-textured canvas (no longer available) and a supply of thick sticks of hard charcoal (also not around any more). I had learned how to fall into a semi-conscious “alpha” state where ideas just poured out of me. Soft brown washes, a sensitive charcoal line accented by darker browns, grays and whites; nothing was preplanned. I tried not to sell any of them, knowing that here was work that would ultimately make my reputation as an artist.

"Shore Leave" -  Version II
I did part with two pieces. One I sold willingly to a close friend. The other, I gave away on a long-term loan. I’ve never seen either painting again and no longer even know where they are. The one I got real money for was purchased by a friend who lived in Westchester County; she promised me “perpetual visiting rights.” Unfortunately, she and her husband moved to upstate New York and then to Canada and when I offered to buy the piece back, she said no, it was her favorite and under no circumstances was she giving it up. I never received a forwarding address from her. The good news was that I had a decent photograph of it.

"Shore Leave" -  Version III
The other painting was borrowed by a man I knew who was moving from Norwalk to New York City to become one of TV’s earliest “celebrity chefs”; he could be seen on CBS every Sunday morning. He wanted it to decorate his new Riverside Drive apartment, convincing me that he would entertain the rich and famous and they would all rush to Stamford to buy my work. Years went by and I lost touch with him as well. My daughter discovered that he had moved to London and had opened a highly successful Southern barbecue restaurant in Notting Hill. I contacted him about my painting and was told that he had left it in storage when he moved to London and it had been inadvertently sold at auction, seller and buyer unknown. He had a lawsuit going against the storage company but had no idea when the case would be settled. I had a not-very-clear snapshot of it, but good enough to prove that it was mine.

"Street Scene" - Version I
About two years ago, I received a call from a friend who was familiar with my work. She said, “I think there’s a painting of yours at one of the antique centers in the South End” and she sent me a photo from her I-phone. It was the painting that had disappeared from storage. I rushed down to claim it but unfortunately, by the time I got there, it had been sold. The dealer, sensing trouble (stolen goods), developed a severe case of amnesia; he had no idea who bought it, “a picker from the Midwest; never saw him before in my life; paid cash.” I filed a report with the police and went on with my life.

"Street Scene" - Version II
About a year ago, I decided to see if I could recreate the lost pieces; after all, I had photos to work from. But even with images to copy, I couldn’t do it. My first attempts were a disaster but I kept trying and each time got a little bit better. The most recent versions, even though they don’t look like the originals, are good in their own way. I felt a little less guilty about recreating past work when I recently learned that Chagall spent the last few years of his life trying to borrow back some of his great early paintings in order to copy them Their present owners, as you can imagine, were not happy to see their originals duplicated.

Here are some early paintings along with more recent versions.

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