Sunday, March 26, 2017
My favorite things 13
My father was only one generation off the farm, and there was no art in his family tree, but some mysterious impulse made him into an art lover. In his lifetime he must have bought hundreds of paintings, prints and sculptures, and he raised us kids to be both art lovers and art collectors. I think the first original work of art he ever owned was this very big (48 inches wide plus frame) painting of Saginaw, Michigan, where Dad grew up and my sister and I were born.
Dad had been involved with a local art organization and when they decided to hold a contest, sometime around 1950, he was the judge. His payment was the winning painting (although maybe I have that wrong, and he didn't like the winning painting so he got the second place...). In any case, this picture hung over his desk in six different houses until he downsized both the picture and the desk, both of which came to me, the picture fitting perfectly on top of the desk, shrinkwrapped together in a truck.
I don't have a lot of nostalgia for Saginaw; we moved away when I was 6 and after my grandmother died there wasn't much reason to go back. But I love the painting, because it was the start of something extremely important in our family: a love of art that has burned bright for decades and continues to illuminate our lives.
The artist is W. C. Brethauer, whom I cannot find any trace of on Google. I hope that he was proud to get the purchase prize in the local art contest. I wish that he knew how much we all have loved that painting for almost three-quarters of a century and with any luck will continue to do so for a long time.
P.S. I wrote earlier this week about encountering my father's name in a book, and realize that I should have included a link for those couple of readers who might be interested in his career in typography. For Jan Q and others, here's his obit from the New York Times.