Friday, December 4, 2009

FRIDAY SHOOTOUT - My Grandfather -- Part 4 of 4

I know the theme today is "My Favorite Things" but todaywould also have been my grandfather's birthday!  And this is the last part of a 4-part series.  And since his artwork -- paintings, sculptures, etc., are among my favorite things...I hope it works for the Shootout as well.

The strength and the weakness my grandfather’s art was its variety. The only reason I say “weakness” is because after his death, my grandmother and I contacted the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to see if they were interested in receiving any of the paintings as donations. He was known well enough at the time so a curator came out to visit.  He said he found himself in a dilemma because he wanted some of them and felt the quality was there but...The problem was finding a place to hang them.

He explained that large art museums need paintings to meet one of two criteria. Either the artist has to be famous enough to hang simply because of his name. Or the artist has to be representative of a particular school or style of art. Although the curator appreciated the variety of my grandfather's work, it didn’t fit into the scheme of any particular style.

This study for a larger mural of Jesus and the Fishermen was the one the curator liked the most and almost took.  I'm actually glad, bcause I've still got this hanging in my kitchen. 

Butler and I always appreciated the fact he experimented with so many styles and always looked for a new way to present something.

Another aspect of his art was the care and patience with which he approached things. This marble bust below that he chiseled of Jean, his daughter and my mother took 8 months to complete.

If you look at the neck, you can see where right at the end, a wrong hammer blow caused the marble to crack, separating the head. While he was able to repair it, the crack bothered him so he spend another 8 months doing a perfect duplicate – without the crack. The pictured one sits on our mantle piece and the second "perfect" one is in Wrentham, marking her grave.

His interesting in art went deep.  He studied anatomy and even has some illustrations in older editions of Gray's Anatomy -- which I can't show here, unfortunately, because I went and gave it away to my friend, Barclay, when he graduated from Medical School.  

Joseph Cowell studied the chemical composition of paint and was fascinated with how the early master's made it. 

For the portrait above (another one of his daughter, Jean) he experimented with something from the middle ages and did the skin tones with paint he developed using egg whites. 

He did stain glass for churches but one of my favorite things is his student project when he was first learning to work in stain glass.  

One the one hand, I could blog forever, but on the other hand, it's Friday, and I think I'll just mostly post pictures.  I've probably talked too much about him already. 

My grandmother

One of the things about doing this blog that has been really great
has been rediscovering his old sketchbooks from London

Sweatt Park in Wrentham --
Design and bas relief




  1. I loved this whole series. You have some extremely talented people in your family!

  2. Wow!!!!! what a talented Grand dad he is.

    The museum's loss is our gain. You have posted his works for the whole world to appreciate.

    May be through this site, his work may be "recognised".

  3. Happy Birthday Grandee! I've really enjoyed discovering your art, marveling at it's range and quality and learning about your life through the eyes of your grandson.

    It's been an honor!

  4. You are lucky to have such a rich heritage and to also have the artifacts of this heritage. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Happy Birthday indeed. Thank you for the wonderful story.
    You never talk too much, Mark. We love it when you keep going!

  6. Yes, I too can keep reading over here, and thanks again for sharing this wonderful man whom you loved!

  7. Happy Birthday Grandee! I think you should check back with a curator about getting more of Grandee's work out there. Sargeant is coming into his own as an extraordinary talented artist. There is probably more demand for this style of painting and sculpture in the past few years. Check again.
    Linda's Bagman: Tell him he should write a book.
    Linda: I don't want to sound like a broken record.
    Linda's Bagman: But he has so much knowledge that will be lost if it is not recorded.
    Linda: It's up to Mark.
    Thank you so much for sharing it all. I loved the whole week!

  8. A very talented man, a great legacy he left for you. Much to be proud of too.

  9. I don't think I have enjoyed a story as much as I have this one. mainly because it is told by someone who knew him and Loved him. very well done Mark. would make a fine little book - one your children and grandchildren would love to have - especially when they inherit the paintings but not the memories as you have.
    hugs from Brasil on this dark and rainy day.

  10. Your amazing heritage has made an excellent series of stories and photos. What a collection of gorgeous art you have, and how loaded with memory and meaning it is for you! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about Grandee this week and wish you would write more about him!

  11. Thanks for sharing the rich history and artistic talent of your Grandfather and the important people in his life.


  12. What beautiful work! I am just in awe of the marble bust of your just blows my mind that people have the steady hand and patience to accomplish things like that. It's so wonderful that you still have so many of his pieces.

  13. Oh oh oh I just loved that!! Thank you so much for sharing this!! What an amazing artist!! Wow. Off to read the one I missed!:)Sarah

  14. Treasures as well as favourites! That was a wonderful series; interesting story with buckets of love between the lines.

  15. what an impressive legacy to pass on. how exciting for you!! great shoot out.

  16. I've been rather distracted this week and had missed the earlier installments about your grandfather - I need to remedy that. His work is wonderfu! My curiosity has been stirred up...

  17. What talent. Thank you so much for sharing his story.

  18. Wow, Mark. These are amazing. Your Grandee is so talented. It is so wonderful to see his work and the various styles in which he created his art. Your love and appreciation of him makes my heart do flip flops.

  19. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Is that sketch from London Big Ben? It looks like it also could be Tom Tower from Christ Church College at Oxford, but then again I see Oxford in everything.

    Thanks for such an elegant post!

  20. His talent just blows me away.

    SUCH pride you must have ...what a legacy he has left you. xxx

  21. Your grandfather's paintings are done beautifully with passion. It looks like the fish are moving. I know he is smiling wherever he is right now. He is lucky to have a grandson like you. Thanks for sharing about him. Great feature, great pictures!

  22. Gentlemen, (even you Bagman) I enjoyed the series about your grandfather. Great reading.

  23. Fascinating - what a talent. And what patience to repeat the marble bust.

    This would get my vote for best blog of the day!

  24. It looks like your Grandee not only had a ton of talent but took time to experiment and play. Back in those days people had time. If I had time, I would be into pottery, stain glass, sculptures, and my old art.

    I think our busy world has cheated us of talent. We have fewer great creators of all things beautiful and magical. People are way too busy trying to get ahead or stay ahead to be inspired. They lose track of the important things in life - creating something of lasting value. Your Grandee will live on as long as his art survives. That is a wonderful thing, and sometimes I think the only thing worth living for. To create before you die, so that you may live on...

    Awesome story about the marble bust.

    I am always the one who has to wish people belated birthday wishes. Grandee, Happy Belated Birthday.

    Somehow, I think he heard that.

  25. Wow - I think your granddad was amazingly talented. It's rare to find an artist who creates across such a range of media and styles. Wonderful!