Paint Schoodic

We're offering four workshops for 2020, at Acadia National Park, Pecos, NM, Tallahassee, FL, and aboard the schooner American Eagle.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Hilda Bush

I can just hear the old ladies whispering that I’ve finally come to my senses.

Seaside Provincetown House, 1960, Hilda Bush. Sadly, this is the only painting of hers I could find online.

There was a lady in my home town who made and sold landscape paintings. Her marketing technique was very simple: she would string clothesline between the old maples on her lawn and clip the paintings to the lines. The prices were modest but not as cheap as you might imagine for a sidewalk sale. The example above (the only painting I could find online) was tagged in 1961 at $40. That’s $350 in today’s money.

Mrs. Bush graduated from Middleport High School in 1922, after which she started teaching art in the two local schools. That was a time when the best-educated teachers were graduates of normal schools, so she wasn’t as unprepared as you might think. For the record, these teachers managed to turn out students who read primary sources in Latin, could do math and diagram sentences, understood civics, and drew accurately and sang in tune.

Mrs. Bush went to work at Harrison Radiator as part of the WW2 war effort. In 1946, she married and settled in to domestic life. And, of course, she painted. Even after she went to live with a granddaughter down in Pavilion, NY, she was still painting. She sent a picture of lilacs to my mother shortly before she died; I confess I gave it only a cursory glance. A combination of good genes and country living meant that Mrs. Bush lived to the ripe old age of 106.

Hilda Bush

As a child, I was young and impressionable and extremely snooty about art. As we trundled by Mrs. Bush’s house, I was certain of one thing: I would never be an artist who made sweet, silly paintings, and I would never sell them by tying them to trees.

Fast forward fifty years. I’ve been through my period of painting meaningful blight. I’ve done angst and soul-searching. Now I’m most interested in painting the same subjects as Mrs. Bush—the simple beauty that is all around us. If it makes people happy, I’m all for it.

With all non-essential public spaces closed down in my state, nobody can visit my studio-gallery for the foreseeable future. So I’m thinking of displaying art in my front yard. It won’t be on clotheslines, but only because I don’t have properly spaced trees. I can just hear the old ladies of Zion Lutheran Church whispering that I’ve finally come to my senses.

Erie Canal, by Carol L. Douglas, private collection. Mrs. Bush spent her entire life in this little hamlet outside of Buffalo.

Mrs. Bush and her entire generation (including my own parents) are, for the most part, gone now. They aren’t here to observe the 75th anniversary of VE Day today. I cannot say this any better than Mark Piggott did in the Spectator, so I’ll just quote him:

I’m glad the Allied Forces destroyed the Nazi machine and like millions of others on 8 May I’ll give thanks to the millions – including members of my family – who laid down their lives to prevent Hitler’s demented dream becoming reality.

In a world which seems to be more complicated than ever, where notions of good and evil, right and wrong are increasingly blurred, it’s good to be reminded of what true evil really is – and be proud that so many people, from all around the world, fought so bravely to defeat it.


Unknown said...

I think that an outdoor studio / gallery is a great idea. In fact it would be perfect.

sueleo said...

History seems to be repeating itself -- in more ways than one.

I am sure you could rig up some type of "socially distanced" lawn art!!!

Mary Ann Heinzen said...

I knew an artist/teacher did just that in Three Mile Harbor on Long Island. Worked great, until some guy drove up and grabbed a bunch of paintings, & tried to drive away. Her daughter threw herself on the hood of the car and stopped him. This lady was 80 something in my class in Queens when she told me this story. I miss Harriet. She was a delightful artist to have in my group. She could have taught the class but was happy to just be painting.

Lydia said...

I love this story because it’s all so true. Those ladies were the best teachers, running their self contained classrooms and of course all coming out of those Normal schools which are now branches of state universities. I’m not sure why they were called Normal! My parents were both in the art field so of course I was dragged to museums and art shows, art classes, sometimes resenting the trip, but now so glad I had the experiences. I also had a wonderful art teacher in high school who made us draw. We really got a grounding in perspective which I still utilize to this day. I came to the serious painting world later in life but so glad I did. It was just a part of my genes which needed to emerge I guess. I enjoy your weekly blogs so keep up the good work both in writing and painting. Get out that clothesline or just some easels!