Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mr. Gammell's Departure


Today I received a very special photo. It is a picture of an artist's studio the day he died. It belonged to Mr. R.H. Ives Gammell, a champion of classical art. He focused much his life on passing on the techniques and values that were used in creating the masterpieces of the past. Mr. Gammell determined that he was going to be a bridge spanning those years when modern art spat on classical training and paintings.

Mr. R.H. Ives Gammell's Studio
The gentleman and fine artist that passed this photo on to me was one of his students, Mr. Tom Dunlay, a longtime student of Mr. Gammell, and was the last person to be with him before he died. He wrote of the photo:

"This was the morning after he passed away. Except for the landscape on the chair this was exactly the way he left the studio the day before. The previous evening there was an exhibition of DeCamp's work at the St. Botolph Club on Commonwealth Avenue. At the end of the opening he asked me if I would walk him home just down the street. As it turned out, I was the last person to see him alive. He passed away in his sleep." 

This reminds me a lot of the way my father died. He was on his way back from wintering in Florida and was coming to visit our family in Cincinnati the next day. I spoke with him on the phone the night before making plans to pick up our youngest son from school together. The next morning before 6 a.m. I received a phone call saying that he had died in his sleep. It was devastating.

This studio was left by a man who had expectations of returning to it the next day. How neat it looks: the brushes lined up on palette and table, the book opened up on a stool, paintings set out for observation, studies on the easel - and the gentle north light washing over the artist's workplace.

I think that perhaps this was just the way Mr. Gammell would have wanted it. A day at work in the studio followed by an evening at the St. Botolph Club, a beloved haunt of artists and intellectuals, seeing Joseph DeCamp's work, and walking home with a favorite student. Very Providential...a gracious way to leave...


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