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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/6/16

An Era That Has Gone VIII

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The effect of this exhibit and what it did for Stanis was nothing less than transforming, if in a very quiet way. It would set the tone for the coming years, in which he would form a very close association with the Henshaws. Yet, this was just the beginning of a month of chumminess.

Esther, more likely than not egged on by her daughter, decided to host a gathering of her own for the artist at the Neighborhood Club. It was an excuse to inject some vibrancy into the humdrum of everyday life. And it was another activity that was sure to captivate the interest of her daughter, as Esther's concern over the effect of the loss of Nancy's father had continued to worry her. But not to be outdone by her older sister, Cornelia put in a call to her brother Walter to see if he could arrange an event where cousin George Childs and Stanis could address the students at St Bernard's in New Jersey, each on their respective areas of expertise--George on worms, and Stanis on his work as a portrait artist. A weekend outing of sorts at Walter and Clara's in the New Jersey hills just south of Morristown would be followed by a Monday morning presentation, where the students would be able to take a break from the monotony of their daily schedule and experience something a bit out of the ordinary. Cornelia threw the proposal in Walter's lap, then stitched together the assent of the prospective participants.

It took quite a bit of calling around and pushing the right buttons, but by the first week of May all appeared to fall into place. The second private showing, to be presided over by Esther but with the assistance of Cornelia, would fall on a Thursday. The outing to St. Bernard's would take place over that same weekend and the Monday following.

The days passed quickly, the weather warming up and turning rather comfortable, bright and sunny, Stanis daring to sport a short sleeve shirt, as he trotted up the stairs to the upper rooms of the Neighborhood Club where 19 of his paintings and the drawing assortment had been hanging for three weeks. For this more intimate event, Esther was the center of attention, as it was primarily her circle of friends for which the tea was staged. By her side was, of course, Cornelia, this time around in supporting role, and Nancy, who had lost none of her enthusiasm for Stanis. As luck would have it, a prominent artist was one of the visitors viewing the works. Victor Perard had already written a good number of "how to" books for artists, and was a well-known illustrator. After signing the guest book and introducing himself to Cory and Esther, he quietly examined each of the paintings, standing in front of them for several minutes before turning to the next, but not betraying his reaction to each. It must have taken the accomplished illustrator close to an entire hour to complete his survey of the show.

Not knowing what to expect, Cornelia awaited Perard's judgment apprehensively. She certainly did not want to be presiding over any artist less than the top grade. But Herbert had already screened that possibility out, for, while art was not his field of expertise, he was well-educated enough to comment intelligently on any topic or field of endeavor. He had given the green light to it all.

Perard took a seat and mused over a cup of tea, sharing his impressions with Esther, Cory and Nancy, among the others who had gathered for the occasion. It appeared that Perard was impressed. The robust imagery of each painting and drawing, the sensitivity of portrayal, and the naturalness of expression were all attributes of the works that Perard, in an understated manner, expressed in his polite continental manner as signs of a bright future for the portrait artist.

Portrait by Stanislav Rembski of his sister Isabel (detail).
Portrait by Stanislav Rembski of his sister Isabel (detail).
(Image by Brooklyn Life magazine)
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Also there to view the portraits that evening was Robert J. Wickenden, a somewhat itinerant artist who had moved his studio to the Ovington Building a few years back. Wickenden, who was born in England, studied under French artists of the Barbizon school of the mid-19 th Century, and had made the acquaintance of American painter William Morris Hunt and stained glass specialist John LaFarge, a competitor of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Not always quite sure where his life's work ought to fall, Wickenden wore the hats of painter, critic and art dealer. In the 1890s, he pulled off the sale of a large number of works by Barbizon artists, including Jean-François Millet and Camille Corot, whose paintings would sell for millions of dollars today. But a second similarly positioned sale a number of years later ended in a huge loss for the dealer-artist, and he was encouraged to begin a portraiture practice in Canada as a way to recover his economic fortunes. This he took up with much success, but he never quite gave up on his other avocations, and often wrote monographs on his favorite French artists of the 19 th Century. With many years of success and recognition behind him, he would certainly give Cornelia the feedback she wanted on the quality of the new artist's work. And it appeared that his prognosis was "thumbs up."

The very next afternoon came the moment George, Stanis and Cornelia boarded a train for their scheduled trip to central New Jersey, a two hour ride in which Cornelia's constant companion, Winkie, refused to sit still, trotting back and forth within the small space between the seats he was allotted. Yet Winkie's antics were not quite severe enough to distract the three from chatting enthusiastically and continually along the way. What was perhaps for Cory a long ride, she having the chief responsibility for her maverick canine, probably passed quite pleasantly for the two men. The conductor, hearing Winkie's intermittent fits of yapping and an occasional growl, made it known that the pup's theatrics would not be accommodated.

Cornelia, taking offense but not willing to provoke a confrontation and spoil the trip for the others, managed to coax Winkie to hide under her coat, which she placed at her feet, creating a kind of tent for the pooch. There Winkie managed to spend the time quietly amid the now more relaxed chatter amongst the three, as the train sped on with its monotonous clicks and clacks that provided an almost musical backdrop to the conversation. The train glided to a halt at the Gladstone station, and after gathering their luggage and engaging Winkie's tentative cooperation, the foursome disembarked. Walter, who had been waiting patiently at the station for over an hour, greeted his guests and, helping them load their belongings into his small automobile.

Henshaw House, the home of Walter and Clara Henshaw on the St. Bernard's campus as it appears today.
Henshaw House, the home of Walter and Clara Henshaw on the St. Bernard's campus as it appears today.
(Image by Peter Duveen)
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After a ride of about 15 minutes, all disembarked, the guests taking the time to unload their baggage and bring it to the rooms assigned each. The somewhat weary group were then treated to a fine dinner prepared by Walter's wife, whose cuisine was legendary, while Walter's dog Abe and Willie Winkie romped throughout the small home, creating a commotion that had to be broken up now and then by the "two leggeds." Abe, in getting to know Winkie, developed an unfortunate fondness for gnawing on Winkie's ears, then his back and finally his soft and delectable neck, a habit that would evoke intermittent welps from the older but much smaller dog, until Winkie chose to avoid Abe altogether, often running to Cory for protection. It was only in bathing Winkie later that week, that Cory realized how badly Abe had chewed up her beloved pet.

Sunday rolled around, and, the entire entourage, including Walter and his wife, went to an Episcopal Sunday service, ate lunch and lounged about for the rest of the day. Dinner was at a nearby inn, known for its excellent fare.

On Monday, George, Stanis and Corrie rose early. The two artists prepared material for lectures that each was scheduled to present to the St. Bernard students. One has to wonder how they chose topics that would be digestible to the youngsters. Neither was the type to talk down at his audience, even a considerably younger one. George had already taught at the University of Minnesota, while Stanis took to lecturing quite naturally, as he was anxious to communicate his deeply-felt theories on art to any audience.

The two were ushered into the school auditorium, where they successively addressed the entire student body. It was an important learning experience for the boys to be lectured to by professionals of the stature of George and Stanis. In order not to present conflicting or redundant material, Stanis decided to confine his remarks to the theory of art, while George, with a flair for the humorous, managed to make the boys laugh with his lengthy presentation of minutiae on the lifestyles of creatures that thrived under wet logs and deep within the rich soils of the local farmland.

Stanis, in a more serious vein, expressed his great admiration for the artists of the Renaissance who were his models: Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. Showing the students examples of their work, he demonstrated how anyone with a rudimentary interest in drawing or painting can emulate them through careful training and constant study and practice.

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Born in New York, March 14, 1949. Staff writer for the New York City Tribune, Economic Growth Report, Register-Star. Presently publish on OpEd News. Mr. Duveen heads up a project known as "The Museum of Brooklyn Art and Culture,' which explores (more...)
 

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