zird is the word (lizardek) wrote,
zird is the word

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One of the things in my grandparent's house that held a special place in my heart was the three huge paintings of pine trees that hung on the rugged brick wall over the fireplace. The paintings were full of green and shady spaces and a looming majesty that made them seem somehow windows instead of paintings. They were California pines, hanging in a suburban Chicago home, but not a bit out of place for all that. Throughout the house, there were many other paintings and etchings by the same artist, and so the whole house had this woodsy, organic feel to it, a flow, and a sort of tranquility that I always believed the paintings helped to foster.

The pieces were by my father's great-aunt, a woman named Nell Brooker Mayhew, who holds a decently distinguished place in turn-of-the-century American art. I didn't know any of that as a child; I just liked her trees.

A painting of hers hangs in the place of honor above my mother's fireplace now, and when I'm home I can spend countless hours resting my eyes and my self within its blended palette of trees and and color. It's funny that she's best known for her color etchings, when it is her oil paintings that I think are her most powerful works. It doesn't seem as if many of them are out there in the art world, and most of the pieces I know best aren't listed on the websites I could find about her.

When my father's mother passed away, he and his sister fought horridly about the inheritance of objects in the estate. My mother and my siblings and I watched with pain and horror as they squabbled and grew defensive and ultimately chose to break off relations rather than come to any fair agreements about the belongings which were handed down to them. My parents gave up in the end, and choosing not to continue the fight, handed over possession of most of the great paintings, including, to my infinite sadness, the 3 pines, to my aunt. We have had little contact with her since, but from what we've heard the paintings were most likely destroyed through neglect, or sold.

In 1925 Nell's sister published a little blue book of fairytales, which centered on her own mother's tiny house in the woods of Urbana, Illinois. Her mother "lived in the house the fairies built in a night" and as far as I know, it's still standing at 701 S. Busey Avenue. Nell did the pen-and-ink illustrations for the book. Under the cut is a photocopy of a newspaper photo of the actual house, and another grainy photocopy of Nell's illustration of it.

jackiejj shared a lovely story today about a fairyhouse her daughter built when she was a child, and it was this that reminded me of this book, and the artist, and the paintings that influenced my childhood. I promised to send her photocopies of it, but when I got home and pulled out the notebook, I discovered I only had copies of the cover and a few of the illustrations. The quality of the copies I have is abysmal, but they hopefully give a small taste of the charm and character of the book.

Buzzy, Busy, Beautiful Birthday Wishes to bezigebij!
Tags: thewaywewere
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