Monday, June 22, 2009


Family Group, by William Glackens. The little boy in blue is Ira.


He was invariably generous, charming some of the time, courtly when it suited him and always a bit of a snob. He landed in my little village at a point in his long life where he felt that had earned the right to choose his moods. Local folks indulged him and why not? He knew more about art than most of us will ever learn and well he should. His father, William Glackens, was one of the most influential early Twentieth Century painters. Maurice Prendergast, whom he called Prendy, designed his birth announcement. Robert Henri painted a portrait of his mother, silk heiress and painter Edith Dimock. His father, whose work has been compared favorably with Matisse and Renoir's, paintings of could be seen at the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC.
He was the product of conflicting influences, having spent much of his life shuttling between Europe, New England and New York. He was thin as a rail, pale as a wax candle and an rather proud of his delicate hands.
"Glackens means small hands in Gaelic, I am told," he said once, presenting his own his own as evidence. The watches he wore on each wrist ticked away the West Virginia afternoon.
We did not talk about painting much. For one thing, I was young and untitored and people like Ira intimidated the hell out of me. It was not that his wealth made him seem superior. It was all that living, all that experience, all that daily contact with art work that would end up in the best American museums.
For all my mouse-like timidity Ira the things he managed to teach me while we lived across the street from each other, the most important was to say" c'est pas mon habitude" with conviction whenever asked to do something I did not like. The second most important was that if you are going to make a garden, you must plant heirloom roses.


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