When the Long Suffering Husband and I were in graduate school, we went to dinner at the home of a couple who were more affluent and more culturally sophisticated than we. I remember being amazed to learn that they actually bought wine by the case. Over their mantelpiece was a large oil painting of rowboats tied up to a dock. When I admired it, they said that they had bought it for $400 at a time when they had very little money. It was a struggle to pay for the painting. But they never regretted it.
This was a valuable lesson. I have never regretted buying a piece of original art. Even pieces that didn’t speak to me at first have found their voices over the years. Art is difficult to appraise. Most works by famous contemporary artists leave me cold (Jeff Koons is my favorite example). The astronomical prices they realize have to do with passing fashion and perceived status. If everyone wants something, the price is driven up. But all of us can afford art that is just as precious as a Van Gogh. What is it worth, to lay eyes every day on an object that brings you pleasure?
Robert E. Wood passed away in February, three years ago. He was a local legend, a man with a vivid personality whom most people found difficult to interact with. Some said he suffered from Tourette’s syndrome. Others said schizophrenia, or perhaps obsessive compulsive disorder. He habitually paced the streets, picking up trash from the side of the road, and treating passing motorists to a raised third finger. This trademark gesture earned him the name “F.U. Bob” around town.
But when you met him in person, he was gentle, articulate and intelligent. He liked a good vigorous discussion and could become argumentative, but he was never rude. A few times, he told me he wanted to “sit in” on one of my courses. To this day, I don’t know whether I’m more relieved or disappointed that he never did.
Robert created art in many styles, but what interested me most were his watercolors on mythological subjects. He was fascinated by mythology, and he liked to paint goddesses. We own two of his Minoan goddess paintings. Robert didn’t work with galleries much. He used to sell his paintings at art fairs. When he saw us coming, his eyes would light up. Ka-ching! He knew we were suckers.
Buying a painting from Robert was an arduous process. He priced his work according to a complex calculus, which took into account the size of the painting, whether it was executed on expensive Arches paper, how much he liked it himself, and how much he thought you would pay (this part went unspoken but was obvious enough). We gave him anywhere from $50 to $400 per painting, which seems very little now. Sometimes he had trouble deciding whether he could part with a painting. I don’t think that was a sales technique. I think it was real.
This goddess hangs in my office. She may be my favorite Wood painting. He gave her away to an artist friend of his. Perhaps he thought she wouldn’t sell at a fair, because of the blotted face. And she was not painted on the all-important Arches paper! When the friend found out I loved his work, she generously presented me with the goddess. I look at her every day.
My other favorite is a tiny watercolor that changed hands for $50, one sunny day in the park. I remember how exciting it was to buy one of his paintings. As soon as we concluded the arrangements, I would feel a thrill of relief and of anticipation. This one is a reclining woman, another of his “Classical” subjects. It hangs over my dresser.
We own quite a few paintings now by many different artists, but I never get tired of looking at Robert’s works. I can’t explain why I like them so much. Usually I prefer beautifully drafted, precise drawings, things with detail and precision, but Robert’s style is messy, loose, open, intuitive. Maybe it’s the energy in his paintings, or maybe when I see them, I think of that strange, Beautiful Man and his devotion to a life of profound ideas and vivid images.
That’s why I buy art.
Sylvie G said:
Thank you for introducing this interesting individual and artist. I love his paintings.
Thank you so much! There is a certain energy about his work that I enjoy 🙂
ditto to what sylvie said ~ !-
Robert was a humble man. I think he would have been thrilled at the idea that so many people around the globe are looking at his work. And then he would have asked whether there was a percentage in it for him 🙂
Linnet, your blog starts the day with the joy of learning something new. Thank you.
His picture looks more Sir Francis than was Sir Alec.
LOL. He was quite something, was Robert. People around here will remember him for a long time 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
I meant to add, I like the paintings too.
Love the Caryatid porch as well – sounds like he was an interesting character 🙂 Also love F.U. Bob 🙂
His reputation as “F.U. Bob” had its disadvantages. Kids would drive past dangerously close to him or do other provoking things in order to get him to give the finger. He obliged, of course!
Yes, the Caryatid porch is lovely. I don’t think he ever went to Greece, but he certainly captured the purity of those blue skies.
I have so many amazing photos of Greek islands! In the beginning, I was sort of peeking out the curtains to see if it was a nice day (Irish thing); towards the end, I was just throwing them open because OF COURSE it was a nice day! It’s Greece! 🙂
My two favorite landscapes are rocky Greek islands under a cobalt sky, and misty green hills dotted with sheep. So I like a little of both 🙂
Beautiful! I feel the same way. My grandparents had/have an amazing collection of art. She’s passed on, but their home is almost like an art gallery. My stepmother is a artist (painter), and so is my aunt. I’m fortunate to have some of their work, and a few others.
How wonderful to have a home like an art gallery! I come from a line of women artists back to my great grandmother, but (so far) have not produced much in the way of visual arts!
What an inspiring and thoughtful post LM. Thanks for the introduction to this talented man and what a character he sounded like. I love the soft colours in these pieces. My favourite line ‘what is it worth to lay eyes every day on an object that gives you pleasure?’ We are by no means ‘art collectors’ but we love art and beautiful things. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder but looking at the paintings we have collected gives me joy as well.
Thanks Cheer! I agree that it’s all about the delight we get from the objects around us. It’s very much in the eye of the beholder (and the heart, when we happen to know the person who created the object).
i don’t … buy the art in our house. we’re (um) at the age? where we deafeningly should have already commenced divesting, but … Betty just bought THREE more paintings/drawings at a recent show!
Haha! Good for Betty!
What an interesting artist! I also have walls full of paintings from one person, still living, that simply speak to me on some unknown level. His work has become more popular so his prices are now out of my range, however I LOVE the paintings I own. It is hard to explain! (((hugs)))
Many thanks for the comment! “Some unknown level” is a good way to phrase it. One of the sweet mysteries of life 🙂
What engaging work Mr. Wood created, Linnet–and what a compliment to hear that he found your art as intriguing as you found his. I can empathize with the pull of pieces that speak to you so loudly, you cannot pass them by without first owning them and then studying them every single day on your wall.
Many years ago, I commissioned an artist whose work appeared in one of our local galleries (although she lives in the southwest) to continue with a theme of hers. I purchased an animal watercolor she’d painted. It looked so much like one I’d encountered here where I lived. Each year, I’d request another animal that frequents the property. I now have six or seven of these beautiful paintings. Bear, cougar, turkey, raccoon–the list goes on. As does my hope she will continue to fulfil my request for more of her art for my eyes.
Lovely, beautiful post, Linnet!
Thanks Shelley! Your animal watercolors sound like something I would enjoy. I have a number of bird paintings. But the only time I commissioned something, it ended up far different from what I envisioned (and about three times as large). It’s a huge scene with trees and a river, painted on a linen tablecloth, which now hangs in our basement, the only space big enough to hold it 🙂
i love these, they have so much life and personality! love the frog one, it looks totally alive, doesn’t it? and i love the goddesses! You are right the Kore you found on pinterest is particularly beautiful, maybe you can track it down? 😉
He sounds like a vivacious and interesting man and his art reflects that, glad you were able to acquire some of his works directly from him, that is special as looking at the painting will not only bring the joy of the art itself but also memories of the artist 🙂 Buying art is food for the souls, as necessary as.. well, cheese 😉 in making us happy 🙂
I can’t afford the real stuff but i am fond of a few reproduction posters 🙂
Thanks! I am very fond of the frog too. It is quite a large painting, so the contrast between real frogs and this monster frog is striking, like some alien creature. My brother once came to dinner and said the painting was quite unsettling! But I have always found him benign 🙂
ah didn’t realise it was bigger than real size, but he still looks friendly to me too 🙂
Frederick Jphn Kluth said:
Works by Robert E. Wood can be purchased at the FJKluth Art Gallery in Kent OH. There is currently an exhibit of his figure studies.
Thanks for the info! I’ll have to stop by and check it out!
Frederick Jphn Kluth said:
Any sales of Robert’s work at the FJKLuth Art Gallery benefit the Robert Wood memorial trust..