Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sepia Saturday 5/22/10

It’s Sepia Saturday again here at Robert Frost’s Banjo after a two week layoff necessitated by whirlwind trips out to the Portland, Oregon area. & indeed, I should probably make it clear that this is a Sepia Saturday post, since the image you’re seeing isn’t sepia & isn’t even a photograph. But as I’m gearing up to start posting photos from my mother’s old family album, I thought it would be interesting to look at this watercolor painted by my great-aunt Arlene Paul—the painting shows my grandmother, Inez Atkinson & Arlene’s husband, Merle.

My grandmother used to go to visit Arlene & Merle at their home on Cape Cod in the summer, & some of my earliest memories are of their house & the nearby dunes. Arlene was a gifted musician—she played flute, violin & a number of other instruments, which she collected. Merle was a doctor—he told about the first baby he delivered on an island off the Cape; he was paid with a chicken!

Merle & Arlene both were kindly souls in my memory. Their home was the first place I encountered real butter (I grew up in a margerine household) & steamed clams. As a very young child, I didn’t have a taste for either—something that has changed with the years! I also remember Aunt Arlene playing her flute, & I recall seeing the instruments hanging on the walls.

My grandmother, Inez, seemed to love her trips down there. This painting was made in August 1966. My grandmother had less than a year to live at that point. It’s odd—the impressionistic figures are really appropriate, as both my grandmother & great-uncle Merle are vague in my own memory, tho I know both of them, as well as the artist Arlene, made deep impressions upon me.

Hope you enjoy the image, & be sure to check out other Sepia Saturday participants!


  1. Interesting, isn't it, to look back on the feelings and memories evoked from a simple watercolor. I wonder if this is where you got your musical talent?

  2. Love the watercolor! And the stories as well!

  3. The watercolour subjects remind me of a Danish painter's work (it's actually Victorian), but there are two figures and a dog on the beach. (I can't recall the artist's name, unfortunately.)

    I can only imagine that tasting butter for the first time must have been heavenly (after only having had margarine).


  4. It is a beautiful watercolour and a drawing can sometimes reveal more than a photograph.

    I think it may in this case.

  5. Cool watercolor! The black dog is great--and Merle's right hand in motion, patting away (at least that's how it looks online). Thanks for sharing this picture and your memories.

  6. I love that Merle was paid for his obstetrics with a chicken!

  7. I really liked this watercolour, even before reading your words. The story is the 'icing on the cake'.

  8. Hi Karen, Vicki, Kat, Barry, Audrey, Willow & Martin!

    Karen: Yes--I really love that painting for that reason. Aunt Arlene was the only person I know of from past generations who really focused on music, tho my maternal grandfather did play the banjo.

    Vicki: Thanks! So glas you stopped by.

    Kat: Although I'm a fiend for butter now, I actually just thought it tasted odd when I was 4 or 5!

    Barry: I think you may be right--thanks!

    Audrey: Hiya! Yes, I'm sure Merle is patting the dog. I remember him as a gentle & friendly soul. Glad you liked it!

    Willow: It's a favorite family story. It made a big impression on my dad even tho it was "the other side" of the family.

    Martin: Thanks so much!

  9. It's a beautiful delicate watercolor and a nice departure from so much sepia. Not that I have anything against sepia. Where would we all be today if not for sepia?
    They sound like nice, interesting people.

  10. Hi Barbara & Nancy: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it, & thanks for paying a visit!

  11. A lovely post; the dreamy quality of the painting is so poignant.

  12. Interesting. It reminds me that starting in Victorian times and not really dying out until the '60s, it was considered an essential part part of a middle-class girl's education to learn how to draw and paint. Apparently it was part of a plan to keep her busy with something "useful" in whatever idle moments she might have in her life. I remember my mother was very good at drawing (I don't know if she still is; I haven't seen any new drawings in decades), and I distinctly remember a pencil sketch of a trellis with roses that was really quite good.

    I wonder if the advent of less expensive and much more available cameras, combined with more modern attitudes about what women do with their lives, led to the downfall of that particular aspect of a young girl's education?

  13. Hi Leah & Roy

    Leah: Yes, I think you're right about the painting having a poignant quality--all three were very elderly at that point. So glad you enjoyed it.

    Roy: Interesting observation. Of course my great aunt Arlene was a Victorian woman at heart; I don't know her birth date, but I know my grandmother was born in 1881, so Arlene certainly had a 19th century upbringing too. Glad you enjoyed it!

  14. I love this little painting. Do you have it framed and hanging in your home? I'm looking forward to the your posts and the photos from your mother's album.

  15. There is something in the way it captures a closed moment of intimacy within the context of an open landscape (seascape) that is so memorable. Lovely post

  16. Nancy: Yes, it is framed, tho it doesn't currently have a home on the wall--perhaps I need to rememdy that. Thanks!

    Alan: Thanks for your thoughtful appreciation!


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