Most people who become artists
begin at an early age, but without the training,
its more of an impulse, like throwing and
catching a ball. I can say that I began in this
manner. Since I was a boy, I developed the habit
of drawing by carrying with me a pocket sized
sketch pad. I have found that through the years
this has served me well.
What you draw in the sketch
book will speak to you later and take you back
in the mind. The camera cant do that, it
is a one-eyed monster with no discernment. I am
always astonished to find the camera doesnt
see what I see. I dont buy postcards of
the places I paint because the photo gets between
me and the subject. Then I am robbed of what I
came for, the surprise. A drawing is a diagram
of the truth.
I got my first set of oil paints
when I was six years old. I received my first
commission when I was ten. (A farmer asked me
to paint his cat, and gave me ten dollars, which
I thought was pretty good.)
I studied at the Pennsylvania
Academy of Fine Arts for three years. I began
in the back studio of the main building on Cherry
Street in Philadelphia. Roy Nuse was teaching
a figure class. He wore a blue smock over a pinstripe
suit. He would walk behind us, talking about the
flute in Beethovens 6th Symphony with an
occasional get those smashing darks!
At the end of one class, he awarded a prize for
the student who had painted the best figure.
He called in the janitor, sat him down and painted
his portrait as a demonstration. He then awarded
it to me, To Hanes from R. Nuse, and
then inscribed on the back what the prize was
for. That was a generous thing to do.
Then I won the Prix de Rome
to attend the American Academy in Rome, and my
life completely changed. I received a letter from
Albert Barnes and Ms. de Mazia in congratulations.
(You deserved it.) What followed was
the opening up of a new world. I had never been
to Italy, which was for me almost the birth of
civilization. During my four years there, I traveled,
painted and got married. It was the major event
of my life. I was able to show work done in Rome,
Tuscany and other areas in Italy.
I studied the Renaissance artists
for their great expressiveness, and the Greek
sculptors because they are completely unsentimentaland
true. I saw and learned from the works of Corot,
Rubens, and all the great Italians, the sculptors,
painters, and architects. I admired French nineteenth
century landscape painting, where the landscape
itself was more important than the subject or
the people in it. They wanted to drop the heroes
of the wars, the nationalistic subjects, and return
to the freedom that nature offeredbroadly
handled paint style with virtually no subject.
Of course the subject was there but no longer
was it traditional, nor handled in the familiar
way. Hence they were called Impressionists.
I was drawing every day,
which trained my eye and enhanced my skills. Whether
it was the French countryside, a man playing the
organ, the road to Paris in the rain, or the Bar
Basque in Biarritz, what I did was to draw
the people as they were living their lives, and
the places as they were at the time.
My studio in Rome had a garden
attached, and so I began to paint more and more
outdoors, now a habit of many years. During this
period I was quite productive and exhibited frequently.
One morning in Porto Santo Stefano I was painting
a fishermans house situated on a road overlooking
the sea. A truck pulled up just behind me and
stopped. The driver climbed down from his rig
and stood watching me paint. Then, after a spell
and needing to leave, he approached me, tipped
his hat and said one word, formidabile,
and left. Ive always had much to thank Italy
for, but this sage of transportation is one more.
Upon returning to America, I
supported myself at first by restoring old paintings.
I went on to teach at Rosemont College, the Pennsylvania
Academy, and LaSalle University, and to exhibit
throughout the east coast.
Institutions, academies, universities
and publications will gladly explain to you what
you are doing, but my style is just what comes
out of me. I work from inspiration. I think of
my subjects as genre scenes of everyday life,
preparations in the garden or the kitchen. Still
lifes, nudes and animalsI am open to
whatever I respond to.
Whatever the subject, I hone
the contours of form and the pulsating natural
color always escaping. I continue to paint out
of doors when I can, facing natures light
and colors, especially when Im in Italy
or in Maine. I paint every day, and my approach
has always been to work hard and to keep my standards
Above all, my paintings are
closely connected with nature and those who love
it. I think this makes me a Romantic. My style
is a colorful treatment of the natural, or real,
response to nature. I try to be direct and immediatethe
complexity of vision reduced to the simplicity
of thought. To me, what is natural is perfect
in natureit cant be flattered. In
nature there are always surprises.