25 Years Ago

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My father was a very robust, powerfully built man. But strangely enough, his hands were delicate. One of the stories around Chadds Ford was about a milk train he would meet and how he would help the farmers lift their enormous 10-gallon cans—one in each hand—up onto the platform beside the tracks.

He was a man who admired many arts—literary, dramatic, musical. From being hardly a reader at all in his youth, he became a constant reader. My mother’s mother got him reading Thoreau. He read Tolstoy too. And he loved poetry—Robert Frost, Keats, Emily Dickinson. He went to see O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra and talked about it many times. He loved music; on Sundays after dinner we kids would lie on the floor and listen. And of course he loved art and artists. Rembrandt was a favorite. And he especially admired George de Forest Brush and mentioned him often to me.

My father had a marvelous way of never talking down to a young person. I spent a lot of time with him—much more than the rest of the children did. I’d go into the back room of the studio where he kept his drawings and paintings, originals and reproductions. Often I’d drag them out, wipe the dust off, and ask him about them. He told me so much that I got a pretty thorough knowledge of his work. I also spent hours going through his books of medieval armor and other history books, and trying on costumes that he stored in big chests. I could spend the time because I wasn’t going to school: I was being tutored at home by my father, and I felt lucky.

My father’s life as an illustrator revolved around children, yet he did not pamper us in any way. He loved our imagination and enthusiasm, they excited him, so our family Christmases and Easters and Valentine’s Days were always special.

My father was a born illustrator, and his works elevated the art form.

May/June 1987|Volume 38, Issue 4