Thursday, October 22, 2009
Arthur Haddock's Shoebox
One of the places I visited this summer was Santa Fe, and this post is about a painter I learned about on this visit.
Arthur Haddock was a 20th century landscape painter. Mid-century, he and his wife moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, bought some land and built themselves a pueblo-style adobe house. It was a small house with a shop, where Arthur made picture frames for a living for a few years.
This was a very difficult, unhappy time for the couple. Haddock wrote a suicide note and carried it in his pocket during this time.
His framing shop had two multi-paned windows. He took to blacking out all but one pane at a time in his shop and painting the view from that pane. He did this over and over, day after day, ultimately producing hundreds of postcard-sized oil paintings on pieces of matboard. He stored the little paintings in a box he called his shoebox, tied with a blue ribbon.
Eventually, things got better for him, and he went on to many more years of painting landscapes in New Mexico and Arizona. He kept the shoebox paintings hidden away, refusing to show them publicly and later, even denying their continued existence.
The shoebox paintings became a legend which was not confirmable until after his death, when his widow gave permission for them to be shown to the public. At which point, the little paintings--which were powerful when taken together--merited their own show at the Ernesto Mayans Gallery in Santa Fe.
Haddock was protective of this particular body of his work to the point of denying it's existence while he lived. But he did the most important part: he created the work.
My description of the shoebox paintings is based on Ernesto Mayans' book on Haddock and conversation with the current resident of the house. A slightly different version is contained in the "legend" link, above, which also has a picture of the "shoebox" with paintings.
The photo above I took looking through one of the windows in what was Haddock's framing shop.