If you’d been in Stamford, Connecticut, around this time 39 years ago, you would have seen a side of Bill Blumenau this blog has never entirely captured.
In fact, if you’d really been on the ball, you could have picked up a Bill Blumenau original for your living-room wall.
Talk about lost opportunities.
My brother and I called my grandfather “Drawing Boy,” a name my brother coined to describe his artistic proclivities.
And he did draw: My parents still have a colored charcoal portrait he did in the 1930s, and he drew handmade birthday and holiday cards well into the 1990s. The card he did to celebrate my engagement is on display upstairs in the guest room as I write this.
He also won local awards for his photography, a story longtime readers might remember. He was more into photography than painting when my dad was growing up in the ’50s, by my dad’s recollection.
At some point — probably after his kids moved out in the mid-to-late 1960s — the balance of his artistic interest tipped more toward oil, acrylic and watercolor painting.
His calendars from the late ’60s on include several references to painting and art classes. His photographs from those years include landscapes and scenery that he shot with an eye toward turning them into paintings.
(Barns were favorites of his. Among his photos, there exists a decaying envelope full of snapshots of barns in various stages of collapse.)
And, as early as I can remember, the bedroom at 1107 Hope Street that used to be my aunt’s had been converted into a makeshift studio, with an aluminum folding table set out to hold his supplies and an easel pushed back into the corner when the kids came to visit.
It appears that, once he’d been working in a format for a while, my grandpa was not shy about putting his work in front of others to see.
His entries in the local paper’s photography contest, detailed in the blog post linked above, are examples. So are the local art shows and exhibitions that begin to pop up on his calendars in the late 1960s and continue into the middle of the next decade.
In the early fall of 1975, his work was on display at one of Stamford’s snazziest new addresses, One Landmark Square.
The building, also known as Landmark Tower (hence the “L. Tower” on the calendar entry), had been completed just two years earlier. At 21 stories high, it ranked as Stamford’s tallest building until 2009.
I’ve seen several mentions of the Stamford Art Association holding exhibitions there over the years. (I emailed the art association, trying to find out if Bill Blumenau was ever a member, but never heard back. Alas.)
My guess is that my grandpa might have had one or two of his paintings displayed alongside the works of others as part of a group art show.
That would make sense — bringing a touch of color and some more foot traffic to the new local skyscraper, while giving local artists a distinctive platform to show off their work. And certainly, my grandpa was not well-known enough outside of his own house to command an entire show of his own work.
I don’t know whether my grandpa sold any of his paintings from this show. My limited knowledge of such things suggests there is usually a price tag available for the art on display, and if an art lover wants to make an offer, free enterprise runs its course.
I like the thought that somebody somewhere in western Connecticut has a Bill Blumenau original on their wall, or even in their attic, as a result of one of these kinds of events.
My grandpa’s painting style was realistic, of the sort that would have pleased a general audience. I find it easy to imagine someone liked his work enough to want to bring it home. It is perhaps a long shot to think that one of his paintings is still up in someone’s living room … but I find it a pleasant thought.
At some point when my parents finally downsize, my house will be home to the world’s largest collection of Bill Blumenau’s paintings. Not sure what I’ll do then.
Hold an art exhibit, maybe?