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I really only wrote this post so I could use the word “Mamaroneck.”

061373

June 13, 1973. Mets and Yankees win. The Yanks are in first, but it’s a dogfight.

Some aficionados of New York City delight in the neighborhoods, nooks and crannies of the city proper. They can tell you exactly where Gerritsen Beach is, or the pleasures to be found in New Dorp, or the right combination of public transportation to take to get to Maspeth.

I’ve always been kinda ambivalent about New York City itself. Plus, I’ve had some of the happier times of my life in the suburbs of big cities — whether it was visiting Stamford as a kid, or living and working in the western suburbs of Boston as a young man.

(If you buy Rochester, N.Y., as a “big city,” you could say I spent my entire childhood pleasantly in that mode as well — identifying with the city, reading and watching its news, listening to its radio stations, but from a distance.)

So I’m not that attached to New York City proper.

No, my interest lies with that sweeping, humming, densely populated region called the Tri-State Area … all those bedroom communities whose names bespeak both a close attachment to the big city, and a certain separation from it.

They’re places that got blacked out in ’65. Places where people drive — or drove — station cars. Places where generations of fiction writers have set their comedies (or, perhaps more often, tragedies) of manners. Places sufficiently caught up in New York’s sprawl that their own names have attained a certain amount of familiarity as well.

Places like Secaucus, and Pound Ridge, and New Canaan, and Scarsdale (whose name I cannot hear without thinking, “Where the hell am Iiiii?”), and Englewood Cliffs, and Pelham, and Tenafly, and Massapequa …

… and, yes, Mamaroneck.

I don’t actually know anything about Mamaroneck; I’ve certainly never been there. I have a vague sense of how to pronounce it (heavy on the second syllable), and I know it’s in the Holy Sprawl someplace, and I figure there’s probably a commuter rail station there.

(There is, Wiki says. There’s also a well-known golf course. The town is in southern Westchester County, on the water, and Google Maps says it’s about 25 minutes from Stamford in Sunday-night traffic on Route 95.)

I’ve written before about the various painting and drawing classes my grandfather took, especially following his retirement in 1971.

Bob Calrow was a Connecticut-based watercolorist who taught a number of the painting classes my grandfather took. He was apparently very good: This August 1973 article from a Tri-State Area newspaper mentions that Calrow had won 50 prizes for his work in the previous four years. (You can see Calrow’s name mentioned in several of the images here.)

In October of that year, the New York Times noted that Calrow would be leading an educational painting trip to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas near year’s end. I can’t imagine my grandpa gave an expedition like that any serious thought, but I wonder if the idea tempted him at all.

Anyway, getting back to the calendar entry at hand, my grandpa probably headed out to Mamaroneck to check out his well-known teacher’s work in person and maybe mingle for a minute or two. Perhaps there were other artists on display whose work he found instructive as well.

Since my grandpa hadn’t even met his second grandson yet, he didn’t realize he was feeding his second grandson’s geography jones.

Sure was thoughtful of him, though.

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When you’re a kid, you never stop to think how your parents and grandparents achieved their particular talents.

If I thought about it at all, I probably thought that my grandfather (my brother and I called him “Drawing Boy”) had been effortlessly turning out painted canvases and sketched caricatures for decades, with as much inborn natural grace as he used to remove a splinter.

I didn’t have any concept of the work he’d put into his artistic skills. He’d just always been doing it.

Discovering his daily calendars and some of his personal journals has brought into better focus the effort he put into improving his art.

I can’t ever remember seeing him go to art class — maybe because he would have blown off such events when I was in town, to spend time with his family.

His calendars have schooled me on the number of classes he took in the ’60s and ’70s. In the early days, his classes were simply a hobby. As he got older and retired, they filled other needs: They also became a chance to get out of the house where he spent most of his time, meet like-minded new people, feed his head with knowledge, and relax.

As with his other public endeavors, I wonder whether anyone from those long-ago art classes remembers him. Is there someone still kicking around Fairfield County who sat in the same room with an earnest, friendly retired draftsman from Springdale? Someone who chatted with him about Vietnam or OPEC or Bobby Valentine during breaks from the easel?

If there is … well, the Comments box is at the bottom of this post.

In the meantime, I’ll devote the rest of this week’s post to drawings and notes from my grandpa’s sketchbook, spanning roughly the years 1966 to 1974. (Some are dated, some are not.)

There’s probably nothing here you won’t find in the journals of a half-million people who have taken art classes over the years.

Still, the drawings mean something to me, just because they represent my grandpa simultaneously at work and at play, learning and relaxing, unwinding and improving … and, above all, doing something near to his heart.

I didn’t see a lot of that firsthand as a kid, but I enjoy seeing it now.

Undated, but one of the first shots I have from the art notebook. My grandpa comes face to face with an eternally difficult lesson: Technique is just a means to express what you have to say.

Undated, but one of the first shots I have from the art notebook. My grandpa comes face to face with an eternally difficult lesson: Technique is just a means to express what you have to say.

Oct. 24, 1966. Learning the formal basics of perspective.

Oct. 24, 1966. Learning the formal basics of perspective.

Oct. 17, 1966. Don't worry, I'm not gonna show you every single page of detail from his sketchbook. Just found this interesting. Wonder if people taking art class today get the same primer on colors?

Oct. 17, 1966. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna show you every single page of detail from his sketchbook. Just found this interesting. Wonder if people taking art class today get the same primer on colors?

March 4, 1968. "DON'T MAKE UNINTERESTING LINE." Easy to say, hard to live by.

March 4, 1968. “DON’T MAKE UNINTERESTING LINE.” Easy to say, hard to live by. (This entire blog post might be an uninteresting line. Sorry, folks. I haven’t taken any blogging classes.)

Circa 1969. Some interesting aphorisms here (whoops, forgot to mention that you can click these to see them larger.) Wonder when my grandpa achieved the 100-watercolor threshold?

Circa 1969. Some interesting aphorisms here. (Whoops, forgot to mention that you can click these pictures to see them larger.) Wonder when my grandpa achieved the 100-watercolor threshold?

Circa 1969. I can't remember any painting of my grandpa's in which he went into such detail on trees.

Circa 1969. I can’t remember any painting of my grandpa’s in which he went into such detail on trees. His poplar looks kinda fake, but I totally buy his birch. No dogwoods, unfortunately.

I kinda love this one; it looks like my grandfather is creating a windblown New England village from scratch, like a merciful yet puritan God.

I kinda love this one; it looks like my grandfather is creating a windblown New England hill-village from scratch, like a merciful yet puritan God. In my mind this is somewhere near the Quabbin Reservoir.

We skip ahead to January 1973. The teacher, who asks, "Who likes dirty snow?," has clearly never lived near the Great Lakes in April.

We skip ahead to January 1973. Some hippy-dippiness interspersed with some useful tips. The teacher, who asks, “Who likes dirty snow?,” has clearly never lived near the Great Lakes in April.

Year-end 1973. It ain't cheap being an artist, yo.

Year-end 1973. It ain’t cheap being an artist, yo.

Year-end 1974. Note that he's got some money incoming to offset his expenses.

Year-end 1974. Note that he’s got some money incoming to offset his expenses. Who bought “Full Steam Ahead” and “Reflections On A Rainy Day,” and are they still on somebody’s wall?

Back to February 1973. Some useful tips on surf -- though, again, I am not sure my grandpa ever availed himself of them in his personal art.

Back to February 1973. Some useful tips on surf — though, again, I am not sure my grandpa ever availed himself of them in his personal art.

July 10, 1973. I doubt my grandpa hunted or spotted ducks once in his lifetime, so this lesson must have been useful. Somebody's darling grandson is five days old.

July 10, 1973. I doubt my grandpa hunted or spotted ducks once in his lifetime, so this lesson on marshes and estuaries must have been useful. Somebody’s darling grandson was five days old.

Sept. 18, 1973. The birthday of a friend of mine who grew up in Rochester but whom I didn't meet until college. The sketch at bottom predates a painting.

Sept. 18, 1973. The birthday of a friend of mine who grew up in Rochester but whom I didn’t meet until college. The sketch at bottom predates a painting in my personal collection.

One last from mid-September 1973. We leave my grandpa contemplating the intersection of metropolis and tugboat.

One last from mid-September 1973. We leave my grandpa contemplating the intersection of metropolis and tugboat. Is there any god or cosmic force that disapproves of a humble tugboat?

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I don’t know much about my grandpa’s dating history, which is fine with me; I don’t need or want to know that.

I do know that — no matter what was going on in the real world — my grandpa went through a period when women were an ongoing source of inspiration at his artist’s table.

I believe most if not all of these drawings date to the mid-1930s, many years before the Hope Street calendars, and before my grandpa got married or moved to Stamford. (He was living in Springfield, Mass., then.)

He did an occasional side business as a commercial artist, and some of the drawings below might have been made for that purpose. Others might have been made as part of art classes.

And others … well, who knows? Bill Blumenau was a red-blooded young man, and maybe he just liked to make beautiful dames appear out of the air.

A gallery, then, of The Women Of Bill Blumenau:

The geometric quality of this one -- is that the right word? -- leads me to wonder if it began life as a class drawing exercise.

The geometric quality of this one — is that the right word? — leads me to wonder if it began life as a class drawing exercise. (Sorry for the intrusive folds in some of these pictures, but they’ve been folded up for 80 years.)

 

This one, meanwhile, looks like a rough sketch of something a florist might have commissioned -- or something my grandpa sketched out in hopes of selling to a florist.

This one, meanwhile, looks like a rough sketch of something a florist might have commissioned — or something my grandpa sketched out in hopes of selling to a florist.

 

Wonder what 19-year-old this was meant for? It's clearly a rough sketch, yet at the same time, he sketched in the woman's body pretty extensively.

Wonder what 19-year-old this was meant for? It’s clearly a rough sketch, yet at the same time, he shaded in the woman’s body pretty extensively.

 

This face, with its heavy lids and puckered mouth, looks like an exaggerated version of the face in the florist ad mockup above. (Which leads to another thought: I imagine most of these faces are based on pix of actresses clipped from magazines, not on real-life models. Can any movie buffs in the audience tell me if any of these sketches look like famous actresses of the day?)

This face, with its heavy lids and puckered mouth, looks like an exaggerated version of the face in the florist ad mockup above. (I imagine most of these faces are based on pix of actresses clipped from magazines, not on real-life models. Can any movie buffs in the audience tell me if any of these sketches look like famous actresses of the day?)

 

This one's pretty; not sure what else to say about it.

This one’s pretty; not sure what else to say about it.

 

The only dated picture in the collection: Sept. 24, 1933.

The only dated picture in the collection: Sept. 24, 1933.

 

The image of a woman as a perfect factory-produced good just waiting to be unwrapped would not play well with the women I've known. Times change.

The image of a woman as a perfect factory-produced good, unsullied in any way and just waiting to be unwrapped, would not play well with the women I’ve known. Times change.

 

A couple of dance-related sketches, now.

A couple of dance-related sketches, now.

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Finally, my grandpa illustrated at least one catalog for Foerster’s Furriers, a long-ago Springfield business. There’s nothing particularly distinctive about these drawings — neither Foerster nor my grandpa wanted to break new ground, apparently. But, they still seem like suitable additions to the Gallery of Dames.

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I find myself without words this week, and last week’s post leads nicely into a further discussion of the art of Bill Blumenau.

So — with the help of my dad, who took the pix — I’ll devote this week’s installment to a display of some of my grandfather’s paintings and drawings.

It’s possible that some of these were displayed in the 1975 art exhibit I wrote about last week. They might also have been shown in other exhibits in Stamford-area public places in the 1970s and ’80s.

Nowadays, they stay at home. But you can come into the gallery. You can even click the pictures to see ’em bigger, if you want.

Allegedly, the two kids are modeled on my brother and I, dropped into an unfamiliar setting.

Allegedly, the two kids are modeled on my brother and I, dropped into an unfamiliar setting. If you read this blog regularly, you’ve seen that red tuque before.

Here's another painting I've mentioned (but not shown) on the blog before.

Here’s another painting I’ve mentioned (but not shown) on the blog before.

No backstory on this one. Looks like something my grandfather might have photographed in Maine.

No backstory on this one. Looks like something my grandfather might have photographed in Maine.

I wonder where the inspiration for this came from. Personal travels in Stamford or Springfield, Mass., or maybe someone else's photo of New York City?

I wonder where the inspiration for this came from. Personal travels in Stamford or Springfield, Mass., or maybe someone else’s photo of New York City?

I enjoy the boringness of this moment in time - a guy doing his yardwork, perhaps, going into his crumbling back shed. I also love the tiny red splash of the handkerchief in his pocket.

I enjoy the mundanity of this moment in time. I also love the tiny red splash of the handkerchief in his pocket.

Dunno whether this was based on a picture or whether it just came out of my grandpa's imagination. I believe he usually painted from photos.

Always liked this one, myself.

This is based on one of the Keuka Lake pix taken around 1983 and mentioned, but not included, in this post.

This is based on one of the Keuka Lake pix taken around 1983 and mentioned, but not included, in this post.

This appears to me to be drawn, rather than painted, so I'll put it in for variety's sake.

This appears to me to be drawn, rather than painted, so I’ll put it in for variety’s sake.

One last from the coast. The ocean has probably claimed this place by now, wherever it was.

One last from the coast. The ocean has probably claimed this place by now, wherever it was.

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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.

September 19 and 20, 1975.

September 19 and 20, 1975.

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.

A rocky coast in Maine, circa 1971.

A rocky coast in Maine, circa 1971. No barns, but plenty of painterly ambience.

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.

A not-very-well-photographed sample of Bill Blumenau's work.

A not-very-well-photographed sample of Bill Blumenau’s work.

The same, only different.

The same, only different. This entry really deserves better photography … but.

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?

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