The following was written by my late wife Elaine. She wrote a long book, a diary really, from which this is one passage:
I have a folder of prints of famous paintings in the Washington National Gallery of Art, which I collected as 35-cent souvenirs of trips to the Gallery.
One summer I took the five children there and they each picked out a print of one of the pictures they liked best. One of their choices was Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley, 1738 to 1815. It’s dramatic; it tells a picture-story of seven men in a row boat, fighting angry waters, trying to spear one of several sharks going after the man who had fallen out of the boat. His clothes have been bitten off, and the underwater leg subtly appears to be partly gone, and the water is reddish. It may be the most famous action painting in the gallery; it’s no surprise that it would appeal to young people.
I’ll add that just this past week, September 2001, was the “week of the shark attacks” up and down the Atlantic coast. Cape Hatteras was the site of one fatal attack on swimmers, killing a man and injuring his wife.
The Principal’s Hoop-de-doo Over My Display of the J. S. Copley Print
During my year at Bradley school, I tried to decorate my room in educational ways, as all teachers do, and decided that “real art” from a “real gallery” by world- famous artists would be a classy theme for the bulletin board versus some of the ridiculous coloring-book type “art” I often saw on school bulletin boards.
So I proudly put up my display of several famous paintings, and to my surprise, the principal came in one day and in a nice way suggested that he didn’t think “that painting” was very appropriate (i.e., the John Singleton Copley painting). I’m sure it was the “naked man,” which showed nothing; I don’t think it was the blood.
I was disappointed that he was so ignorant.
I wasn’t confrontational in those days, and didn’t even ask him what his objection was; I just gave in and took it down and replaced it with something much less interesting.
He was a Baptist. From my own life’s experiences, I know that that was the reason for his narrow-minded outlook, and I felt he was wrong, and was hurt because my judgment was questioned. And also, I knew that if any of those fourth graders were to ever see Watson and the Shark, a famous action painting from a world-famous gallery, by one of the most famous artists who ever lived, it was then!
To be continued…
About the Author: RD Blakeslee is a nonagenarian in West Virginia who built his net worth by only investing in that which can be enjoyed during acquisition and throughout life, as opposed to papers in a drawer, like stocks and bonds. You can read more about him here.
Photos: Courtesy of the Blakeslee Family