Saturday, September 12, 2009


Mystery Paintings

We may well have an Indian Summer here, but for the moment, temperatures are mild to cool, downright chilly at night, and color is beginning to appear in the swamp maples, the usual heralds of the change of season.

We normally don't see squirrels up at the house--chipmunks yes, squirrels no. But this little fellow was bounding around in front of the house yesterday morning gathering what he could find. As we were getting up, he climbed this tree directly outside our bedroom windows, to breakfast on one of his finds.


I own two paintings that are mysteries to one degree or another. Neither one has a signature and both
, one of them in particular, depict a specific place that nobody has been able to identify so far.

When I moved into my house in Boston's Roslindale neighborhood, I knew that it had been a farmhouse built in 1860, plus or minus, and had been the very first house in the immediate area. Berries and apples had been grown on the property. The owner sold them in Boston as a supplement to his coal and ice business on Atlantic Avenue. This last bit of information came from a ledger book found in the attic that detailed sales figures, the location of the business, etc.

I also found this landscape in the attic, up on the rafters in a place that had been covered by a piece of plywood. There were also a couple of old frames up there and I adapted one to fit it. It hung in my dining room all the years I lived in the house.

Several years later, friends from a different area of Roslindale told me they had also found a painting left behind when they bought their house, the one above. They didn't care for it and offered it to me. The two canvasses made a nice pair as they're within millimeters of each other in size.

There's obviously a story to this painting; the house with the word Riverside painted on it and the big institutional building up on the bald hill in the background are very specific structures. No one's ever been able to identify the shape that suggests some kind of structure behind and to the left of it. The house probably isn't eighteenth century to judge from the four chimneys that suggest wood-burning stoves. Boston has a western suburb called Riverside and the Charles River winds through it so perhaps that's the site, but it's all just speculation.

Neither painting is in good condition. The unpainted areas of the canvasses have been seriously weakened by dry rot and are no longer holding onto the stretcher frames very well. If I want to keep them on the wall, I'll have to have them restored. I don't think for a moment they're important works, but they were done with some skill and I'm very fond of them.


I was very touched by this photo--my son-in-law and my now five week old granddaughter, who seems to be concerned about something to judge from her knit eyebrows.

that is a lovely photo.
What a beautiful blog!!! Glad I found it. Super congrats. I've been a grandmother for 19 years. :D

Cheers! JJ
Re: The Paintings. I would start with going through old photos of the area. Maybe even deeds. The Riverside painting seems to be of an actual place and will probably be easy to find. However, the first painting of the landscape may be a completely fictional painting - drawn from the painters memory and close are you to the northern end of the Appalachian Trail and Mountains.
Really nice picture there at the end. Of course I love the squirrel too.
good site,
I'm catching up after a brief time away! Sounds, by all counts, that you had a wonderful time in the Pacific Northwest. And the photos of your granddaughter are terrific!
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