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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Art Show in the Barn

Howard Simon is not the first, or the only, artist whose life's work is stored with my father. So, in an attempt to sort, clean and restore several portfolios hidden in the eves, I curated a small showing of this American illustrator, teacher, author, print-maker, painter and sculptor.
Simon was most famous for his work in oils and woodcuts in the 1930's and 40's. As a teenager he studied at the National Academy of Design and went on to the New York Academy of Arts and the Academie Julian in Paris. While in Paris in the 1920's he met his first wife, Charlie May. Together they lived briefly in San Francisco and homesteaded in the Arkansas' Ozark Mountains. Simon traveled for art shows and eventually left the Ozarks for good. He met his second wife and collaborator, the author Mina Lewiton in New York.
Starting in 1950 Simon taught as an adjunct professor at NYU for twenty years, and, after spending summers in the Hudson valley, he spent the last ten years with his third wife, Pony Bouche, teaching art at the Barlow School in Amenia.

Much of his work was burned in a studio fire at Barlow in 1978, and the remaining was held for sale at Simon's death in 1979. So the paintings we have are the survivors and the remnants. Perhaps a mix of personal favorites, like those hung in his own home, and the overlooked. It is a pleasure to see even this small portion of the collection up and on the walls!

Simon illustrated more than 100 books written by others and wrote several himself. His first two wives wrote children's literature, and it is interesting to see the change of media and style Simon used over the decades. He went from Conte crayon and pastel drawings to his mid-career ink line and tonal wash drawings, and, in his later years, woodcut engravings.
One of my favorite of his books is the one Simon wrote and illustrated in the 1970 that told of his homesteading years in the Ozarks during the American economic depression. It is full of how-to descriptions and whimsical stories of neighbors.  Cabin on the Ridge . We have a bound sketchbook of all his sketched used for the book!

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