Friday, June 06, 2008

grandfather on great-grandfather

In a recent email Sara mentioned to me that she didn't really know much about Chester Loomis besides what we see in photographs and in his art. I am always on the quest for tidbits of information about him that will help make him more real to us, his great-grandchildren (see below for my post on my most recent research find).

I have a typescript copy of our grandfather Charles Dana Loomis' autobiography; it has been on my list of things to transcribe and send to everyone one of these years. But every time I start I get bogged down in the tedium -- sorry Grandpa -- of the text. Except for a few pages at the beginning and end, he doesn't mention his family at all. For nearly 250 pages he relates the details of his wonderful education, his esteemed professors, and his work in the architectural world. He does, however, talk about his father, Chester, for several paragraphs, and I share his words here. His love and respect for his father shine through.

"...Of course the first and usually the most vital imprint left on the tastes, instincts, and prejudices comes from the Father and Mother. In the first rush of a child's growth, little else interferes with the full effect of these two. Later come the teachers, companions, contemporaries, and even, to most of us, memorable elders. But one must begin with the best and fairest attempt to see these two truly. It is, of couse, apparent that to go further to try and explain them in turn by what made them runs beyond experience into hearsay and tradition. So we strive for an objective picture of them.

Father was above all a gentle man. Any act or word of his that might harm another was anathema. Of a palcid and phlegmatic disposition with nerves of iron, it never occurred to him that the world was full of people who had no objection to hurting others, or whose nerves sang like bow strings at a touch. He loved fun, and to him the play of delicate wit, and especially fancy, were meat and drink. He loved nature and little hidden out of door things, the birds, the beasts, and plants, more particularly if they were somehow modest, retiring, and a little hard to come up with. The flamboyant and the blatant left him cold. He looked upon the grandiosity with a dim eye. A complete extravert [sic], the things about him took all his attention, and neither self confidence nor self esteem was important enough to command his interest or his efforts. It is needless to say that the world of pushing men into which he was born rarely took time to examine this hidden man.

Left fatherless as a young man, with a competence which made it possible, he turned quickly to his artistic interest, and in the Paris of the [18]70's became one of the many promising young painters whose work was well hung in the Paris Salons, and which Americans were glad to take into their homes. Returned to America, the background of his American contemporaries in Paris furnished him a promising foothold in New York. In a fairly long life he painted and drew much that was worthy, some things that were very moving, and a few that were inherent failures. Always his failures were on efforts to produce the show piece, the dramatic, or the humdrum. His Mother Goose, if it could be reprinted, would still be the delight of all children. Wherever he could find the gay or whimsical his touch was sure.

It must have been his love for little hidden things as well as a love of sunlit water and pastoral scenes that turned him to trout fishing. Let summer weather promise just ahead, and he must be off to Beaverkill, the Lamoille, Maine, or New Hampshire, with his rod cases and fly books, and leaders boxes and waders, but no less with his water colors and his sketching kit. To him, the choosing of a fly, the casting of a fly, the playing of a fish on gossamer tackle were matters of the highest art, no less than the production of those luminous and tender water colors of the streams and fields and hills that he rejoiced to live with.

The social scene as such to him was dull. He was without the desire to shine, but with people who shared some of his delicate wit and gayety, he blossomed, and with farmers and fishermen, the earthy and direct, the unpreoccupied, he was at home and comfortable.

In a world, for him, of declining fortunes and disappointment, or disillusionment and anxiety he lived and died, steady, unperturbed, uncomplaining, and courageous. Among the fading hope and in the long descent to age, he found a tranquility and an inner happiness that saw him through."

NOTE: The watercolor above, painted by Chester, is of a dapper man fishing -- perhaps a self-portrait? The photo is of Chester with his first grandchild, Esther Barbara, daughter of Charles and Dorothy. They appear to be mutually delighted with one another. The photo was taken in 1923, the year before his death, and may have been taken by Grandma Loomis.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Loomises, my name is Vincent Casey. I recently purchased #6 Old North Road in Washington, CT. The survey indicated that the house is called Loomis Cottage. From my reading on the web and on your blog, it appears that the house was once owned by Dorothy Abbott Loomis, your grandmother and the daughter-in-law of Chester Loomis. Did I get that right? I also read on your blog that one of your family members has old pictures of the place. I would love to see these and recieve any information that you might have about the house and its former occupants. I also understand that your grandmother owned the house next door, #4, which is the more significant house. #6 has been neglected and I intend to restore it as much as possible so your information would help me greatly. Many thanks. Vincent Casey (