I knew and saw Arthur a few times a year when I was a child and occasionally, but less, as I was growing. My father and Arthur shared many a beer together. Arthur would show up during the fall and winter holidays. I recall sitting beside him on the piano bench at the home of another mutual friend one winter. Arthur was playing an exquisite piece of music. I asked him if he took lessons when he was my age. (I was about 8 or 9 at the time) He responded that he had never had any lessons. I was awestruck! His music was nothing less than beautiful!
One winter while Arthur was at our house (and while visiting the homes of many others) he plucked one of the aluminum branches from our Christmas tree for his chandelier. We later visited Arthur at his own apartment on the Plaza. We found all the various pieces he had collected throughout his travels to the homes of many friends all fashioned into his own sort of upside-down Christmas tree hanging from his chandelier. His creativity just abounded.
Yes, he and my father both drank more than anyone should. But as a child I was drawn by his gentleness and kindness. On more than one occasion he related that his mother had twice had him committed to what he called “The Funny Farm”. And then with a huge smile he said, “The important thing is not whether you get in there or not, it is IF you can get out!” As I grew and remembered his statement I began to understand it more clearly.
Arthur only spoke well of people, with the exception of all and any that had a love for abstract art. He was quite candid (at least to us and in our home) about his feeling that it was nonsense. There was a time he told of being asked over and over again to create a piece of art for an abstract art competition. He stated that he had repeatedly declined. When the request just kept coming at him he agreed. However, as he told the story, he would prove the folly of it. This is how it was explained to my family and myself. Arthur bought a very long piece of canvas and laid it stretched to its length on a barn floor. (I do not know whose barn) He then related how he took his artist brushes and dipped heavily and individually in each color of paint and flung it at the canvas, as he would walk by. Then he would do this again and again each day as he walked by or around the canvas. On the floor he said he set several sheet cake pans each with a different color of paint in it. He would let his dog Duncan, a short dog with long hair, walk through the pans and wherever he wanted to roam across the canvas. Between the two of them they filled the canvas with color, shapes, and textures. After all this “foolishness” as Arthur called it, he won first place! He said that surely proved his point.
When I got married my father told Arthur that he wanted him to paint something for me as a wedding gift. He did. I have it in my home. Arthur said it is “A Bride Looking For Her Star.”
– Kathleen Johnson