A Mysterious Gem

Watercolor by unknown artist

My Own Personal Favorite Art Mystery

I would like to say that this was painted in our backyard, but I would not be telling the truth.  It could have been, had the artist visited here.  It could have been a playful interpretation of our little water garden, with its copper irises, but it is not.

That is about the sum total of what I know about this image, except that I love it.

Nadia and I found it in a dusty antique shop several years back, somewhere in these lower 48 states, probably in Missouri, but possibly in Iowa.  I do remember that I paid about $5 for it, in a little metal frame.  It caught my eye immediately, hanging there among the miscellaneous memories and remnants of other peoples’ lives.  I looked at it, realized it was an original and looked closer, struck by its simplicity and elegance.  It reminds me of some styles of oriental painting, particularly some Chinese and Japanese ink drawings—-seemingly simple, but containing worlds in single brush strokes.  Look at the flowers:

Detail of Watercolor Painting

Detail of Watercolor Painting

These are tiny in the original—less than half an inch across.  A sure hand with a fine brush did this, unhesitatingly, in just a few confident dabs of color.  Look at this small bunch of stems or leaves:

Bunch of stems in watercolor

Detail of Stems or Leaves

Again, less than half an inch across in the original.

Looking at the whole piece, which measure about 4 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches, you see that the painting is mostly “empty” space, but this space is there to be filled with the viewer’s imagination.  It’s not hard to visualize what must have been around this little bit of water and flowers.  So why would the painter waste her/his time insulting our intelligence by filling in what we were perfectly capable of filling in ourselves?  Instead, s/he set the scene, told us what we need to know and respected us enough to leave it at that.  This is another characteristic of certain types of Chinese and Japanese art.

To my mind this is a little masterpiece, a gem of visualization.  The more I look at it, the more it takes hold of me.  I would like to sit next to this little pond.

Except for the signature, I have no clue who the artist is. Try Googling “Paris watercolor” or “Paris artist” sometime and see how far you get.

Watercolor Signature--Paris, '72

Watercolor Signature--Paris, '72

I only know that, to me, this is the work of a fine eye and hand.  I don’t claim to be an expert on art, but sometimes a thing will just jump out and not let me go.  Browsing through that antique shop that day was just such a time.

P.S.  If anyone can tell me anything about this piece, I would love to know more about it.  Email me at n7919g@gmail.com.


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