Arthur’s Cows


Arthur’s Cows (WIP) ca 1988, GG

December 28, ‘13

Once upon a time, back in the mid-1980’s, I had the privilege of studying painting with Arthur Getz for almost 3 years when he taught at the Washington (CT) Art Association. 

“Arthur Getz was the most prolific cover artist in the history of The New Yorker magazine. Over a fifty-year period, 1938 to 1988, 213 Getz covers were printed. He also contributed hundreds of “spot” drawings to the magazine.

Former New Yorker art editor Lee Lorenz wrote of Getz: “He drew inspiration equally from the nightclubs of Manhattan and the apple orchards of New England; but his covers, taken as a group, seem really to be about the joy of painting itself. He preferred a high-keyed palette, and laid on his colors with an energy and directness that often led him to the edge of Abstract Expressionism.”

(-from “Family Album:Arthur Getz” – The New Yorker, February 5, 1996)

I’d grown up on The New Yorker magazine, since it came to my house weekly and much about each issue was discussed over the dinner table or amongst my parents and their friends.  My first memories have to do with eagerness to see the cover picture each week and then the cartoons and when I was able to read, I enjoyed ‘Talk of the Town’ and as I matured in my reading skills and tastes, the articles and the short story.  I’ve always been inspired by The New Yorker and still am, today.

I loved all those covers in varying degrees back in those childhood days but my favorites were done by Arthur Getz.  To me, the paintings on his cover always depicted a Zen moment and his skill at depicting such a moment filled me with awe.   I loved the exuberance of the calligraphic lines he used to construct his composition and I loved his exuberant use of color to create the image.  To me, he was saying that the small & insignificant moments that bring on great feeling are powerful, important and worth recording.

The above painting, Arthur’s Cows, (oil on panel, 10”x 14”) was inspired by pencil sketches and a watercolor sketch that I did on a hot Friday morning in early June at a farm in Washington Depot (CT) where Arthur had taken his class that day. 

I grew up in a house next door to a farm and was accustomed to being surrounded by cows.  I was thrilled that morning to be on a farm where there were cows in a pasture on a hillside that was surrounded by stone walls with fence posts stuck in the walls and wire fencing strung on the posts and an old fashioned barway closing the entrance to the pasture.  These cows were very peaceful; I could hear them chewing their cuds and swishing their tails to keep the No-See-ums away.  I could hear Spring birds singing all around me.    The smell of earth and green grass was prevalent but also contained a slight scent of Cow.  There was a huge puddle under the barway.  The puddle was blue from the sky and there was dark, wet mud surrounding the puddle that was full of holes where the cows had gone through and in all those holes, slices of blue where the water had seeped in and reflected the sky.

Arthur made his rounds, going over hill and dale to talk individually to his students, who had all spread out to various places around this farm, to paint one scene or another.   When he came to me, he said that was a brave but difficult composition but that he probably would have tried it too.   


The paintings I’ve been working on are, for the most part, in a place in The Process where they need to dry so the surface is ready for the final work I feel I want to do.  I’ve decided to keep working on the pile of unfinished paintings until I need new supplies and after I order and receive these new supplies, to finish what I’ve started.  I still have left some of the old supplies, so decided to keep working on the unfinished until I totally run out of white paint.  I have enough white paint left for a few more so selected one from the pile that feels ‘new’ to who I am now.   

I feel like an archaeologist, reconstructing something that was started by a person a long time ago in order to learn how that person is who I was & help to define and connect who I am now.   

It sure does get complicated.

Until an hour ago, this painting had no title.  After my memory conversation with Arthur, I’ve decided to call it Arthur’s Cows.  He was right, the composition is difficult, but oh, the pleasure of working it out.


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One Response to Arthur’s Cows

  1. beetleypete says:

    I love the composition here, with the large wooden posts of the fence shown dominant in the foreground. Those famous ‘Gretchen Blues’ are also there too, something I feel I will always recognise in the future. I don’t know anything about New Yorker magazine, but your tale of progressing reading skills, and discussing it with your family sounds like a uniquely American historical snapshot.
    Great stuff. Regards from England, as always, Pete.

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