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leathermandetailWildflowers in the Leatherman: pink lady slippers, trout lilies, violets and anemones.

The outdoors and farm life would be part and parcel of Charlotte’s paintings, as well as a love for the American daily scene. Many fields stretched across her panels, marked by furrows, dotted by barns and farmers. The woods were never far away, nor the wildflowers.

The entire Leatherman painting.

The entire Leatherman painting.

In kindergarten, she drew a horse on the blackboard one day, which she humorously described as “extra long!” The teacher, Mrs. Griffin, was so delighted by it that she called the Sternbergs and had them come to school to see it. This, Charlotte later said, was the official beginning of her career as an artist.

A horse in Holiday Vistors, not extra long.

A horse, not extra long.

After that, she drew, and drew, and kept on drawing.

Her childhood was relaxed, and quite fearless. After school, she’d put her fox terrier, Tina, in the basket of her bike, and ride all over exploring. She’d go to the cider mill, or the fresh water spring, or the woods. Local rambles ever after fired Charlotte’s imagination. She went walking with her grandmother to see the early spring wildflowers, along the gravel-strewn slopes of Meriden’s Hanging Hills.  She particularly loved hepaticas, fuzzy-leaved little plants blooming in white, pink, purple, and blue on the second week in April. She also found trilliums, trailing arbutus, bloodroot, rue anemone, and other delights.  In the Leatherman, wildflowers grace the foreground, and are prominently featured in the Enchantment paintings.  Along the side of the rural road, she found wonder and surprise throughout her life. Others, then as now, drove by—but she stopped when she could—and looked at everything.

An hepatica plant, from Wikipedia.

An hepatica plant, from Wikipedia.