Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Story of a Drawing and the Passing of Time: from the Real, to a Drawing, to the Real

The Story of a Drawing and a Knitted Hat
The Hat, 1976, Graphite Drawing by Gregory Dunham, Private Collection

Paris 1970
Nearly 41 years ago, on an extended stay in Paris during the winter of 1970, besides the outdoor produce markets, one of my favorite spots to visit was the Jardin du Luxembourg. I loved to watch the children sailing their pond boats, the kids on the carousel reaching for the ring with their sticks, old gentlemen playing boules, young mothers and nannies pushing strollers, lovers walking arm in arm and the many people on benches watching, reading or eating. They were all a wealth of material for future paintings. On one such excursion I noticed a young boy riding a pedal cart, wearing a knit cap and scarf with an elephant design.
Little Boy in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris 1970, Gregory Dunham photograph

I took a photo of him and stored the memory away in my mind, till six years later, in 1976, when I did a graphite drawing and a watercolor of the little boy in his hat. Both the drawing and the watercolor sold from a show I had that year at the Guild of Boston Artists.

Now the most interesting part of the story begins. Ten years later in 1986, we learned we were about to have a son, whom we would name Stow after my friend and mentor Stow Wengenroth. Giving thought to a birth announcement, I suggested we use my drawing of the young boy from ten years earlier. Unfortunately, I had no photographic record of the drawing or the watercolor, but I was able to contact the buyer of the drawing and she agreed to let me borrow it back for the announcement. Sadly, I was unable to keep track of the collector who purchased the watercolor and as a result do not know its whereabouts.

As the story continues, two years later, after the arrival of our daughter Abby some friends held a baby shower for us. One of our friends had had a hat, similar to the one on the announcement, originally worn by the little boy in Paris, knit as a gift for Stow. When we placed it on his head we were struck by the resemblance to my drawing and to the Parisian boy from nineteen years earlier.

Stow in "The Hat", 1989, Gregory Dunham Photo

Detail: Little Boy in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris 1970, Gregory Dunham photograph

I'll end my story of the passage of time from the real, to a drawing, to the real here. Stow turned 24 this year. The drawing is 34 years old and the little Parisian boy is probably about 43 by now and for all I know may have a little boy of his own wearing a similar hat.


  1. Very interesting story, Gregory. Why did you contact the buyer and not just do another drawing? Just curious.

  2. Karen, I don't think it even occurred to me to do another drawing at that time. That was the image I wanted and all I needed to borrow it for was for the printer to make a reproduction for the announcement. If I were planning to make a lithograph of it, I would have redrawn it on stone, but at the time, that was not the case. I really didn't have a need to redraw it, when it was available for me to borrow.

  3. "I love Paris in the winter..."

    Lovely image and year.