Monday, February 14, 2011

My Friend

Herb Lee 1915 - 2010

A dozen years ago a group of six artists would meet for lunch at a downtown Sarasota, Florida restaurant. These retired professional artists and illustrators worked in media from bronze sculpture to comic books. As the only non retired in the group, I was the "kid", being in my late 40's.I enjoyed hearing stories from these men who were renowned in their own field. I was accepted maybe because I had arranged art exhibits and secured commissions for most of them. We discussed art, women, the hereafter, anything that guys talk about when they sit around .

The eldest of the group was Herb Lee. Of the lunch bunch, Herb became my closest friend despite the 35 year age difference. Herb was multi talented but his forte was making handmade prints.He had built a replica of an eighteenth century press years before and had once given a demonstration on the early "Today Show" when Dave Garroway was the first host back in the 50's. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy all had a Herb Lee in their personal collections. He was a modest man but did show his pride when he brought out the yellowed clippings and magazine articles featuring the man and his work. Long divorced, his housemate was an Amazon parrot that he bought thirty years before.

Herb could talk of the well known and the obscure artists that he has worked with as owner of the York Art Center in York, Pennsylvania. His art center was known in the Northeast region as the place to see and obtain "cutting edge" art.His was the first gallery to exhibit internationally known artist Jeff Koons.

Herb studied at Yale School of Art and the Art Students League of New York. A member of the C.C.C. and W.P.A., Herb worked on many post office murals throughout Pennsylvania under Roosevelt's W.P.A. project. I found out from his obituary that he was wounded at the landing of Iwo Jima during WWII. He never mentioned that to me.

His children preceded him in death but I he had a full life up until the end as a resident of an assisted living facility in Sarasota. He was creating art all the way to the end. To me, the world is a little less shining without my friend Herb.    Suvo

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