George Gardner Symons, 1865 - 1930
The one fellow artist who was most influential in the life and professional career of Robert Strong Woodward was George Gardner Symons. He was born in Chicago, IL, of Jewish descent, with the last name of Simons in 1865. Soon after his paintings began to sell he changed his name to Symons and left off the first name of "George."
The old covered bridge at the end of "Four Mile Square" over the North River
in Colrain, MA. For fear that the raging flood waters of the 1938 hurricane and
flood would take down this bridge, causing it to float downstream and knock
down the famous Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, this wooden bridge
was set afire and destroyed. It is now replaced by a steel arch bridge.
He initially studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, then in Europe returning to New York City in 1909, where he made many sketches of the city. His next move was to Colrain, MA, where he became enthralled with the mountains, valleys and streams of Western Massachusetts, especially the Deerfield and the Connecticut Rivers. To the left is a typical Symons winter oil painting of the covered North River Bridge in Colrain.
Home and studio of Gardner Symons in the early 1900s
Opalescent River - An oil painting by Gardner Symons, 1909
Newspaper clipping about Gardner Symons
and Robert Strong Woodward.
Very near the end of this bridge the Symons studio still stands on the road to Colrain from Shelburne Falls, a small house close to the road and always painted yellow.
While living in Colrain he traveled widely around Massachusetts, making oil paintings which won him many prizes, such as the Carnegie prize of the National Academy of Design in 1909 for Opalescent River, shown here.
Shimmering Tree Shadows by Gardner Symons
Note handwritten by Martha Johnson on back of Shimmering Tree Shadows print. "This is the one
Galen took me over to see when Mr. Symons had it half-finished. The scene is over in Shattuckville."
This print of Shimmering Tree Shadows by Gardner Symons was found in the Woodward studio. The note on the back refers to RSW's friend Galen Johnson, who took his wife, Martha, over to the Symons studio in Colrain to see the painting on which he was working.
In 1911 Robert Strong Woodward, now paralyzed from the middle of his chest down, moved back to Buckland and converted an old milkhouse to a small studio apartment on the farm of his uncle. He called this studio Redgate.
"RSW painted for more than a year before he showed his work to anyone. Finally he mustered courage enough to take a number of canvases to Gardner Symons who lived in the neighboring town of Colrain. Young Woodward, while hopeful of a word of encouragement from this one-time prominent artist in the American School of Naturalism, was scarcely prepared to hear Symons urge him to send a picture to the National Academy's Annual. What astonished him more was to have his canvas accepted and actually hung on the same wall as pictures by the day's notables. One year later when he won the Academy's First Hallgarten Prize - the painting was purchased by Mr. Hallgarten - he considered his career to be effectively launched."
From Robert Strong Woodward in Heath by Alistair Maitland
Winter Brook - by Gardner Symons
Many of RSW's first paintings were made looking out of the windows of this little studio into the woods behind. Most were large, 40 x 50 inches in size. It was about the year 1915 that he decided to seek the opinion of the well-known local painter, Gardner Symons, concerning his work. He took several of his large paintings over to the Symons studio to be critiqued. Mr. Symons was greatly impressed and advised him to send several of them to an exhibition in Boston. Here they received much acclaim in the year 1918. The following year, 1919, he sent the large oil Between Setting Sun and Rising Moon to the yearly exhibit of the National Academy of Design in New York City. This painting won the First Hallgarten Prize for this year and was even purchased by Mr. Hallgarten himself for his personal collection. Woodward's professional career was now off and running. Many articles about him were written and he began to exhibit widely.
Silence and Fleeting Light - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
45 x 60, sold at auction in Asheville, NC in 2007 for $14,500.
Early Snow - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
Winter - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
First Snowfall - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
The Winter Sun - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
New England Mills - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
Where Waters Flow and Long Shadows Lie - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
An oil painting by Gardner Symons
At about this time Gardner Symons, being a natural traveler picked up his brushes and easel and moved westward, making countless paintings and sketches in the midwest, in Arizona and California. His paintings are hung in numerous museums around the country and abroad.
Southern California Coast - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
The Bell San Xavier Mission - An oil painting by Gardner Symons
He died in New Jersey in 1930.