1910 Woodward sketch of a Window
To the right is Robert Strong Woodward's first known attempt at drawing a window. It is an illustration in a letter he wrote to a dear friend, probably in 1910, while he was a student in Boston. In the letter, he describes the window and his room as follows:
"The jar rests as the one bit of refined beauty in my barren student's room - no, I have a pink primrose in a pot on the broad white windowsill with above it an ebony and silver crucifix. This window looks out upon the shrubbery of a most lovely little court yard, shut from the street by a quaint old-fashioned and high iron grating with double gates."
1910 letter from Robert Strong Woodward
First Studio: Redgate
Robert Strong Woodward outside Redgate Studio
Robert Strong Woodward was paralyzed from the low chest area down from a revolver accident at the age of 20. After a long recovery period in California he returned to his home town, Buckland, Massachusetts, to live at the home of his uncle, Bert Wells. Bert ran a farm on the road between Buckland and Ashfield at approximately the place where the Mohawk Trail Regional School is now located.
Robert converted an outbuilding on the farm into a small studio that he named Redgate. Here he lived alone and started producing illuminations and bookplates to earn enough money to support himself. After a few years he took up oil painting and made large paintings out of the windows of his little studio. It was one of these paintings, Between Setting Sun and Rising Moon,
which first won him recognition as a painter.
"....Robert Strong Woodward of Buckland, unable to get out and search for beautiful subjects, has found one from his own window and treated it in such a successful way that it has secured the Hallgarten prize of $300, and in addition it has the distinction of having been purchased by Mr. Hallgarten. This picture, entitled Between Setting Sun and Rising Moon,
is said to be unusually beautiful in color. With the mellow light of the hour suggested by the name shining through the trees there is given the impression of a strong foreground with the glory of the afterglow pervading the whole picture. If this is Mr. Woodward's first canvas exhibited at the National Academy of Design, New York City, he is to be congratulated upon his unusual success. Visitors to the exhibition next year will surely be looking for the work of this artist."
Greenfield Gazette and Courier, March, 1919
These first paintings were of the woods outside the windows of his studio and were made of the large trees and the stream he could see from these windows. They did not include the frame, sill or glass panes of the window, and thus appear to be done from the outside. One example of these paintings, of which we have a color image, is shown below:
Redgate Studio burned to the ground from a fire started by an overheated woodstove a few days before Christmas in 1922. Most of the paintings stored in the studio were lost in the fire.
Second Studio: Hiram Woodward Place
Hiram Woodward Studio
After the Redgate studio burned, RSW built a second studio less than half a mile up the road toward Ashfield. Due to his confinement to a wheelchair, and the season being winter, it is not surprising that the first painting out of the Hiram Woodward Studio was a landscape view out his studio window named Winter.
At this time, the newspaper clipping to the right is all we have available. Similar to the paintings made from Redgate, it did not contain in the foreground any of the window panes as did the later more famous window paintings. These early paintings can not truly be called window paintings, but are included here for historical reference as to the evolution of this unique style.
The first typical Woodward window painting was made from this second studio in 1925 titled My Winter Shelf .
A similar painting was made of this scene titled The Window. Still Life and a Winter Scene.
There is a provenance essay on these two paintings here.
The next window painting made in his second studio was titled Studio Window.
This was reproduced as a magazine cover for Country Life In America in 1928. A photograph of the magazine cover is shown on the right.
The only other window painting, to our knowledge, made in this studio was really painted outside the studio and titled Under The Summer Window
Hiram Woodward Studio after fire
In 1934, a lightning strike burned this studio to the ground along with numerous paintings. It is unknown if other window paintings were destroyed in this fire. At this point in his career, RSW had not started keeping an accurate diary of his paintings.
Third Studio: The Little Shop Studio
The Little Shop Studio
Interior photo of the Little Shop
In 1931, prior to the disasterous fire at the Hiram Woodward home and studio, RSW purchased a small building known as Boehmer's Mill. He called the building The Little Shop and set it up to use as a studio.
To our knowledge, there was only one window painting made in this studio. It was called The Book Corner.
We are very thankful that the current owner of this wonderful painting contacted us recently and supplied the photograph below.
Fourth Studio: The Southwick Home and Studio
The Southwick Home and Studio
In 1934, after the fire at the Hiram Woodward place, RSW purchased a large property in Buckland Center. It had a separate house and barn and also a former blacksmith shop. The old shop was perfect as a studio with six sets of windows. Each not only provided much natural light, but also provided wonderful subjects for his window paintings.
It was here that RSW perfected his technique not only for landscape oil paintings but for his so-called "Window Paintings." These were relatively easy for him to paint because, being confined to a wheelchair, he could work entirely inside the studio. He painted out of almost all of the windows in his blacksmith shop studio. These paintings were much sought after, especially for professional offices which had no windows. They gave these offices the feeling that you were looking out a window.
Below are current photographs of the windows in this studio followed by a list of the titles of known window paintings he made.