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Know of an artist named Art Seller? I do now.
April 5, 2011 7:36 AM   Subscribe

I posted this question about 2 ½ years ago and I wanted to give a followup and say “thanks”.

So, as stated in the question, I was moved by a print that I had seen in an office about 15 years ago, and was looking for more information on the artist, Arthur Seller. I had searched the internet in vain since that time, looking for anything on the artist; biographical info, other prints, that particular print - whatever I could find I would be happy about. Finally, I decided to give up and ask for your help. As you can see from the few answers, it wasn’t for lack of trying or my poor searching, there just wasn’t much about him to be found.

Months passed, and one day I received an email from Mathowie informing me that someone had contacted him regarding the post and he was forwarding their message:
“One of your postings was looking for the artist Arthur Seller. He is my father. If you want more information, you can reach me at …”

I was of course excited, but since my wife and I just had our second child a month before, and constructing a reply that I was comfortable with would take several agonizing hours of writing/editing/rewriting, it got put at the bottom of the list where it taunted me on a daily basis. I finally made myself sit down and write back, exactly one year after I posted the question.

A couple of days later, I received a reply from his daughter, Wendy, with the following biographical information (reprinted with her permission):

“My father was born in 1918 and spent his teen years in foster homes in Massachusetts. He was trained at the Massachusetts College of Art where he received a degree in Graphic Design. He was very strong at design and calligraphy, and worked at first in Boston before moving to NYC. He became one of the Head Art Supervisors at Young & Rubicam in New York, which (at the time) was the 2nd largest advertising agency in the world. When he had been there for 10 years, he was given his first four-week vacation -- which he took all at once. The day he returned to work, he called my mother and told her that he couldn't do it any more. He had been commuting by train for many years from Westport, CT, where my brother and I were raised. Without flinching, my mother said she would pick him up on the noon train, and this began his next career.

For the following 2 years he tried to figure out his next step. He taught himself color photography, got himself an agent, and traveled around the world taking photographs for major publications and corporate annual reports.

At the age of 50, he and my mother moved to Rockport, Massachusetts where my mother went into real estate so that my father could paint. He created oil paintings similar to your print for about 7 years, working in his studio that overlooks the ocean. At the age of 57 he had a hip replacement (I can't remember if this was his first, 2nd or 3rd). While he was recovering, he taught himself printmaking. His silkscreen prints were very complex; some had up to 44 colors. He created them singlehandedly in limited editions, some while he was on crutches. At his peak he had as many as 30 galleries up and down the east coast.
My father died in 1991 at the age of 72. ”


Wendy’s email went on to say that her mother, Suzanne, is still around. She’s 89 and she lives in that same house in Rockport, where she runs a gallery, and here’s her email address...
“Well, I’m not going to let this one go for a year”, I thought, so I write to Suzanne immediately to tell her how I was touched by her husband’s work, and how much joy it brought me, even just remembering it.

She wrote back the same day to say that she was in the process of selling the house/gallery and was selling some of his prints, and she in fact, had the one that I was looking for - “The Boat”. Would I like it?

And the rest is history. My son and I spent the afternoon driving to her place and talking with her, and the print now hangs at our house. Since then, we’ve kept in touch with Suzanne, who is a wonderful, inspirational woman and my family is looking forward to driving up and visiting her this summer. The funny thing is, after all of this, while I still enjoy “The Boat” on its’ own, it has come to mean so much more to me. Every time I look at it, I can’t help but think of Wendy and Suzanne, Metafilter and the random people on the internet who have stumbled across that post and emailed me to try to help. Thanks everyone!

Additional info on Art Seller:
Brief bio
The Making of a Serigraph
Suzanne also wrote a book called Wild Alternatives about artistic inspiration and personal growth a few years ago (at 85) that contains some personal stories and insight into Art Seller as well.
posted by horsemuth to MetaFilter-Related at 7:36 AM (80 comments total) 172 users marked this as a favorite

Yay! I love Rockport :D
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:37 AM on April 5, 2011


What a great story!
posted by jillithd at 7:41 AM on April 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hey thanks for letting us know, that's a great story.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:44 AM on April 5, 2011


Rad.

Can we get the original post modified (get it?) with a link to this thread?
posted by misterbrandt at 7:46 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wonderful story, and I thank you for posting it here.
posted by languagehat at 7:49 AM on April 5, 2011


really wonderful story! You've inspired me...I have a couple of woodblock prints I want to know more about. What a great outcome to your story. The Cape Ann arts community is pretty amazing.
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, the print is mesmerizing.
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on April 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Very cool story.
posted by chococat at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2011


That is the coolest story. Plus, you get a really great piece of art out of it! Wini/win!
posted by xingcat at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2011


Neat!
posted by Forktine at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2011


Art Seller? Real-life eponysterical!

This is such a great follow-up. Thanks for sharing with us, and kudos to the Seller family for offering you their help and friendship. They sound like lovely people.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:54 AM on April 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


That's awesome. Thank you so much for sharing the story.
posted by bardophile at 7:58 AM on April 5, 2011


Wow, I wasn't expecting to be blown away when I clicked on "The Boat" link. I can see why it stayed with you all these years because it's hauntingly beautiful. Really very cool. Congratulations on the whole experience.
posted by victoriab at 7:58 AM on April 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is a great story. I love it when the internets bring people together in such a meaningful and positive way. Thanks for sharing this. Reading it made me feel quite happy.
posted by Kangaroo at 8:00 AM on April 5, 2011


That's great. Thanks for posting.
posted by Elmore at 8:05 AM on April 5, 2011


Great art is always enhanced by a great story. Very cool.

Wow, I wasn't expecting to be blown away when I clicked on "The Boat" link. I can see why it stayed with you all these years because it's hauntingly beautiful.

Agree completely. If there is a place to buy reasonably priced reproductions of Mr. Sellers' work, I'd love to be pointed towards it.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:07 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. Wow.
posted by tristeza at 8:10 AM on April 5, 2011


This is all kinds of awesome. Thanks for sharing your story!
posted by oneirodynia at 8:11 AM on April 5, 2011


Wonderful story, thank you so much for the update!
posted by padraigin at 8:20 AM on April 5, 2011


This is the kind of story I like =)
posted by anniecat at 8:23 AM on April 5, 2011


How in the world did he arrive at that color of the sun!! It s like you're right there. Amazing.
(great story, too)
posted by Namlit at 8:23 AM on April 5, 2011


How awesome!
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on April 5, 2011


Great story. Thanks for sharing!
posted by booknerd at 8:29 AM on April 5, 2011


That's amazing! Thanks so much for the follow-up.
posted by rtha at 8:35 AM on April 5, 2011


Reading this was like spraying a big can of Grar-B-Gone. Thanks for the swell update - that painting is fabulous.
posted by mintcake! at 8:43 AM on April 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


This was wonderful to read. Thank you for the update.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:47 AM on April 5, 2011


This is touching & moving on so many levels, & to boot, the print itself is magical. I, too, like not only to appreciate an artist's creation but wish to understand more about the person behind it & the experiences & process which led to the work's creation. How wonderful that so much came from your initial inquiry. As I've said before, MF rocks.
posted by PepperMax at 8:57 AM on April 5, 2011


I'm in bed today, not feeling well.

The Boat just made my eye leak a little with calm...something. I love you, metafilter.
posted by bilabial at 8:59 AM on April 5, 2011


Fantastic story. That should make it into the next MeFi magazine.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:01 AM on April 5, 2011


I wonder if Art Seller every painted Rockport's famous Motif 1 -- ""the most often-painted building in America."
posted by ericb at 9:02 AM on April 5, 2011


Good story!
posted by OmieWise at 9:05 AM on April 5, 2011


Thanks for the story!

Is there any way to see more of his work?
posted by vacapinta at 9:06 AM on April 5, 2011


Reading this was like spraying a big can of Grar-B-Gone.

Ha! Yeah, that.

Thanks for posting this, great story!
posted by marxchivist at 9:11 AM on April 5, 2011


Flagged as awesome.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:19 AM on April 5, 2011


wow, neat story.
posted by clavdivs at 9:44 AM on April 5, 2011


Art Seller? Real-life eponysterical!


And I would assume very difficult to Google. "art seller prints"?
posted by Hoopo at 9:45 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. horsemuth and I were next door neighbors for a couple years before either of us had an account; it was a pleasant surprise to run into him here a while back.
posted by jtron at 9:46 AM on April 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


ericb, that would make a cool FPP.
posted by Miko at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Beautiful piece, and great story, thanks!
posted by Iteki at 10:05 AM on April 5, 2011


This is a great story and deserves to be added to the Metafilter canon (whatever that is(?)). Thanks for sharing!
posted by Lynsey at 10:16 AM on April 5, 2011


Aw!
posted by yarly at 10:43 AM on April 5, 2011


Wow. I love that painting. Now I want one, too.
posted by The World Famous at 10:46 AM on April 5, 2011


Awesome story and I love the art too.

Also, when asked to define what I'd be looking for in a partner:

... told her that he couldn't do it any more.... Without flinching, my mother said she would pick him up on the noon train...

about describes it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:51 AM on April 5, 2011 [16 favorites]


Thanks so much for posting this. I wasn't expecting such a great story, just as I didn't expect the print to be what it was. Very cool.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:13 AM on April 5, 2011


Fantastic all around. And oh my, that print is phenomenal. You have something special there.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:14 AM on April 5, 2011


I plan to be in Rockport in June for a wedding. I hope I can still visit before it is sold.
posted by terrapin at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2011


Oh, wow. Great stroy.
posted by omegar at 11:36 AM on April 5, 2011


Truly amazing!
posted by zizzle at 11:53 AM on April 5, 2011


The image was so unexpected and then, so haunting. Great all around, just great.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:18 PM on April 5, 2011


This is all kinds of yay! And I'm another one who covets a print of that painting and wants to see more of Mr. Seller's work.
posted by trip and a half at 12:19 PM on April 5, 2011


Very cool!
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:19 PM on April 5, 2011


Fantastic story & fantastic art - thanks for sharing.
posted by judith at 12:47 PM on April 5, 2011


He became one of the Head Art Supervisors at Young & Rubicam in New York, which (at the time) was the 2nd largest advertising agency in the world. When he had been there for 10 years, he was given his first four-week vacation -- which he took all at once. The day he returned to work, he called my mother and told her that he couldn't do it any more. He had been commuting by train for many years from Westport, CT, where my brother and I were raised. Without flinching, my mother said she would pick him up on the noon train, and this began his next career.

Wow, it's Anti-Don-Draper. How wonderful, and what a smart fellow to follow his bliss. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful story.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:44 PM on April 5, 2011


Also, wonderful.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:45 PM on April 5, 2011


That's a great story, thanks for sharing it.
posted by patheral at 2:08 PM on April 5, 2011


That is such a cool picture.
posted by chillmost at 2:16 PM on April 5, 2011


Wonderful story (^_^)/
posted by gomichild at 4:02 PM on April 5, 2011


Agreeing that The Boat is a beautiful & haunting picture.

Until I saw it I was expecting some kind of hokey romanticised Ye Olde Sea Salte fishing trawler, complete with seagulls, fishing nets & Sailor Jake smoking a pipe, but that print was something else.

Now I really want to see more of his art.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:20 PM on April 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Thanks for sharing. Awesome story.
posted by safetyfork at 6:06 PM on April 5, 2011


That is a great story and a great image. I don't know what I was expecting, but that is really wonderful.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 6:13 PM on April 5, 2011


Wonderful story and a gorgeous piece of art, thanks for sharing!
posted by amyms at 6:28 PM on April 5, 2011


What an awesome story!
posted by immlass at 7:26 PM on April 5, 2011


I can see why you were so taken with the print - it's lovely! And the story just makes it better. How amazing to get this update!
posted by stoneweaver at 7:58 PM on April 5, 2011


Wow! Thank you for sharing!
posted by misozaki at 10:12 PM on April 5, 2011


Soo neat!
posted by cashman at 4:54 AM on April 6, 2011


Shouldn't this be sidebarred?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:23 AM on April 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


That was cool. Great tale.
posted by dazed_one at 7:36 AM on April 6, 2011


This is just awesome. The print is fantastic, and the family getting it to you is a beautiful thing. His life story is great. If anyone from Mr. Seller's family sees this thread, thank you for what you have done.
posted by azpenguin at 7:53 AM on April 6, 2011


Wow, that's fantastic! Thanks for sharing the story!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:27 AM on April 6, 2011


Excellent. I love AskMe updates.
posted by essexjan at 9:34 AM on April 6, 2011


Both my mother and I have seen this and read your comments. Thank you for your interest in my father and his work. I am very happy to reply to any of your questions, although I am unable to do so until tomorrow. (Arthur Seller's daughter)
posted by Offenbach at 11:24 AM on April 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


Offenbach, thank you for joining us! I'd love to know if there anywhere we can view more of your father's work.
posted by lalex at 11:38 AM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cool story. Also, ericb, there's an FPP waiting to be made on "the most painted building in america." Any interest in making (or helping to make) that happen?
posted by .kobayashi. at 3:20 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, ericb, there's an FPP waiting to be made on "the most painted building in america."

Done.
posted by ericb at 8:46 PM on April 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


That print is absolutely fantastic. He seems an underrated artist.
posted by fire&wings at 9:58 AM on April 7, 2011


I was going to say the same thing, fire&wings... did not expect to be that blown away by it after already reading such a nice story.
posted by activitystory at 1:30 PM on April 8, 2011


I did respond to your questions yesterday (extensively), and since I could not "save" my comments as I was writing, I went to print them out before hitting the SUBMIT button, when every word vanished in a flash into cyberspace!

I am back here hoping to recreate what I had written.

A number of you have asked how to see more of my father's work. My mother just recently sold her four-story house in Rockport and downsized to a wonderful two-room apartment nearby. All of my father's paintings and prints have been relocated to my husband's photographic studio in Boston for safekeeping, and he will be documenting everything digitally in the coming months. Once this process is complete, we intend to create a website consisting of my father's serigraph prints and paintings, and I will return to MF to let you know that the site is active. You will also be able to Google "ARTHUR SELLER" to gain access to it.

My father made all of his very large and meticulous prints by himself, after designing them first on a smaller scale using acrylic paints. Most of his large-scale serigraphs were created single-handedly, in editions of 200. Before he died in 1991, his work could be found in many galleries up and down the East Coast. His most complex print was entitled "Forty Four", which consisted of 44 perfectly aligned colors. Nearly all of his print editions were created while he was standing on crutches, for long hours each day.

My family has held onto one print from each edition for our own collection. When Tom wrote to us looking for "The Boat", we discovered that there was only one of this work remaining. My mother and I were so both moved by Tom's story that we agreed to relinquish our last print. It is every artist's dream to have someone moved by your art to this degree.

With regards to Motif #1 -- "supposedly" the most painted building in the world -- my father has never painted this structure, and I vowed I would never do so either. However when I told this to my father years ago, he went into his closet and pulled out two paintings of Motif #1 that I had created when I was 12. I have no recollection of having done these.

My mother, who is also a painter and a published author, has just begun the next chapter of her life, and is filled with excitement about her next writing project.
posted by Offenbach at 6:52 PM on April 8, 2011 [15 favorites]


However when I told this to my father years ago, he went into his closet and pulled out two paintings of Motif #1 that I had created when I was 12. I have no recollection of having done these.

Ha! A classic "Dad" move. Looking forward to seeing more of his work.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:24 AM on April 9, 2011


Indeed.
posted by Offenbach at 6:53 AM on April 9, 2011


Amazing. I love the print you got! A wonderful, moving story and experience.
posted by nickyskye at 2:46 AM on April 11, 2011


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