February 18, 2024

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     A gift – a find from the Tappan Zee Thrift Shop in little Piermont, N.Y. – brought renewed life to a small book on art and painting by Winston Churchill, himself an artist beyond British prime minister, statesman and author of very serious and studied histories. Yet it was “Painting as a Pastime” that turned on a dusty reading lamp.

     When I opened the 32-page book with color reproductions of Sir Winston’s paintings of landscape and still life, it was as if no one had done so in decades. After all, thrift shops take in the collections of aged households – lamps, clothes, tchotchkes, books, etc. – that may not have been touched for so very long.

     Old books have musty smell, not rejected but beloved for sure because you realize you have discovered sleeping pages not seen, not read since who knows when but waiting for the human touch, a hand that once again allows them to be turned. So the book has found a new friend, and it’s lonely no more.

     The Churchill book is well-written, of course, flowing in the best English prose from a multi-gifted fellow. It encourages artists, reveals the incentives, the ups and downs in artwork and overall suggests the journey is worth it for the soul, the mind. He discovered painting at 40, and in sure ways, it was a necessary and reassuring companion though the cliff-hangers of World War II, post-war politics and the blues of older life. 

     Thrift shops like the 1966 Tappan Zee and Grace’s Thrift in nearby Nyack are goldmines for connection with the past, a replacement of a sort for the long-gone five and ten, only not with new goods but with affordable items still, and as important, places chock-full of items for a warm day of perusing.

     Churchill wrote, “Happy are the painters for they shall not be lonely.” Well, “Happy are the books awakened for they shall not be lonely.”

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. 


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