LIFE IN WATERCOLORS: Winston painting sale evokes memories of the Chester Art Guild

By Cynthia Prairie

Galen Pinkham is a large man with a ready smile, a welcoming laugh and a wealth of stories. He navigates this Grafton home with the ease of someone who grew up among the books, the record albums, the furniture and, especially, the many paintings that hang from just about every wall.

Galen Pinkham, Jean and George Winston's nephew, at the mantelpiece of the Winston home, a picture of a young Jean Winston stands on the far left./Photos by Cynthia Prairie

Galen Pinkham, Jean and George Winston’s nephew, at the mantelpiece of the Winston home, a picture of a young Jean Winston stands on the far left. Click photo to enlarge. /Photos by Cynthia Prairie

Many of the paintings – watercolors mostly – were done by Pinkham’s aunt and uncle, Jean and George Winston, who built the home in 1963 and were longtime members of the Chester Art Guild.

Jean Winston died this past February, at the age of 99, having painted her last work in 1998. Her husband George died in 2008. He was 90. And now it is up to nephew Galen to manage the dispersal of the contents and the eventual sale of the Winstons’ bright yellow Cape Cod style home, which Jean adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens plan.

While most of the works, including “swaps” – paintings by other artists given to the Winstons in trade – will be moving on to other family and friends – 57 are for sale at the Chester Bookworm. As of Saturday morning, five had already sold. And the artworks are priced to get them into the hands of the appreciative – from $30 to $200 each.

Potato Hill painted by Jean Winston in 1959.

Potato Hill painted by Jean Winston in 1959. Click photo to enlarge.

Not all are works by the Winstons, and not all are Vermont scenes, although the one entitled Potato Hill, shows the slipform stone home on Stagecoach Road near the Chester/Grafton line. But while barns and country scenes of all types and in all seasons predominate,  George’s love of the rugged Maine coast is evident in the numerous seascapes. There are even two blue abstracts, both signed “Asher,” among the offerings.

The paintings may hold a lot of memories for former members of the Chester Art Guild, which flourished for more than 40 years, and had a thriving membership of 161 in 2000, but disbanded in the early 2000s. Both Winstons had served as its president.

Pictured left, Jean and George Winston, when they were married, and right, in their later years.  Click photo to enlarge.

Pictured left, Jean and George Winston, when they were married, and right, in their later years. Click photo to enlarge.

And both Winstons had studied art: Jean received her BFA from Syracuse; George completed the painting course with the Famous Artists School, which was founded by well-known magazine illustrators of the time, including Norman Rockwell. The school is still around today and the faculty continues to critique works sent in by students.

Jean taught art history at a Pennsylvania college, and painting in various venues, including at the Chester Art Guild. George, however, was an English professor. Yet both their love of painting and their talent meant that their works were highlighted in shows throughout Vermont.

Lew Watters, who is known for his photography and his beautifully detailed ink sketches, calls the Winstons “a magnificent couple,” recalling that “Jean got us involved in the Art Guild and had a way of recruiting. She was just sweet, both of them.” As a matter of fact, he adds, “We have Jean Winston’s painting of the last shop that Bonnie had in Weston back in the 1980s.” Bonnie is his wife, Bonnie Watters, who creates one-of-a-kind dolls.

Watters recalls an Art Guild show he had in 1982: “Everyone pitched in to help hang your work, get publicity, do refreshments, have a reception, sit the gallery and sell the art.”

Ann Summers of the Chester Bookworm looks over the sketches that will accompany some of the paintings for sale. The one in her right hand is a study by George Winston for one of two paintings on the wall above. Click photo to enlarge.

Ann Summers of the Chester Bookworm looks over the sketches that will accompany some of the paintings for sale. The one in her right hand is a study by George Winston for one of two paintings on the wall above. Click photo to enlarge.

Pinkham escorts a visitor from room to room of the Winston home,  describing the many landscapes and he musing over one: “I can sometimes tell (their work) apart. But sometimes I have to look in the corner” for the signature.

Pinkham, whose life has taken him from training to be a French teacher to working in military intelligence and on to computer sales and bond trading, says he did not pick up any of the artistic ability of his talented relatives. “No,” he says matter-of-factly, “no artistic skills – none whatsoever.”

“I’d really like to know who these artists are, for someone to say, ‘Oh, that was Mum’s. She was in the Art Guild for 10 years and they were great friends with the Winstons.’ ”

Ann Summers
The Chester Bookworm

But he does remember being “rescued” as a child from his home in Lynn, Mass., to be driven north, at times stopping here and there so Jean and George could pull out sketch pads or set up easels. It could get boring, Pinkham admits, adding, “but they always found things for my sister and me to do.”

Ann Summers, owner of the Chester Bookworm, says she’s hoping that viewers and buyers alike will have interesting stories to tell about some of the works for sale. “I’d really like to know who these artists are, for someone to say, ‘Oh, that was Mum’s. She was in the Art Guild for 10 years and they were great friends with the Winstons.’”

She adds that a number of the paintings have companion sketches that will accompany the paintings upon sale. The Chester Bookworm, 330 Main St. in Chester, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Although Pinkham will be selling the house that he practically grew up in, he says he’ll be returning one day for good. “I’ll have to come back here,” he smiles, pointing toward the south. “My headstone is right over there. My wife and I will be buried there,” with George and Jean, among family members in the nearby Cobb-West Cemetery.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeFeaturedIn the Arts

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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