The sad story of the relationship between two brilliant men.
Editor's note: Dr. Lawrence Lunt was a long-time friend of Robert Strong Woodward. The letter below was written by Dr. Lunt and given to us by his family.
Photograph of Dr Lawrence Lunt and his Wife, 1915
Bookplate for Lawrence Lunt
drawn by Robert Strong Woodward.
I came to know Rob Woodward through my precious cousin Minnie Eliot (Mrs. Amory Eliot of Boston and Manchester, Mass) who accepted me into her home as a son, my second home. Through a cousin of hers, Joseph Cowell,
who was studying at the Boston Museum School of Art, she heard of his friend, Woodward, who was paralyzed from the waist down from a shooting accident at the age of 18. He had a revolver in a shoulder holster, and in stripping off his sweater cocked the gun, and it went off severing his spinal cord. Click to read newspaper articles about the gunshot accident.
He had wanted to become a painter, and after his recovery took up making delightful individual greeting cards, Christmas cards, bookplates, illuminations of someone's favorite quotations, etc., each one a special production, and every one utterly delightful. But he could not make a living this way, and wanted to go on to his original goal of landscape painting in oil. He had never had a single lesson, and cousin Minnie felt he should come to Boston from California where he was living, and go to the Museum School. She raised the necessary money to bring him East, and as I had become interested and had developed a correspondence friendship with him, Joe Cowell and I met him at the Back Bay Station in Boston, and we took him to the small apartment which Joe had rented not far from the museum. Joe was undertaking to look after Rob, nurse, cook, housekeeper and wheel him back and forth from the school every day. It was an impossible arrangement and didn't last for more than perhaps two months. Rob got practically no instruction, in that time, but he made many friends, as no one could help but love him.
He had a family of cousins living on a farm in Shelburne Falls, Mass. and they offered to take him in, a wonderful family. One of the daughters of that town and I still keep in touch by Christmas cards. So he moved to Shelburne Falls and lived in a small house owned by and next to this cousin on a country road west of Shelburne Falls. He made a little milk house into his studio, utterly charming, as was everything he touched.
Dr. Lunt with his dog "Jock" and his mare "Honey."
He couldnt make a living with his little greeting cards, etc. and encouraged by Minnie and other friends who pitched in to help financially, he began working in oils. After a year he had progressed sufficiently to have Gardner Symons, a well-known artist of the New England scene, tell him that he ought to jump right in and send pictures to the New York Art Museum show which had a section for new artists under 30 or 35 years of age. (Not sure of the age.) The prize was, I think $500 and was known as the Hallgarten Prize. Rob won it, to everyone's delight, and this launched him on his career. But he had to have financial help from interested friends as his menage was necessarily expensive, a nurse housekeeper and a man or boy to do the heavy work around the house and lift him in and out of bed to his wheel chair. He worked very hard, and sold quite a lot of pictures, but at only $450 apiece, with some larger ones getting more. The income was not large. He had to have a horse and buggy to drive off into the hills where he could paint - another expense. He rigged up a stand on which he could hold his canvas and make the necessary first draft of a landscape, and then finish it in his studio.
I kept in touch with him, and went up for weekends when I could. He would drive me off up into the lovely Hampshire hills, I walking, and much mutual enjoyment was derived from these excursions.
Mrs. Lunt and granddaughter, age 2, on Honey.
His deep and all-pervading love of his New England hills gave him an insight and feeling which he was fortunate enough to be able to put on to canvas in most beautiful and unique and faithful pictures.
There was a time when he got into a somewhat desperate mood because of his limitation and as I recall it I quoted him something from Marcus Aurelius. Perhaps: "Nature sends nothing that one cannot bear." I do not remember. In any event, it naturally made him angry and he wrote me a rather scathing letter to the effect that he doubted if I could bear what he had to put up with etc. etc. A perfectly justifiable rebuke, which interrupted our correspondence for a bit. Then along came this drawing done from a photograph of Mount Susan from the Dodge Ranch, Haystack Gulch, with the quotation from Marcus Aurelius, "Live as if you were on a mountain," and the mild interruption of our communication ceased.
Drawing with Marcus Aurelius quote
A Christmas Card from Dr. and Mrs. Lunt
He was one of the finest men I ever knew. He came to be a close friend of my wife too, after our marriage, and we visited him as often as we could. He lost his first delightful little studio with everything in it, a number of pictures, and his supplies. Then, of course, his friends jumped in and made it possible for him to buy a small house with barn, and he made it into another completely delightful and unique home and studio. After a few years this lovely place was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, but some of his paintings and furniture were saved by neighbors. He bought another small place which had a blacksmith shop attached and again created something unique and beautiful. His courage, his complete disregard of his handicap and wheelchair, and skill in maneuvering it, made one entirely unconscious of his being handicapped. Visits with him were always a joy and something to treasure.
A Christmas Card from Dr. and Mrs. Lunt
However, as he got older, his physical disabilities became worse and he gradually sank into a depression which made him withdraw from everyone, including even his much loved cousin who continued to live in Shelburne Falls. (Perhaps his aunt did for some years, I am not sure.) He ceased wanting to see his friends and we stopped going to see him, which was very sad. However, his cousin said that he seemed to welcome letters from us, so we continued to write occasionally.
He finally died in 1957, and left a gap in our lives that no one else could ever fill.
His life could be made into a book because of his heroism, his outgivingness, his deep interest in, and capacity for friends. There is a very good article about him in the October, 1946, issue of American Artist which I have on file.
A Christmas card to RSW from Dr. Lunt.
1956 Letter to RSW from Dr. Lunt
Double Four Ranch - Wheatland Wyoming, July 12, 1956
The summer seems to be goin gby apace. So far no prospective buy has turned up, and the season is so far along now, I think it would be most surprising if anyone does come. Maybe we will have to give it away! There would be plenty of takers if that were to be.
The drougth doesn't seem to have been broken, as I hopefully thought during the Spring when we seemed to be getting better precipitation. O ne good rain a week or so ago, but little more, and we are really now in our dryest season. The hay hardly seemed worth cutting, but we finally did cut it, and again had our neighbor come in to bale it. We got only ten tones from about thirty acres, same as two ears ago. last year we got 16. With help from our good neighbors we got it all done and put in the barn in short order.
The summer is being a very quiet one with none of the children or grand children visiting us. At present we are enjoying a visit from Ethel Harvey who was our head nurse at Valleyhead the las three years or so. She is a fine person, and we are very fond of her. She returned to her home in Fredericton, N.S. after the war, and ran sort of a nursing home boarding house till selling it last month. Now she is going to marry an old friend, both of them retired and I hope going to have some years of happiness.
Loving wishes you Rob in which Marjory joins.
LAWRENCE KIRBY LUNT, M.D.
By MAURICE FREMONT-SMITH, M.D.
Lawrence Lunt died on July 27, 1968, in his eighty-second year, after a
life of great usefulness in his chosen profession of psychiatry.
Born in 1886 he attended Middlesex School and went on to Harvard
College where he rowed two years on the Varsity Crew and graduated as
Second Marshall of his class of 1909. After a year of studying Law in
Colorado Springs, he decided to go into Medicine and graduated from the
Harvard Medical School in 1914. Following internship at the Massachusetts
General Hospital, he entered practice with Dr. James Waring in
Then came the First World War. He served in Base Hospital No. 6 in
Bordeaux and retired from the service with the rank of Major. After a
year as Director of Health at Middlesex School, he became associated in
1920 with Austen Riggs in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and there he
practiced psychiatry for the following nine years.
In 1929 Lawrence and his wife, the former Marjorie Donaldson, built
"Valleyhead," a small hospital for psychiatric patients near Concord,
Massachusetts. Here, besides his practice, Lawrence could in his free time
indulge his love of skiing and flying.
When World War II erupted, "Valleyhead" was closed and Lawrence
went to Rehoboth, Delaware, as a member of an air patrol off the coast,
searching and destroying German submarines.
When the war was over, he and Marjorie bought a small cattle ranch
near Wheatland, Wyoming. The ranching they both greatly enjoyed,
and in order to help out his ranch-neighbors, Lawrence even became an
amateur vetinary. After ten years, he and his family moved to Santa Fe,
Lawrence was loved and respected everywhere. He had great strength
of character, integrity, and delicacy of understanding. He leaves his wife,
two sons, and two daughters, and will be sadly missed by family, former
patients, and a host of friends.
Memorial statement about Dr. Lunt.
The Lunts - Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence K. Lunt, Valley head, Concord, Mass. owned three oil paintings.
1) 27x30 of Wilder House with background of Putts Hill
2) Twisted gnarled beech tree by Stone Wall (Upright) and
3) 25x30 of Autumn Hillside painted out on Conway road.