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Robert Frost

Robert Frost in 1957
Robert Frost in 1957

Robert Frost was another close and dear friend of Robert Strong Woodward. The story of their first meeting and the beginning of their friendship is now lost with the disappearance of the Woodward personal diaries after his death. All we have are remnants of Christmas cards from the famous poet and the records of the three paintings by RSW which Frost owned during his life. Uncle Rob admired very much his poetry and a number of times during my vacations home from Oberlin College, we would read aloud selected poems by Frost in front of the studio fireplace. My favorite was "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."
Robert Frost in 1957
Robert Frost in 1957

Robert Frost was born on March 26, 1874, in San Francisco. His father was a newspaperman from New Hampshire, his mother was of Scottish descent. At the age of 10, after his father's death, he returned with his mother to Lawrence, Mass., where he graduated from high school in 1892 and then entered Dartmouth, where he first began writing poetry. He taught school at several New England schools and colleges, and for several years ran a farm in New Hampshire. Four times he won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and he held many honorary degrees.

It was a Frost custom to write a short poem and have it printed in a small booklet form to send as a Christmas card to his close friends. There are several of these among the Woodward memorabilia which we found in one the desk drawers in the Woodward studio. One of these is printed below, received by RSW for Christmas, 1935, sent to him from Florida.

Winter Dignity
Winter Dignity
In 1932 Robert Frost purchased an oil painting from Robert Strong Woodward named Winter Dignity. Prior to this sale this painting was copied as a chalk drawing, named The Dignity of Winter, and also a Christmas card was made from it by the White and Wyckoff Printing Company which renamed it Snow Symphony. This hung in Frost's home until his wife died in 1938, at which time he wrote to RSW saying that because this painting had been so loved by his wife, he would like to bring it back and select another painting in its place. In his painting diary Robert Strong Woodward noted that he did not whole-heartedly approve or understand but "being Robert Frost, I couldn't possibly say no." So he sent several paintings to the Vose Gallery in Boston from which Robert Frost could select a replacement. In 1940 he chose Passing New England.

Passing New England
Passing New England
When Sap Runs
When Sap Runs
In the Woodward painting diary it was noted that Robert Frost also had the painting When Sap Runs. It is in my memory of driving RSW in the Packard to Amherst College to either deliver or bring back this painting to the studio. It is not known whether Frost actually purchased this painting or whether it was loaned to him to hang in his apartment, or in the studio where he gave his seminars, when he was teaching at Amherst College. The Woodward diary states that Frost was extremely fond of this sugaring painting.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost


Robert Frost's Gravestone
Robert Frost's Gravestone

Robert Frost died on January 29, 1963, and is buried in the Old Bennington Cemetery in Shaftsbury, Vt. The inscription on his gravestone reads "I Had a Lover's Quarrel With the World."

February 2011

The poet-laureate of New England - the title is not undeserved -otherwise known as Robert Frost., bought last winter a New England landscape painted by the same artist whom we may readily call the laurel-crowned painter of this same reglon. Robert Strong Woodward Mr. Woodward now recognized as in the front rank of 1iving landscape painers of America, exhibited for ten days in the Standish Galleries in Boston last February, for another ten days in Amherst a little later, and to be again on view at Deerfield Academy during the ten days beginning June 6th. He has received many prizes at the large exhibitions of Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York and Boston. Those who know his work and who read Robert Frost declare that the combination of the New England poet and the New England painter could hardly have been more felicitously displayed than in the poet'a purchase of the magnificent study, 'Dignity of Winter,' and find that the artist in color has more than a superficial kinship with the artist in words, in the sensitive insight and understanding of our region which they both depict.

				Out of this happy kinship there certainly emerges a reason for great thankfulness and rejoicing among all lovers of New England. We have loved it for ao long unexpressed.  We have longed so to have lts loveliness. Its poignant atmosphere, its poetic appeal caught and made ln some way permanent. We have listened again and again among the artists for just the color, the line, the shadow, the inexpressible something that our eyes beheld - our inward eye as well as the outward!  Nowhere until now have we found just New England between the covers of a book, or on canvas there upon the wall, like a window opening out upon a well-loved landscape.  In the paintings of Mr. Woodward and the poems of Mr. Frost all these things are ours to keep.  'Memory,' syas some other poert 'is the only garden from which nothing can ever drive us.'  In the same way, nothing can ever separate us from New England if we know hte paintins and the pems of these two laureates who celebrate her beauty with so faithful a skill.  

				The Oracle
Newspaper clipping about Robert Frost
and Robert Strong Woodward
 'An unstamped letter in our rural letter box' a poem by Robert Frost given to Robert Strong Woodward
A poem by Robert Frost given to Robert Strong Woodward