View of the North side of the Southwick Studio showing the North window
Photo by F. Earl Williams
When Robert Strong Woodward converted the old Southwick blacksmith shop into his new Buckland studio, he purposely selected the end of the building which faced mainly north. He then cut out a large section of the wall and ceiling to construct a north window, so as to let in the ideal light which artists prefer for selecting just the proper hue of color. Today, the north window from the outside looks just as it did when he supervised its construction. Old weathered barn boards cover the building. The window sashes are all painted blue. The grapevine still climbs up the side of the garage building on the right of the photograph. The little window which was the source of countless window pictures can be seen on the left of the building. And the porcelain horse, subject of countless paintings, can be seen on the shelf just inside the north window. Ferns, rhubarb and bloodroot still grow in the earth below the window. Only the old Hubbardston apple tree is gone.
A view of the North window as it appears today (2007)
Robert Strong Woodward built a wide shelf inside this large window. He used this shelf to place bottles, boxes, candles, tins, apples, and plants which he could arrange to his satisfaction for making just the proper arrangements for paintings. This became the still-life portion of his painting. A heavy large brown drape was hung so that it could be lowered in sections to allow modification of the light coming in and down from the window panes. An image of an oil painting below shows the north window from the inside, including his paint cart made from an old cobblers bench. The little window (which faced east), the source of countless well-known window pictures, can be seen on the right.
Being confined to a wheelchair, he made many paintings in front of and below this large window, especially on days when it was too cold outside to paint. Nearly all of the paintings or chalk drawings which he made away from the studio, however, were finished here, and allowed to dry on the large easel in the corner.
In the research for this website we have tried to sort out the names given to some of his north window paintings. Some were painted of views out of the window without any of the sash included, whereas others included intricate portions of the panes, the sash and the shelf. The images below will give you some idea of his artistic use of the North window.
During his early years of painting the names he gave to many of the paintings made from the north window became changed and confused. Newspaper and magazine articles added to the confusion by modifying the titles when reproductions were made for publication.
The first painting, illustrated below, called Beginning to Snow
or in some reviews Snow in the Air
, shows what could be seen out of the window without including any of the panes of glass, sash or the shelf. Actually these are really two entirely separate but nearly identical paintings. The view of the back side of the building, the bird feeder, his barn and barnyard, the water barrel, his horse Trigger with his yellow winter blanket on; and then further beyond this, the neighbor's barn (Old Man Gould seen going out to do chores), the side hill, apple trees and then the distant buildings including the church steeple, were included in these two paintings.
Another painting of the view from the North window which also had no inside-the-studio component was Back of the Village
Many other oil paintings and chalk drawings included the window itself as well as what could be seen through it. The following are examples:
All of these were masterpieces and each individually unique. Several were made when he was in great physical pain. All are now deservedly hung in the homes of people who love and appreciate them.
RSW made many other window pictures out of the other windows in his studio but those made from the north window are something special.