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The Story of the Blue Couch

The Blue Couch
The Blue Couch - an oil painting by Robert Strong Woodward

It was the year 1946, July, the second year of my enlistment in the Army Air Force. I was stationed at Ogden Air Force Base, an airfield just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, and was just about to be "mustered out." During the prior 6 months at this base I was befriended by a family in Salt Lake City, the Bauerleins, Dr. Ted, Honor and children Connie, Toni and Jimmy. I had spent most every weekend at their home, often baby sitting the kids while Ted and Honor went out to plays, suppers etc. My papers had come with orders to return to Fort Dix in New Jersey to be officially discharged. This same summer the Bauerleins were planning to come to Massachusetts, Honor's home for a vacation. I left on a train and they drove back to Buckland in a car. Honor's family, the Buells, were lifetime friends of Robert Strong Woodward and during this time here in Buckland, we all had several suppers and picnics together. Below is a scene of a picnic under the Heath Pasture Studio beech tree.

Heath picnic with the Bauerleins
Heath picnic with the Bauerleins
When it was time for the Bauerleins to return to Salt Lake City, they selected a Woodward painting to have shipped out during the fall. The painting selected was the one shown above of the beech tree in Heath. RSW had painted this several years previously but had not yet selected a name for the painting and told them that they could give it a name after living with it for a while.

Now, for a moment, back to my days in Salt Lake City. The Bauerleins had frequent dinner guests which I also attended, helping Honor with the meals and the dishes. One of their frequent guests was Brewster Ghiselin, a professor and poet at the University of Utah. and his wife. During his visits he would often read one of his latest poems which the Bauerleins enjoyed, but I never understood. During one of these visits he gave me a signed copy of his latest book Against the Circle.

Against the Circle  - a book of poetry by Brewster Ghiselin
Against the Circle
A book of poetry by Brewster Ghiselin
Signature of Brewster Ghiselin
The book of poetry was signed given to MLP
The Woodward painting arrived during the fall of 1946, and was hung in the living room by Dr. Ted. The story is that the next time that Brewster Ghiselin and his wife came for supper, he looked up at the painting, threw his arms up in the air, and exclaimed aloud, "The Blue Couch." And so the painting was named!

Word was received back in Massachusetts. RSW was aghast. No other of his paintings of New England scenes had ever received such a title. Quoting from RSW's painting diary, "After it went out to them in late September, I let them name it -- as an exact title had never been placed on it. They called in their poet friend, Brewster Ghiselin, who in some fanciful way got the feeling of a 'blue couch' out of the sky bands, and so named the painting! Enough said."

Brewster Ghiselin reading his poetry
Brewster Ghiselin reading his poetry
1903 - 2001
The painting remained in the Salt Lake City home until Dr. Ted passed on. The family grew up and moved to Massachusetts. The painting came East with them but eventually sold locally.

Click here to listen to a reading of Brewster Ghiselin's "The Rattlesnake Poem"         

December, 2012