Thursday, October 16, 2008

Goodbye, Lou

Louis B. Sloan died yesterday morning of a massive heart attack. He attained sainthood long before his death and he was a living legend in Philadelphia art circles. Lou was 76 years old and had been retired from the Pennsylvania Academy for 10 years. He was a beloved teacher and mentor there for over thirty years - and I am one of several who owe my career to him.
Every weekend, and often days during the week, for two years, I drove over to Avenue C in North Philly to pick up Lou and head out painting. During the spring, summer and fall the load was light - just his paintbox, easel (an old Grumbacher in perfect condition) and his gray umbrella, which I dutifully loaded in the back of my car. In the winter there would be a large duffel bag that had his coveralls and boots in it.
We would either head out to rural Bucks County, over to the Brandywine near Chester County or down along the Delaware in South Jersey. In September, Bill Genatto, Lou and I would rent a house in the Catskills and paint for a week as the colors turned.
Occasionally, we'd take the cheap trains from Philly to New York and visit museums. The last show I remember seeing with him was the Eakins show at the Met. Lou was an artistic descendant of Eakins, who taught at the Academy in the years following the civil war.
Lou was one of the few true mentors I've ever had. He gave up everything he knew and never asked for a dime in return - but the best thing about him for me was witnessing the way he went about his life. Despite being one of the most talented painters of his generation he was never boastful and dedicated most of his energy to teaching. He didn't drink or smoke and always maintained a calm, confident attitude. He treated others with respect and kindness. He was balanced, sane and responsible. He was a great friend and teacher and I will miss him.


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