Coast Chronicles: Fine Art at Chester and Luanne’s

<p>Chester Land stands next to the portrait of an unknown man painted by A. Boisseau in 1886.</p>

Shutdown mop-up

Well, we’re still in shutdown mode. And I must deliver apologies to Patricia Moss for interrupting her story about art with my political column of last week. I just couldn’t let government shenanigans go unnoticed. By the way, the Republican strategy on the Affordable Healthcare Act repeal is looking more desperate by the day. In fact, they’ve dropped this demand as their ratings with the American public plummet. (Republicans have all but abandoned self-analysis after their drubbing in Obama’s re-election. What’s happened to real business like immigration reform by the way? Or incorporating more women’s issues into their agenda?)

C’mon, you who are supposed to be creating public good — legislation that has passed all three branches of government needs to be given a chance to work. Let’s use the appeal process to modify whatever is broken, if necessary, instead of the “I’m taking my football home” approach. As far as we know, our country is still a democracy ruled by a majority, and not, we hope, by a small band of radical posers.

New location for Olde Towne

OK, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s return to fine art and a conversation about an extraordinary portrait that Pat has been researching at the Olde Towne Trading Post and Coffee Shop (108 First Avenue North, Ilwaco, 360-244-5303). On yet another grey but clearing morning, I sat with Chester Land talking about the painting while Luanne Hanes was bustling around in the kitchen.

Chester, whom many of you know was a fisherman in a past life, changed over to antique store owner full-time when he and Luanne, who’s been in the food industry for decades, opened up their shop just across from the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum. These two made Old Towne a homey spot to hang out. And, if you had a few extra bucks in your pocket, you soon found it was a fabulous place to nose around for treasures too.

“We actually started a little antique shop in Long Beach about nine years ago,” Chester said, “Then we ran the Crow’s Nest in Ocean Park for a couple years [Jerry Matsen’s place, another amazing shop if you’re looking for unusual local finds]. Then we opened the shop on Lake Street and ran it there for four years. But one morning Susan Murfin, one of our great customers, mentioned that she was tired of taking care of the family building. I told her if she was serious to come back and give us a chance to make an offer on it. So that’s what happens when you don’t plan your life!

“We bought the place in January 2013 and spent three months remodeling before moving in April. We love it — we have more visibility here. I got out of the fishing business this last spring and sold my boat. I like what I’m doing now but I miss the fresh fish.”

Fine art findings

The new Olde Towne space is more open, gives Luanne more room to work and has allowed Chester to bring out a few more of his finds. One of theme is an intriguing portrait that they’ve had for several years. Pat took a good thorough look at it, answering some questions and raising others.

In her report, available at the shop, Pat writes that the portrait is “of a distinguished looking man [with] a barely visible signature and date painted in black on dark gray over the subject’s right shoulder: ‘ABoisseau / 1886.’ Who was A. Boisseau? Who is the man in the painting?”

Chester originally picked up the portrait as part of an estate purchased from the family of Harold Frederick Bradley and Mary B. Heron. “We bought the estate about five years ago from the Bradley family — you know that state park on highway 30? They inherited the painting and it had been passed down since 1864. It came originally from the Tegardt Estate. They were the descendants of the Bradleys who came from Bay City, Mich.

“We found out this artist was popular from New Orleans up through Bay City and even into the Canadian side. His art is quite well-know in that area.”

Pat discovered that Alfred Boisseau, born in Paris 1823, died in Buffalo, NY in 1901, exhibited two paintings in the prestigious Paris Salon in 1848 and studied under French painter Paul Delaroche (1797-1856). His father was a respected lithographer. But the gentleman in the portrait has not been identified. And there is even some question about who A. Boisseau is. There may have been two painters using that name.

Nonetheless, the portrait is clearly by a master. The lighting, the distinctive and subtle dark tones, the attire of the subject all give this gentleman, whoever he is, dignity and an air of seriousness that suggests someone of prominence.

The beauty of handmade objects

Many of us have a deep fondness for handmade objects. Chester too has embraced his new profession with passion. “When I started learning about antiques, basically a light came on and I said I still have the ability to learn. And something different happens every day — you never know what you’re going to find to buy or sell. And you never know what you’re going to study until you find an item and say, ‘Wow, I want to find out more about that.’” Chester and Luanne also have an evolving image about themselves in the community. Many of the items in their shop are of museum quality — they have a specialty in maritime objects, tools and local history — and several have been lent to the museum over time. “Betsy [Millard, museum director] knows she can come in here anytime.

“You never know what you’re going to be able to contribute by being part of the community, but having a place like this … people come here to meet. We have knitting, quilting and writers groups that all meet here and that in its own way is a contribution.” As to the mysterious portrait, Chester says, “We don’t know who this gentleman is but this is a really well-done portrait — having the shop is one way you can surround yourself with stuff you really like but can’t afford.”

Pat Moss puts it this way on her website (where you can view other Boisseau paintings: http://patriciamossart.com/other-artists/alfred-boisseau-1823-1901/),

“Of his portraits, a New York City critic wrote, ‘Boisseau is unequalled. He clearly merits a position at the peak of his profession.’ Fine artworks which survive the ravages of time, eventually garner the appreciation they deserve. This piece, even with the subject unknown, is a fine example of portraiture by a highly-skilled artist.”

So treat yourself. Go sample some of Luanne’s down-home cuisine or just grab a coffee and take a look at a masterful portrait that could be yours.

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