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September 11, 1987 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-09-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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64

FRIDAY, SEPT. 11, 1987

JN

Young At Heart

Continued from preceding page

been exhibited at the Toledo
Museum of Art, the Rockford
(Ill.) Art Museum, and in
numerous galleries
throughout the country. He
has been a perennial prize
winner in the Hoosier Art
Salon in Indianapolis, as well
as being commended for
works displayed at the
Milwaukee Art Institute.
Mrs. Gothelf can't
remember when she wasn't
interested in art. Although
she was always drawing, she
had planned on a literary
career for herself. However, by
the time aspiring artist
Gothelf had come to Chicago
in 1925, Reva Schwayder,
born and raised in the Windy
City, had already moved west.
At the age of 18, she gave up
her studies at the University
of Chicago to marry Ben
Shwayder and go with him to
Denver. The family's suc-
cessful Samsonite Luggage
Co. eventually brought the
couple to Detroit, which
became their permanent
home.
In 1949, Mrs. Gothelf says,
she still had the notion that
she could become a painter,
but, at 47, she realized she
had best get started soon. She
decided to sign up for a class
with Sarkis Sarkesian at the
Society for Arts and Crafts
(now Center for Creative
Studies).
"I bought the paints, and
the brushes, and the can-
vasses, and I started to go to
class, but I didn't know what
to do, and nobody came to
help me for almost a year. It
wasn't until later that I learn-
ed that women were thought
to be dilettantes, and I had to
prove that I was really serious
before anyone would pay any
attention to me — except
some of the students, and
they laughed because I was
such a terrible painter!"
"After I stayed a year, they
began to help me, and then I
went to Sarkis and told him
that I'd tried very hard, that
I knew that I wanted to paint,
but I didn't feel like I was do-
ing it right, and I thought I
might give it up.
" 'Don't you dare,' he
replied. 'Do what I tell you,
and I'll make you one of the
best painters in Detroit.'
Everyone was dumbfounded.
After that, I still went to
school every day, but after
class I had to go home and
paint, eat dinner, and then
paint some more. That's what
Sarkis called learning."
At the end of ten years of
studying, art dealer Lester
Arwin offered Mrs. Gothelf
the opportunity for "a one-
man show — something pret-
ty unheard-of for a person just
getting through with school.

Louis Gothelf helps his wife catalogue some of their paintings.

And what was most exciting
was that the show sold out
completely!'
Then, it was back to the
easel in Mrs. Gothelfs studio,
especially designed for her in
her handsome contemporary
home in Franklin. Designed
by architect William Kessler,
the Shwayder home won Life
Magazine's first award for the
Most Outstanding Home in
the Midwest. "I think the
home is what may have made
me famous," Mrs. Gothelf
suggests.
Her modesty belies the fact
that she has exhibited her
paintings extensively in
Michigan, as well as national-
ly. They have hung in exhibi-
tions at the Pennsylvania
Academy of Art, the Detroit
Institute of Arts, Wayne State
University and at Lincoln
Center. Her works are found
in private and public collec-
tions throughout the United
States, including those of the
Kresge and Ford Motor Corps.
When the former Reva
Shwayder and Gothelf booked
a tour of Southern England in
1984, they scarcely knew one
another. Both widowed, she
for four years and he for
seven, they were busy Detroit
artists who had met only
briefly once at an auction
sale.
"So who was sitting next to
me on that big plane but
Louis? We talked art all the
way across the Atlantic," and
by the time the pair arrived
in England, Mrs. Gothelf says
that they were "very well ac-
quainted!'
It was such an immediate
match that she recalls having
no second thoughts when
they registered at a large
hotel in Eastburne "where I
had the smallest room, look-
ed like a clothes closet. And
there was Louis with a room
that looked as if it were sav-
ed for royalty. So, I packed up
my bags and moved in!'
Two years later they were

married in a garden
ceremony behind Mrs.
Gothelf's home, where they
now live. In their art studio
stands the miniature bride
and groom which was used in
the filming of Young At Heart.
At 85, Mrs. Gothelf says
that she is still exploring new
subjects and abstract ideas
along with the landscapes
and flowers for which she is
best known. On the contrary,
86-year-old Gothelf sees
himself as "a painter in the
tradition of Rembrandt, Ed-
ward Hopper and Winslow
Homer. John Singer Sargent
was my god."
Among Gothelf's portraits
is a favorite, one he painted of
his wife two years ago, follow-
ing the tragic death of a se-
cond son. He likes the piece
because it shows Mrs. Gothelf
exactly as he saw her during
that painful period of her life.
Abstract painters do not
communicate the same way
traditional artists do, he
claims. The couple disagrees
frequently over their pain-
tings, they say. Gothelf said
he believes an artist must
work directly from nature.
"I've been painting outside
all my life."
"He likes to paint outside —
I don't," Mrs. Gothelf inter-
jects. "But I do a lot of pre-
planning. I work from sket-
ches, and I never know when
I've finished a painting.
That's why I don't name and
sign them until they're ready
to be exhibited."
Coming from two different
Jewish backgrounds, each
maintains membership at
his/her own congregation, she
at Temple Beth El and he at
Shaarey Zedek. They're still
undecided where they will at-
tend High Holiday services.
But some compromises
come easier than others.
"Lou's a fisherman, and I do
the gardening," Mrs. Gothelf
points out. "But we're agreed
— he can do the cooking."



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