Published January 11. 2013 4:00AM
Paul Zimmerman - an esteemed painter who taught at the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford - died in 2007, at age 86.
He ensured, though, that the art he left behind served more than an aesthetic purpose. He bequeathed the pieces he created to the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich. He stipulated that it all be auctioned off, with the money raised going to the Slater.
And so, on Jan. 19, the museum will host a reception and auction to do just that. Members of the public can bid on about 100 of Zimmerman's oil and aqua media works in silent and live auctions. All the paintings are on view in the museum's Converse Gallery.
Zimmerman's fondness for the Slater came about through his friendship with long-time museum director Josept Gualtieri.
"I credit Joe for recognizing Paul's talent and for engaging him in the museum," says current Slater Director Vivian F. Zoe.
This January event follows Slater's 2009 auction of some of Zimmerman's other art. Back then, paintings went for as much as $1,000 but, Zoe adds, "You can get something really wonderful for under $100."
The funds raised will go to the Slater's collections fund - toward purchasing new works and maintaining the existing collection.
Beyond his own creations, Zimmerman donated many objects he collected, including African art now on display in the Slater's African gallery.
This could be Slater's last auction of Zimmerman's works, since the museum has the discretion of sending the remaining pieces to commercial auction houses for sale.
The oils and the watercolor/gouaches up for bid include sweeping landscapes (whose titles range from the general "November Skies" to the site-specific "Essex, Summer Storm - Light Series, c. 1990"), as well as cool abstracts and evocative still-lifes.
Zimmerman, who had gallery representation in both New York and the Hartford area, exhibited in numerous shows over the course of his career. Zoe says that his paintings for a given exhibition would have a certain theme and color palette. The frames, too, would all be the same.
"You can really pull out the periods of his life and career from looking at the work," Zoe says. "Personally, I like the earlier work the best. But if you're looking for something to buy and to live with, the later work is very comforting. People who like beach scenes have something here, (as do) people who likes mountains and skies. ... If you have a room that has a big open wall, you can create a window by just hanging one of Paul's paintings."
Zoe visited Zimmerman in his studio during the last years of his life. He lived in a small Cape Cod in the south end of Hartford, and he had built two additions off the back of the house. One was a sitting room with an end wall of glass so people inside could see his garden. The other wing was his studio, which, Zoe says, was great fun to visit because he had work in every nook and cranny.
"He had a lot of the framed works on paper stacked up from each wall into the center of the room. Then, there was this little alley (in between that) you would shimmy down to get to the end of the alley," she says.
At the end is where Zimmerman actually did his painting.
Zimmerman had a habit of working on a piece and then setting it aside while he moved on to something else. But he'd return to that original piece, maybe months later. He wrote on the upper right edge the list of dates he had worked on it.
Zimmerman received nearly 90 awards during his career, including the Best of Show from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, Hartford, in 1976. His work is in the collections of such venues as the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Houston Museum of Fine Art.
Bernard Hanson, former dean of Hartford Art School, has written of Zimmerman's work: "Through his long association with Connecticut and New England, Paul Zimmerman has absorbed the spirit of transcendental pantheism which so strongly moved Emerson and the world around him. He deals with seemingly simple elements in his paintings, but in such combination that the paintings themselves are extremely complex."