M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thomas S. Buechner 1927-2010

Still Life by Thomas S. Buecher, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

Portrait of Clare Doherty Deyo, by Thomas S. Buecher, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

Portrait of Michael Lindsay Doherty, by Thomas S. Buechner, 1998, alkyd, 14 x 11.

I lost a great friend and mentor on Sunday with the death of Thomas S. Buechner. During his long and distinguished career, he had been director of the Brooklyn Museum, President of Steuben Glass, Director of the Corning Museum, and a board member of many foundations and art organizations. But I'm sure what Tom would prefer to be remembered as is an artist because he always managed to stay active as a painter of landscapes, still lifes, and portraits.
I first met Tom in 1979 when he took me to lunch in the King Cole Room of the St Regis Hotel so we could begin an interview that resulted in one of several articles I wrote on his work for American Artist magazine. We continued the interview aboard the Corning Glass corporate jet when Tom took my to his studio in Corning, and I never stopped learning from him over the course of the next 30 years. He introduced me to plein air painting, did portraits of my two children, sold me still life paintings, and gave me valuable advice about editing the magazine.
I often quoted Tom in my editorials, blog, and lectures because he said relevant and quotable things. For example, he remarked that "the older I get, the more attractive the subject matter becomes that is closest to the bathroom." And when telling me how to make small plein air paintings look important, he said "if you want it sold, frame it in gold." But aside from offering those amusing quips, he had a friendly way of challenging me to do my very best work. I'm sure he did the same with others.
I had lunch with Tom last fall and he said he didn't remember every saying the things I attributed to him, but he appreciated the mention and wanted me to continue giving him credit for such sage and humorous advice. I certainly will do that.
I received a letter just a few weeks ago from Tom and he made no mention of the lymphoma that was bringing his rich life to a close, but then he wouldn't. I'm assuming he wrote to a number of people over the past few months as a way of saying good bye without really saying he was leaving. Instead, he thanked me for recognizing him as an artist and publishing articles on his use of alkyd paints and mediums, how he used photographs as source material and avoided the mechanical look of the photograph, traveling efficiently while painting supplies, and a number of other topics. He also urged me not to become a bitter old man now that I am semi-retired but, rather, to focus on the new opportunities before me. I will try to do that, always remembering that many of those opportunities were provided to me by the friend whose voice I will continue to hear and whose paintings I will continue to enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Steve,

    That's a very meaningful tribute you wrote. It give us a flavor of his personality. I never met the man, but I've admired his paintings frequently over the years. Now I'm sorry I never ran into him while he was with us.