Friday, February 15, 2013

An Enduring Valentine...

  This Valentine's Day has been years in the making.  While doing my gift shopping this past Christmas, I stumbled across an antiques shop that Jenny and I had visited years ago. My mind always remembers highlights of the different shops I visit and seeing this one reminded me of Jenny's love of floral paintings and one in particular that we had seen at this shop before we were married. I don't think we ever actually knew the price of the framed canvas, but it was a large and finely painted piece and I remember thinking it would be way out of our price range. Needless to say we didn't purchase it, but it clearly stuck in my mind.

Antiques shopping for me is filled with anticipation and this foray was no different. I usually have that "lump in the throat" feeling reserved for speaking engagements, but it is just how "worked up" I get when I think I might find something special. I have driven by this store hundreds of times in the last few years but haven't stopped in. I don't know why I choose to on this particular day, but something made me stop for a quick peruse. I made my way to the door to open it with the hopeful anticipation of seeing the painting on the wall from years ago. Unfortunately it wasn't hanging there, and why would it be? We are talking about nearly 20 years having passed! I looked around anyway and spotted some dishes, glassware, and a pair of candlesticks that I could possibly use for my regular work.

I continued to scan the picture wall where the painting had once hung for "the one" with a grouping of peonies in shades of pink and red growing in a garden. I remember how taken I was with the artist's brush skills and the colors...spectacular life-like peonies in the most spectacular shades against a gray background. Lining the wall were bureaus, cupboards and china cabinets. Upon further inspection I found a gilded frame sticking out from behind the china cabinet. My heart skipped a beat as I approached the wall and tugged at the frame. To my utter amazement, I slid the canvas towards me to reveal the painting I had remembered! 
Apparently the wire on the back of the canvas had frayed and broken, hiding the painting behind the cabinet for "who knows how long." I was thrilled, had unearthed a treasure, and set my mind on buying this piece, that I had passed up years ago, as a Christmas gift for Jenny.

The shopkeeper came to see what I had found. The canvas was quite dirty and I discovered a large tear in the upper left corner. I didn't care. I really wanted to have this piece. I inquired, on the edge of my seat...."I could do it $40.00 dollars," the dealer said. I was jumping up and down inside. "I'll take it,"  I said with enthusiasm that filled the room like a chorus of holiday carolers one-hundred strong. I was tap-dancing in my head...gliding on air...floating to my car with this enormous canvas that might have to stick through the roof with its pointy square corners, like Bugs Bunny toting home an enormous carrot in a convertible!

Back home, I saw that the canvas had some issues. Cleaning and repairs needed to take place and my assistant took up the task of repainting and filling the damage. She is a master at matching colors and this was oil paint which was an even harder challenge. When all was said and done, the paints ended up costing more than the piece itself. It was clear that this was to become a Valentine's gift for my wife.

Weeks passed and the repairs were completed. 
I stored the painting in our garage great room for the last few weeks covered in a canvas paint cloth.

The peonies are finely detailed and so realistic.  You can see the tear
in the left corner:

I like the subtle shading of the blossoms and the layers which make it
seem so real:

I also like the unopened blossoms.... this artist was a real master:

My assistant filled and repainted the tear and touched up some previous
repairs that were not done so well:

A white peony is fully opened: the degree of the blossoms in their open
quality show the multiple skills of the artist:

Old repairs were done with electrical and duct tape... they remind me a
bit of the battle wounds of LOVE... life deals a lot of challenges but
we all prevail, scars and all:

Pink supermarket flowers became a simple arrangement for our dinner 
last night:

 Pink and white transferware dishes and stemware with a rosy ring completed 
the dinner table setting:

I prepared stuffed pasta shells layered with spinach in a light sauce for
dinner. A French chocolate tart got a topping of chopped chocolate and pink
rose petals:

I decided to hang the piece in our bedroom with a light to illuminate the flowers. The walls are painted a rich chocolate brown which adds drama to the painting. (I will reveal its instillation next week). To present the painting to Jenny, I installed it on the wall beneath a battery-operated picture light...I am not much with a drill but I
accomplished this with finesse and aplomb, which confirms to me this
was a find that truly was "meant to be."  

And the reaction?



Matthew Mead's Recycled Style is available for pre-order via and


  1. Matthew Mead, you are a true romantic! Happy Valentine's Day to you and Jenny.

  2. What a lovely post... and it is amazing how years ago that picture called to you... because Jenny was meant to have it!

    And I think the tear makes it even more real and beautiful.

    Thank you so much for sharing this special story!

    Victoria Silva

  3. That is a beautiful story Matthew! I am glad to know you. I have lived long enough to know that having people that hold the same romantic ideas in their hearts are special people to me.

  4. Matthew,
    That is the most wonderful post! Jenny is so lucky!

  5. That painting waited for you! A sweet story and a lovely gift simply meant to be.

  6. I love stories...especially ones with happy endings. I know your wife must definitely have been thrilled!

  7. What a sweet Valentine you are!

  8. what a beautiful story...i imagine it will be a treasured heirloom now!


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