The last time
I saw Clementine was in 1971 in Alexandria, Louisiana, when she
traveled from Melrose to attend my grandmother's funeral. I will
always remember Clementine sitting in the parlor of the funeral
home, dressed in white and fanning herself with a paper fan.
Her face was immobile and tears were streaming down her checks.
My grandmother lay in an open casket as peaceful as though she
were sleeping. Just before the casket was closed, I put the lavender
flower of a wild iris in her folded hands.
On my grandmother's death, the "Bowl of Zinnias" was
given to me. Along with it was the copper pitcher in which the
zinnias had been painted. Sadly, the pitcher was lost years later
in the confusion following a fire in my apartment in New York.
Fortunately, the painting and the material associated with its
history remained unscathed. Clementine's painting, "Milking
Time", which appears in Clarence John Laughlin's photograph
in "Look Magazine", along with a old window-shade painting,
were given to my brother, Rand.
I kept in touch with Francois until his death in 1980. I had
known him for almost 35 years. With his passing, an era in my
life had passed. My grandmother and grandfather were gone. Mrs.
Cammie was gone. Francois was gone. And eventually, Clementine
would follow in their way.
During one of the last conversations I had with Francois by telephone,
the subject of the "Bowl of Zinnias" came up. I knew
it was an important painting, and I asked him what he thought
I should do with it.
He answered,"Sell it for a million dollars and buy a high-priced
June 7, 2003
Key West Florida