I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the art of Tony van Hasselt and the man himself since I learned of his passing. I remember talking with Tony and his wife Jan at Studio 53 last fall. He’d been one of the artists at the gallery for several years, and he was in such lively spirits. Dancing a few steps, laughing, fully in the moment. I’m smiling now seeing him in my mind’s eye.
A master watercolorist, his work was immediately recognizable – the color! And, I have to say, a few years back Tony did some darker paintings, interiors of old wooden buildings. I was immediately drawn to them when I saw the work hanging on the first floor of Studio 53. I remember thinking they reminded me of Tony’s work, but the colors, the colors seemed all wrong. Well, it wasn’t the colors that were wrong! When I saw his name on the cards below the paintings I thought – Wow. Then I understood why I saw that Dutch master shadow/dark and light quality in them … I loved them. For many years, covering art shows and events, I enjoyed saying we had two Dutch masters on Townsend Avenue – Tony van Hasselt and John Vander.
Tony had two solo shows in Boothbay Harbor last summer – in June at the Opera House and in late July and August at Studio 53. Now, for someone who painted as much as he did for decades you’d think it would be easy choosing work to show. Well, think again. In his Opera House show last June, there was work from all over the world – Brazil, the Netherlands, Provence, Greece and the U.S. – New York, Charleston; Boothbay land and seascapes … when I spoke to Tony and Jan at the Opera House I learned just how difficult it can be when you’re as prolific an artist as Tony was. As Jan said, “We have paintings everywhere!” In the end, they decided to go with showcasing the many places traveled as part of Tony’s annual workshops held around the world. They decided on “Oh, the Places I’ve Been” as the name of that Opera House show.
Here in Boothbay, over the years folks at the Thursday farmer’s markets on the Boothbay Common would see Tony at work painting one of the scenes before him. Always congenial and smiling – and why not? He was doing what he loved to do. He would stop and talk to the shoppers about what he was painting or his painting in general. One of the paintings from a farmer’s market became a poster for the 2015 Harbor Fest.
Tony participated in local art events as one of the local artists doing live demos during the annual Windjammer Days’ Artists’ Alley; Harbor Fest’s A Stroke of Art (2015) “quick draw;” and the Great Paint Out, an annual nationwide event.
The world is a less colorful place without Tony van Hasselt. Thankfully, for those of us here in the Boothbay region, his gorgeous, color-rich paintings can still be seen, in season, of course, at Studio 53. And I, for one, am very grateful for that!