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The Not So Mysterious (not so Wooy) S. J. Woolf

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The Mysterious S. J. Wooy

A couple years ago, we casually inherited a striking picture of Theodore Roosevelt which we thought was created by an "S. J. Wooy." As the product of an Antiques Roadshow household, I googled to see if I could find any details about the picture or any stories about the artist.

I could not.

But I wrote about him anyway and I learned from some curious readers- that I was not the only one who had turned up nothing but a dead end. Then, one recent comment sent us off on one last search, just for the heck of it.

And there he was. Only he wasn't a Wooy at all. He was a Woolf. A Woolf in Wooy's handwritting, you could say ;)

Samuel Johnson Woolf

Most well known for portraits of popular celebrities and politicians of his time, which were frequently featured in The New York Times, arguably his most moving work was produced long before that.

Woolf served as a corespondent during WWI where he produced numerous pieces depicting the day to day scenes from life during the war, creating images that present the shocking as almost mundane.

S. J Woolf, not Wooey  S. J Woolf, not Wooey

S. J Woolf, not Wooey

But one day, the war ended. And Samuel Woolf found himself back in New York making a career as not only an artist, but a journalist, you could say. He frequently casually interviewed his subjects as he sketched them and the scope of his work quickly grew to encompass politicians, celebrities, authors, and more.

S. J Woolf Wooey

[caption id="attachment_1533" align="alignleft" width="181"]S. J Woolf, not Wooey Photo Via Brier Hill Gallery[/caption]

 

Not a bad story for a free picture of the second best Roosevelt.

The Things That Came Back

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I will never forget,

the look in my best friends' eyes, when they were thinking back to their experience aboard that boat and even though they appeared as if they were next to me, I knew they were lost back in the endless expanse of sea or smelling the spices of the last country or the country before it.

I tried to chase the traces of the memories, but they had evaporated around me and we never have shared memories of class before ports or dishes of food you just had to be there to even know existed.

And I wondered how such an exhilarating adventure had left them haunted.

Then I found my own adventure. And fear and anxiety and expectation was replaced by joy and adrenaline and certainty and peace. Pain and pleasure pulled me from sleep and sleep called me back just as frustration began to poke at the scale and tamper with the order of things- all things.

All things had order, the hour of sunset and the misty consistency of dawn, the chill that set in at the heart of each evening that deepened into tangible dew until it thickened the humidity percolating in the air and announced day was upon us (in case we had missed the sun itself).

Who could miss the sun? It governed us sternly, sent us scattering like animals more aware of their own instincts than ourselves. But even sometimes, we braved her still -the way a man pets a tiger or slices a pufferfish- carefully.

Sometimes your body is not your own; this was not one of those times.

I could not tell you whether we walked through our own dreams or swam through the air, so thick with humidity we wondered if it could suffocate; somehow it was the same thing.

I thought I would learn one type of lesson; instead I learned others- more dire and pertinent than could have ever been dreamed up by my own ego.

I can't bring my whole mind back... it aches and pulls to retrace the steps along that white line. Maybe, somehow, a part of me haunts it too.