It didn’t last long, only two years, and as inopportune as his death was I treasure those times we spent together in his studio in Little Havana.
oil on canvas 25x30,1994
I met the master shortly before his death and he became a mentor, a tutor and I in exchange brought him to my home on Sundays for dinner where my daughters regaled him with the love of adopted grandchildren…he truly loved them.
I had never taken art classes but could draw from the time I was five. I went to Havana with my mother and upon my return I drew a very detailed, even with perspective, a drawing of our capitol. My grandfather commented: “this child is talented; he is a natural born artist and will be heading for San Alejandro Fine Arts College”
I never got there because Castro came into power just as I finished high school and went into an unwanted exile with my parents. My art took a back seat to other endeavors like learning the English language. I did take drafting in high school and that was the extent or as close as I ever got to drawing again.
Out of college and married with two children, I took up painting as a hobby. My ex-wife was very critical of this endeavor even begrudging any money I would spend on canvass and paint. But then I met Franz at a funeral of all places…when I worked for a funeral home and we began to talk and he mentioned that he was a painter. I told him that it was my hobby and he invited me to come and visit.
That started a long and beautiful friendship that led me to having the privilege of being taught by the master. Amazingly enough, it was not landscapes he was teaching me…he was instructing me in the skills of portraiture…and to this day I still haven’t mastered it. But I did become very proficient at landscapes after I would see him paint some of the latter paintings of the Everglades that he did...perhaps these were his last.
The man was a remarkable person…perhaps a bit cantankerous and eccentric but fascinating nevertheless. He had an uncanny resemblance to Ernest Hemingway and I wish I had a photograph of him but I did the best I could in finding one that resembled him. (Shown here)
Some of the master’s work: