Watercolor Exhibit at American Tobacco
“An Historical Perspective of Durham” By Bob Blake
Bob Blake’s watercolors of the Durham landscape in the ’40s and ’50s are now on display at American Tobacco.
While the likes of Greenfire, Scientific Properties and, yes– American Tobacco—ply us with exquisite historical renovations of downtown Durham, Bob Blake has to be chuckling. The 91-year-old Durham artist remembers how it REALLY was in downtown Durham during the 1940s and 1950s, and he has dozens of watercolors to prove it.
Starting this month, over three dozen of Robert L. Blake’s watercolors of Durham city streets, landmarks and homes will be exhibited in the lobby of the Strickland Building on the American Tobacco Campus. The artwork is on loan from the Duke Semans Foundation Fine Arts Collection, and was first exhibited at American Tobacco in October of 2004.
Monday – Sunday
9:00am to 6:00pm
Strickland Building Lobby
Born in New Jersey, Robert L. Blake moved to Durham in 1942 to work for Duke University as a medical illustrator. Hours spent in operating rooms, making prostheses, and studying anatomy honed his gift for detail, but it was tobacco barns that got his attention in the off hours.
“ I probably painted every tobacco barn in Durham county, “ says Blake, a prolific painter producing up to 50 paintings per year in his prime.
In 1959, Blake spent a week of vacation painting scenes within the city of Durham. “I fixed the trunk of my car with a short table, and the car parked so the lid would shade it. I painted on the spot, ten pictures that week, including taking black and white photographs which were used for information later.”
“Blake’s watercolors capture a time in Durham’s history when the downtown was quite vibrant,” said Doug Zinn, Executive Director of the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and the Duke Semans Fine Arts Foundation. “They inspire one to see downtown Durham’s return to vibrancy through development projects that are recapturing the poignancy and realizing the potential of downtown.”
Says Blake, “I just hope people look at these paintings of Durham and appreciate how things used to be.”
Thanks to Cindy Sink for this capcom story.