Robert Long

Cactus Hill Art Gallery

Robert LongIn 1967, at 50, Robert T. Long decided he wanted to be a full-time artist. He quit his job of 17 years as writer and producer of TV commercials, sold his house and everything in it, packed up the car, a storage trailer, and his two cats, and moved with his wife Anne to the quaint town of San Miguel de Allende, some 160 miles north of Mexico City. "I wanted to paint, and my wife wanted me to paint," said Long. He spent eight years living in a small, rented, colonial-style home, working at perfecting his craft.

A Chicago native, Long attended the Art Institute of Chicago and won a traveling fellowship to visit Europe when he graduated in 1938. While studying during the Depression, Long worked as a janitor at the Art Institute. "It was quite an honor to be a janitor. You got to see things that were closed to the public."

Ever since he was a student, Long was fascinated with painting nudes. "It's the essence of art. To study the way the body flows from one form into the other, and the colors and the delicacies—it's the greatest thing in art," he said.

In 1986, the fruit of his labor gained national recognition. One of his works won top honors out of some 11,000 entries in a contest sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons. Long's painting was selected with 40 other works by other senior artists to appear in Modern Maturity magazine's "Seasoned Eye" exhibit. The judges unanimously awarded Long the grand prize for his work "Making the Bed." The 30-by-40-inch painting is in the post-impressionist style and depicts a nude woman making a bed. The exhibit opened in New York and appeared in six major cities throughout the US. The next page on this gallery tour is a reproduction of "Making the Bed," with the program notes from "The Seasoned Eye" exhibition.

Long's style of painting was dictated by his mood. "I have no specific way of painting. It is sort of freewheeling, put any way you want from day to day. You don't have to stick to a style. Rather, you paint according to the mood." Robert Long produced about 2,000 works in his lifetime. In his later years, he worked more slowly, he said, because certain peculiar things don't come easy. "I guess you could say it's slower because it's a more deliberate kind of passion."

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