Never Too Late To Be An Artist

Kathryn Wasserman Davis started painting landscapes when she was 90 years old.  Now 105, she has become a prolific chronicler of the Hudson River.  In a short film about her, Kathryn Davis: Painting of a Life, she is quoted as saying: “I look at the blank canvas and think what in heavens am I going to put on this?” As a painter myself, I know exactly how she feels.  There is nothing more daunting to me than an empty canvas.

Her statement echoes the sentiments of many an artist. But, Davis goes on to say: “Then I get going and it’s fun to see the picture evolving.  I did try once to do a portrait of myself and I carefully eliminated all the wrinkles. I’m a very fast impressionist, and I get very impatient if it takes me longer than two and a half hours to finish a picture.” Davis is living proof that it is never too late to become an artist. Her paintings draw inspiration from the picturesque views of the Hudson from her hilltop Tarrytown home. She has been a resident of the village for over 70 years.

Davis’s lifelong goal has been to create a peaceful world, calm and beautiful like the scenes she paints. She has dedicated her second century on earth to encouraging younger generations to bring peace to the planet through her Projects for Peace initiative.   Davis, an author, whose lifelong philanthropy includes support for the arts, holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Geneva.  She was recently honored by the Jacob Burns Film Center, receiving their Leadership Award for her lifelong contributions to the county, as well as her support of JBFC international film and education programs. The Kathryn W. Davis Fellowship for International Understanding Through Film allows filmmakers and educators from all over the world to work and teach at JBFC.

It’s fun to note that Davis is a thoroughly modern woman marching in a suffragette parade when she was four. She reports that when her mother got the right to vote, “she and my father did not vote on the same ticket.”  Married for 62 years to businessman Shelby Cullom Davis who was a United States Ambassador to Switzerland, she says she met her husband on a train. “I think I started the conversation by asking a very brilliant question. I said to him, ‘Is Geneva the next stop?’”  Single ladies:  Think about using that line the next time you are on a train.

Photo: David Swope, JBFC Chairman, and Kathryn W. Davis at the JBFC 2012 Anniversary Celebration on September 29

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