Hardie Gramatky’s “Compo Beach Figures”

Andrew Wyeth called Hardie Gramatky one of America’s 20 greatest watercolorists. Parents called him a gifted author and illustrator; his “Little Toot” books kept kids entertained for hours.

Westporters called him “neighbor.”

Though world-renowned, Gramatky loved painting local scenes. Compo Beach was a special place for him and his family. In 1971 he produced a watercolor called “Compo Beach Figures.”

Hardie Gramatky: "Compo Beach Figures"

After winning an award in 1974, the work was purchased by Joan Neff and Fred Shearer. In 1979 they presented it to the town of Westport, as a gift.

Three months later, Gramatky died of cancer.

Now, a limited edition giclée — a high-quality lithograph printed on heavy watercolor paper, with a look and feel identical to the original painting — is available for purchase. Gramatky’s family will donate net proceeds to the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection, which owns several of his works.

That’s a great reason to order one ($200 unframed; $350 with a walnut or gold wood frame). “They make great holiday gifts” is another reason.

Hardie Gramatky at work.

Hardie Gramatky at work.

That’s the background on “Compo Beach Figures.” But Linda Smith — Gramatky’s daughter — wants to know more.

She’d love to find out about Neff and Shearer, the couple who gave the painting to the town. She’d also like to find out who posed for the paintings.

Meanwhile, for a close-up look at “Compo Beach Figures,” visit the Westport Historical Society. It’s one of 45 Westport works on display there through January 4.

(To order a giclée, click here — then scroll down. For more information, email: wspac06880@gmail.com. To answer Linda Gramatky Smith’s questions, email: linken2467@aol.com,)

11 responses to “Hardie Gramatky’s “Compo Beach Figures”

  1. Aracelli Cetina

    I have one of his drawing.

  2. Loretta Hallock

    Love that picture. It was in the Selectman’s Office for years. I always enjoyed looking at it when I worked at Town Hall. How lucky we were to have such great talent in our Town.

  3. Kathie Bennewitz

    Questions can also be directed to wspac06880@gmail.com

    We can also supply photos of the 2 frames types, if you request.

    Indeed, the original art watercolor hung above Pat Scully’s desk in teh Selectman’s office for many years and she received this giclee as a gift from the Westport Arts Advisory Committee as a thank you for her many years of service to Westport.

    Also, It was lovely to receive this note today. This is exactly why we wanted to share THIS image with the community.

    “We are longtime lovers of Compo Beach having lived over sixty years in Westport. Our five children were schooled and raised here; my husband and I worked in the community. We have good reason to be grateful to the schools and to our town’s devotion to the arts”

    Thank you!!!

  4. Thanks, Dan, for sharing the story about this special watercolor & giclée. I am hoping that someone who reads your blog will remember Joan Neff and Fred Shearer and be able to tell us a bit about them. My dad loved Westport so much and would have been an avid reader of “06880” IF he were alive today. What intrigues me about the watercolor is that many times he painted Compo Beach in the summer, but for many of us who love to walk on the beach during all seasons, this shows families enjoying picking up shells and fishermen working and people exercising even when the temperatures have fallen. The giclées are printed on heavy watercolor paper, so they look exactly like the watercolor when framed, and all the profits from sales go to benefit Westport children who have over 1,500 original pieces of artwork in their schools. Perhaps they will be artists themselves when they grow up!

    • Scott Shearer, ’70, was a teammate on the Staples soccer squad. Perhaps Fred is a relative of his.

      • Linda Gramatky Smith

        Thanks, Fred! I just wrote an email to Scott so hope to hear from him. The era is certainly right. 🙂

  5. Joyce Barnhart

    Is there an outlet in town where we can purchase and pick-up the giclee in person? (I have some problems with having the item shipped.)

    • Linda Gramatky Smith

      Thanks for asking, Joyce, and by now you have purchased one to be framed tomorrow and back in time for Christmas. Yes, both unframed and framed are available to be picked up in Westport.

  6. Richard Lawrenc Stein

    I recall a school assembly or a library assembly at Kings Highway in the very early to mid 70’s a man coming to school and drawing “Little Toot”…. I believe it was then framed and was hung on the wall at Kings Highway…. wonder what happened to that piece of art

    • You’re all going to be tired of my comments. 🙁 But, Richard, yes that was my dad and he loved giving “chalk talks” in the area schools as well as around the country. I think there were four or five pastel drawings done that day by my dad (Hardie Gramatky) and for years they hung in the main office at Kings Highway. But then they were absorbed into the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection and are now hanging in the hallway right across from the Saugatuck Elementary main office. Maybe you can find an excuse to go into Saugatuck and ask to see them. Everyone seems to love them!

  7. Aracelli Cetina

    I see no trees with Christmas lights since they were taken out a while ago, just go to main street in New Canaan and see the beautiful lights it is magical.

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