January 28, 2011 – By Eric Schultz
Mel is a renowned realist painter. His works can be found at the Whitney Museum in New York, the White House and in private collections around the world.
He is also my neighbor in the Glen Afton section of Trenton.
I don’t usually appear in the programs I produce. I am much happier behind the camera. But, in this case, I just had to make an exception.
After filming a number of interviews, gallery openings and sittings with Mel painting friends, fellow artists and famous architects, Mel decided he wanted to paint me playing my cello. It seems he would hear me through the upstairs window practicing when he walked his dog.
Let’s face it, an invitation to be painted by a famous artist is flattering and completely irresistible.
Shortly before I was to be painted, I met my old friend and cello player Lynne Beiler at Fred Oster’s rare violin shop in Philadelphia. We were trying out cellos and Fred brought out the cello that Thomas Eakins had painted in 1896. I had seen the painting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art many times.
Knowing that Mel revered Thomas Eakins, one of America’s most famous 19th Century painters, we borrowed the cello for my sitting. Mel was blown away.
Mel’s old friend of thirty years Aubrey J. Kauffman, my colleague here at NJN, served as director of photography and narrator for the documentary. Mel painted Aubrey and his wife Michele a few years ago.
This project has been a 3-year labor of love for both Aubrey and me.
Viewers will not know about our connections to Mel, but we hope they sense the warmth and care with which we labored.