Robert Marx had the kind of tall, rangy body that hinted at the youngster he must have been — outdoors, riding horses, planting trees, comfortable in his skin — a Sam Elliott/Clint Eastwood kind of man. He smoked cigarettes in those days — a habit he gave up after a heart attack about 40 years back —wore plaid flannel shirts nearly exclusively, and grew the mustache that he wore the remaining years of his life.
I didn’t know him when he was young, of course. Nor do I know how he got from Germany, his birth place, to the United States. A bunch of talented European artists landed in Upstate New York during the 1950s and 1960s — Kurt Feuerherm, Tage Frid, Frans Wildenhain, Hans Christensen, Robert Marx. Who said “they came for a better life?” That sounds about right.
They took jobs teaching in newly developed college art departments. I asked Bob Marx in an interview last year: “Can you teach art?” He answered “No. You can only guide people. I worked alongside the students in class. They could ask questions, watch how I did things.”
Is that enough? I don’t know that either. I’ve never taken an art class. Design, yes. But not art. Sure, even I could learn perspective, color theory, art history. The great violinist Itzak Perlman said “Music is what happens between the notes.”
Art is what happens beyond technical skills.
These artists brought with them a universe of talent and equally important, an “old school philosophy” of what it meant to be an artist — to lead an artful life — a life of authenticity. They approached life with curiosity and intellect and generosity.
“Art must lead beyond the arts, to an awareness and a share of mutuality.” (Paul Klee)
Robert shared the last third of his life with Francie. While he was tall and quiet, she is tiny and bubbly. Robert twinkled; Francie is LED super-wattage. They were regulars at classical concerts and loved good movies. Walls at their house are lined with books and favorite movie videos. Until a year or two ago, they thought nothing of loading up the car and starting out on multi-state swings to visit old friends and galleries.
I asked Bob: Have you kept any of your paintings?
“Yes, I have 5 or 6.”
Why did you keep those?
“I was trying to get to something and they came closest.”
I think Bob was referring to the music between the notes…his art.
Robert died September 21, 2020. He was 94 years old.
|Robert Marx (photo by Joan Stormont)|