(La Porte, IN) - An old torn and smoke stained painting is providing the public a glimpse of the history of La Porte after being fully restored. However, the effort to identify the artist is still running into dead ends.
The 4 X 8 foot painting from 1949 didn’t even have a frame when found nailed to a sheet of plywood. The plywood was bolted into the brick wall of the basement in the home of Dennis Meyer, stunned by the discovery. “It didn’t belong there. It belonged in a much more beautiful spacious room where the public can see it,” he said.
Meyer donated the painting now hanging in the conference room at the La Porte Park and Recreation Department office at 250 Pine Lake Avenue. “The job that was done on it was just phenomenal. I couldn’t be happier with it,” said La Porte Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber.
The painting reflects an area of Stone Lake with trees peaking in fall colors. The work of art was in a home Meyer purchased over four-years ago on Lakeshore Drive beside Stone Lake. Meyer said he spotted the painting right away and was impressed but his focus at the time was more on updating the residence also built in 1949. “As I got into the remodeling I realized the painting really deserves a better spot than being in my basement,” he said.
Eventually, Meyer began making some contacts and Schreiber expressed an interest in the painting. Schreiber said a grant to pay for its restoration was obtained by a local branch of The Questers, a group dedicated to preservation.
Thaddeus Cutler, the owner of a downtown LaPorte art gallery, removed the tar from cigarette smoke clouding the original colors. He also fixed a couple of spots where the paint was chipped along with the nail holes in the canvas. “The way they cleaned it up, it’s absolutely beautiful,” Schreiber said. Meyer said the tobacco stains were from smoking that occurred by the original owners of the home and during parties they hosted in the basement.
The painting that includes the image of a squirrel on a tree was also given a frame and hung in the conference room where the park board holds its monthly meetings. The creator of the painting was not known but leads are being pursued in hopes of identifying the artist. A name inscribed at the bottom of the painting could not be made out.
“It gives up a little glimpse into the past of La Porte. I’d love to be able to solve it,” he said.