Original Oil Painting Collage - Early Years
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in 1968 at the Stroudsburg Arts Festival in Pennsylvania when a young couple walked up to me to inquire about my painting, THE GATE. They spent over three hours talking to me. They asked about the price; $800 I said (At the time my salary teaching was around $8500.00 a year).They took measurements, they studied it up close and from across the street. They knew exactly where they were going to put it. Then another customer wanted to purchase a silk screen. When I turned my attention to them I noticed that young couple walking away.
Now it’s a year later and I’m back in Stroudsburg setting up yet another art exhibit on a beautiful Sunday morning, when that same young couple shows up. They ask about the price of THE GATE, still $800 I tell them. They study it close up and from far away.
Just then a tall elderly gentleman walks up and inquires about the price; $800 I tell him. He says “Sold, under the condition it fits in my station wagon. I will be leaving for my home in Florida this afternoon.” Then that young couple said to me, “That was our painting you just sold!” I said to them “It was your painting last year, now it belongs to him!”
We managed to squeeze the painting into his station wagon. He gave me $100 cash (it was all he had on him) with the promise that I will have the remainder on Monday.
It was Sunday, there was no way I would get a check in the mail by the next day; but something about him said to trust him. Monday afternoon a courier arrived with a check for the remainder.
Many months later I received a letter in the mail addressed to “Bittner, Conn Artist.” Yup, back in those days the mail found you, no matter how long it took. CONN was the mail name for Connecticut. The return address printed on the envelop was from a very well-known legal firm, only with his name added at the end. Inside the same lettering at the top of the letter head. Hand written message simply stated “Painting arrived safely, now gracing the wall of our home.”
Several years later I receive another letter, this time the letter head and the letter inside has a picture of a hospital wing with the words “The Leeberg Pavilion, Union, New Jersey. He wrote “You are invited to spend the weekend at our summer camp on Lake Pocono. Bring boots; it tends to get rather swampy.” “p.s. Your painting is hanging over the fire place.”
The driveway was over a mile long before we saw this huge “A-Frame” home sitting up on a hill overlooking a lake. We crossed a dam that we later learned he just had built to hold back the water of Lake Pocono. Inside everything was custom built to reflect “normal size”, even the gigantic chandler looked normal. . In the kitchen all the counters were constructed to fit the 6’6”+ height of Mr. Leeberg and his wife. Our bedroom was huge, from a standard eight foot outside wall the A-frame roof rose to what I measured as three door frames high over the door opening on the other side of the bedroom.
In the evening we sat by the fire, looking up at my painting. Deer roamed just outside the mammoth glass window walls. It was a perfect evening, viewing and talking about their life’s and extensive art collection.
Sometime in the ’90 we received another letter stating that his wife has passed away and he was down-sizing his five homes. He offered to return my painting with “No consideration asked except to pick it up at my Pocono Camp.” “p.s. I had the painting evaluated at $20,000.”
Sandy and I left for Pennsylvania that weekend.
Mr. Leeberg showed us a rather large solid Sterling Silver cup with stags on either side given by Queen Victoria to the winner of the Ascot Cup Races. He spoke to the Director of a famous Museum in London that housed Sterling Silver. The director from the museum was on a plane to America a half hour after that call. It seems that cup was priceless.