While attending a dinner party in Madrid in the 1960s, I became intrigued by some stunning paintings of my hostess's dogs. Delightedly, she told me that the painter was a young Chilean born local artist named Claudio Bravo and promised to introduce me. A few days later she took me to artist's apartment where he was working on a portrait of a beautiful young woman.
Upon greeting us, the artist told us he was still at work but urged us to wait in another room and look at some of his portraits. His works were spectacular--full of whimsy, such as that of a prominent dowager painted in all her regalia, including all her jewelry including a diamond studded eye patch! Bravo's handling of paint and use of color reminded me strongly of Francisco Zurbarán's works. Throughout the studio, interestingly enough, there were no paintings on the walls. In a small back room however, there was a remarkable unfinished still life painting--quite a large canvas, easily four by six feet--a painting of flat package, wrapped in a shiny blue paper and tied with a heavy string. There was nothing simple about this package--it was so real one wanted to untie its string to reveal the mystery hidden from view.
Upon entering the artist's bedroom, we discovered two of his paintings on the wall--a small still life of a tin funnel, the other--a drawing with two figures that looked like self-portraits. I asked the artist if the works were for sale but he told me they were not very important; he had so little time to paint anything but his society portraits. I expressed my interest in purchasing the "blue package," as well. The artist inquired how I knew what the finished work would look like and I assured him that I did. I then persuaded him to sell it to me. I also advised him to take time off from all his portrait commissions and paint enough works for an exhibition in New York that I would help him realize.
Claudio agreed to let me take the two small pictures on his bedroom wall as well as the Blue Package; we corresponded over the next few months and the work arrived sometime in the spring. The Blue Package hung in my brownstone living room on a white brick wall where it greeted every visitor to my home.
Shortly after in 1968, my friend and I impressed upon Claudio to abandon portraits and to concentrate on works for a possible New York exhibition. For his American debut, Claudio sent paper-wrapped packages of different colors and sizes to the Staempfli Gallery in New York. A grateful Claudio wrote me in California that before the official opening every one of his paintings had been sold. When The New York Times review of Claudio's show came out--art critic John Canady's headline read: "Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!"
Born in New York, Jack Lawrence is a respected and admired, award winning songwriter and lyricist with such hits If I didn't Care recorded by the Ink Spots and All or Nothing At All made popular by Frank Sinatra. As lyricist, one of his most famous contributions remains the English language lyrics for the French song La mer, which Bobby Darin recorded as Beyond the Sea.