With so many people now sending holiday ecards and year-end photo letters, it’s gratifying to find that there’s still a market out there and a desire for traditional, old-fashioned Christmas cards; that the season still causes people to go a little sentimental and want to summon up the memory of seasons past. To invoke the spirit of village life, as urban pressures continue to distance us from nature, our heritage, our neighbors, our more contemplative selves. Holidays seem to make us long for a more tranquil era, even if—maybe especially if—belief in such a time is an illusion.
For sure, Richard Barons, Executive Director of the East Hampton Historical Society, is counting on such sentiment in offering two lovely Claus Hoie watercolors as greeting cards this year: “Skating on Town Pond” (2003) and “Mulford Farm and Home Sweet Home” (2002). Both cards bear the message inside “Wishing you all the joys of the holiday season,” with the additional line, “Let it snow!” Well, if it does have to snow, let the snow fall as gently as it does in these pictures of Mulford Farm and Hook Windmill with Home Sweet Home in the foreground, the house’s slanting roof angling over a single window of warming gold light. And let a gold sunset streak across the cold gray winter sky, as it does in “Skating.” And let skaters come to Town Pond, figures of all ages like Hoie’s hockey players, a child being pulled on a sled, folks milling about on the ice, red jackets here and there, a touch of yellow, an idyllic past frozen in time.
Hoie (d. 2007), hardly a stranger to East Hampton, where he lived for many years, was featured in a one-person show last fall, “The Log of the Whaler Helena,” at the East Hampton Town Marine Museum in Amagansett. The paintings which also appeared in an accompanying book of the same name, featured not only whaling scenes but also calligraphy and text taken from an actual 1843 log. The whaler, however, was fictional, named for Hoie’s wife, Helen. The artist’s award-winning career included honors for graphic design and commercial illustration as well as for his nautical watercolors, which reflected his life in Norway when he spent time in the Merchant Marine as a steersman and navigator. Later, he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and in New York at the Pratt Institute.
“Skating on Town Pond” was part of a 2004 retrospective at Guild Hall. “Claus Hoie Watercolor and Drawings, 1945-2003” that the artist himself, working with curator Christina Strassfield, put together. Preferring always to let his work speak for him, the then 92-year old Hoie was nonetheless once quoted as saying that he loved “to watch the skaters on the town pond when it is frozen and long wanted to paint the colorful scene. East Hampton has a special appeal for me in the winter. The weather becomes more serious. The trees have lost their leaves and seem more like giant sculptures. The colors of the sky at sunrise and sunset become more vivid and the snow and ice take me back to my childhood.” Indeed, some viewers have suggested that the young figure curled up at the edge of the pond in “Skating” may be a nostalgic projection of the artist himself, young, apart, but surveying a scene that he will go on to capture with a sense of the quiet community of his adopted home.
The Hoie greeting cards may be purchased at the East Hampton Historical Society, 101 Main Street, or online at www.easthamptonhistory.org, $25 for a box of 12, six of each design. Call 631-324-6850. The cards are being offered through the generosity of the Helen & Claus Hoie Charitable Foundation, proceeds to benefit the education committee of EHHS.