I remember going for a walk that day. It must have been before the VISTA training was over because I didn't have a car. I must have been eager to get outside and off my myself because most July days in Houston, Texas are hot. Hot as in 100 degrees or more, then muggy then cloudy then gully-washer rainstorms, then steamy, then hot again.
I remember it was Westheimer Road where I ended up walking. Not sure how far out of town or where exactly but I entered a small antique store and began to look around. The usual array of items in a small glass case. Some jewelry, old political buttons, Depression glass...watches. On the walls various paintings, on the tables, more glassware and dinner sets of fine china. And then I saw her. I looked right in her face and was fixated. The oval frame was cheap but the watercolor painting was deep and clear, and haunting. The artist had talent. The brown eyes were lifelike, the yellow bonnet enchanting.
I couldn't have paid much more than $20.00. Thinking back, I doubt I had more than twenty bucks with me any time that year. Wish I could see the face of the man that sold me that painting. Wish I could recall the name of that store. All that remains is Westheimer...the name Westheimer is recognizable in Houston. One of the early pioneers, Michael Westheimer gave his name to the street and left a legacy. His wife, Bettie, supposedly made the painting I took home with me that day. That's what the man who worked in the store told me. I never forgot that.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I recently contacted David Lackey of the Antiques Roadshow. I've watched his appraisals for fine art for years. He's from Houston and has his business very near where I found the little watercolor. I knew he'd respond, and surely, in a matter of two days, he assured me that the beautiful little painting was not really worth more than $50.00 and may or may not have been painted by Mrs. W. Nobody seems to know whether, in fact, she painted at all.
So...happily, the mystery continues. Just fine by me, because I'd never sell this watercolor. It continues to please me everyday.