Summer Forest, mid 1980s, by Edward Szmyd (1933–2004), 28in by 36in, Collection: Miss Doris Day

Doris Day says:
‘I loved this painting from the first time I saw it in a Carmel art gallery. It reminds me of the country lane where, as children, my friends and I would walk to go swimming in a pond near the river. Each time I look at it, it brings back memories of those wonderful days growing up in Evanston, Ohio.’

Doris Day, pictured here in the 1980s, is an award-winning Hollywood actress, singer and animal-rights activist.

John McEwen comments:
‘Edward Szmyd was brought up in Trafford, Pennsylvania. As his friend Tim Miller says (in his obituary), ‘as a young boy, instead of going out and playing baseball or cowboys and Indians with the other kids, he would go to the art museums of Pittsburgh.’ Szmyd always said ‘I started painting at nine’, the age at which he won first prize in a community art exhibition.

On graduating from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, he moved to Florida, where he worked as a commercial artist, painting on the side until he could afford to buy a house in Dania, southern Florida. He named his new home Orchid House after the various types of orchid that were the chief glory of the garden he created. He didn’t abandon his career as a commercial artist despite a growing demand for his paintings, his most popular subjects being garden landscapes and floral still-lifes. Dania was his home for 40 years.

He travelled extensively to find new landscapes, as far north as Maine and south to Mexico, but the paintings were all done back in his studio. ‘I prefer not working on location. The light changes so quickly and there are the problems of the elements.’ In the 1960s, on a foray to eastern Tennessee, he passed through Blowing Rock, in the ‘High Country’ of North Carolina, and ‘fell in love with the place’. Twenty years later, he went that way a second time, this time en route for Pennsylvania, and found it miraculously unchanged. As a result, he decided to live there for the remainder of his life.’

This article was first published in Country Life, September 4, 2013