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Why You Must Experience Water Colors At Least Once In Your Lifetime

Editor’s Note: This the aboriginal in a two-part alternation on Harry Sontang, the Hermit Artist of Key Largo. 

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In 1960, a Kissimmee brace catholic to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to adore a abutting island vacation. They backward in a rooming abode where, beneath the bed, they apparent a ample bag.

When they slid it out from beneath the bed and set the bag on the sheets, the bedmate and wife looked inside. They apparent a accumulation of art that had either been forgotten, disowned or accidentally larboard behind.

When the Florida brace asked the freeholder if he was absorbed in the collection, he said, “No, booty it with you aback you leave, if you want.” What they apparent central the bag was a ample accumulating of paintings, mostly watercolors, a scattering of photographs and some bi-weekly articles. At the end of their vacation, they arranged up their luggage, affective the bag abounding with art and flew aback to Florida. The bag, at some point, concluded up in a Kissimmee accumulator locker.

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On a advantageous July day in 1992, Frank McNall was active by that aforementioned Kissimmee accumulator ability and happened to stop to allocution to a woman charwoman out one of the lockers. He bought a brace of things she had stored inside. Afore he absolved away, she said, “You can booty this old bag of art my bedmate and I begin on St. Thomas, if you want.”

McNall  took the bag, put it in the aback of his truck, and accumulating to his apartment. Afterwards that day, Chuck Faulkner chock-full by his friend’s accommodation for a visit. McNall  told him about the bag he larboard bench in his truck. Faulkner said, “Maybe you should go get it in case it rains.”

The bag was calm and brought upstairs, breadth McNall and Faulkner opened it up to see what it had in store. Not an hour later, an afternoon Florida deluge caked down. If Faulkner had not said something, what would accept happened was that the bag’s contents, 170 aboriginal watercolors, photographs, and some bi-weekly articles, would accept all been destroyed and best acceptable tossed into a Dumpster.

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Instead, a one-of-a-kind Florida Keys abundance was saved. The accumulating of watercolors, photographs and bi-weekly accessories was by, of, and about a Keys legend, Harry Sonntag – the Hermit Artist of Key Largo.

Harry J. Sonntag was built-in in Astoria, New York, on Oct. 12, 1900. At 16, he was belief at the Pratt Institute of Art. He abounding the Art Students League twice, aboriginal in 1917 and afresh in 1922. Harry would never outgrow his affection for art. In a chance appear in the July 6, 1952, copy of the Miami Daily News, Sonntag is quoted as saying: “Art is the accepted language, and my admiration is to accompany adorableness to the multitudes, so that bodies may apprehend how admirable is this world.” 

Sonntag larboard New York on what angry into actually an adventure. First, he headed northeast and explored Vermont and New Hampshire. From there, he catholic west until he accomplished Arizona, breadth he chock-full because the landscapes actually captivated him. Aback he was done admiring the attenuate adorableness of the arid landscapes, he absolved aback out to the ancillary of the road, aerial up his deride and waited for addition to booty him west against California.

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Hitchhiking forward, afterwards traveling through California, Sonntag ventured up into Oregon and afresh Washington, breadth the bounded apparition towns bugged him. He afresh headed east until he accustomed at Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin, breadth he was fatigued to the arresting horizons offered by the rolling hills. He backward for three years afore activity aback to Manhattan, breadth he corrective in a clandestine gallery. His time in Manhattan would not end on a blessed note. His flat bent fire, austere bottomward and incinerated all of his paintings, according to the printed accounts. It would not be the aftermost time one of his collections was appear to accept been absent to conflagration. 

In the backward 1940s, he arranged up, hit the alley and ashore out his deride again. Fatigued to Florida, he anchored south to the Keys. It was about 1949, and, like the apparition towns of Washington and the rolling hills of Wisconsin, the Florida Keys captivated him. On Key Largo, he squatted on what is today advised a prime allotment of beach acreage in the breadth of MM 97.5 and aloof arctic of the Mandalay Marina.

Sonntag chose to body a baby berth out of driftwood and tarpaper abutting to a baby anchorage breadth he could bolt angle and bathe. He additionally did a little bit of agronomical and grew tomatoes and added vegetables. Sonntag kept a blaze afire and “bathed” in the smoke to advice action the active atramentous clouds of blood-thirsty mosquitoes.

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Next week: the chance of Harry Sonntag, his activity on Key Largo, and the abode of his absent bag of art will continue.

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