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Feature: Wedneday, February 4, 2004
‘These guys may seem a little odd when you meet them upstairs.’
‘Stuart and Scott have always been a closed corporation.’
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Painter to the Court of George II

The Gentling twins have built their careers on patronage and plumage.

By Samuel Hudson

Scene: Rotunda of the Capitol building, Austin.

Date: Jan. 4, 2001.

On screen: U.S. President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, painters Stuart and Scott Gentling, about 150 invited guests, Republicans with a smattering of Democrats. At center, a painting covered with a black velvet drape.

Mrs. Bush pulls away the drape. President Bush looks at the painting. It is a portrait of him as governor of Texas, wearing a dark blue suit and a bright blue tie, sitting on his desk, his hands crossed to show his wedding ring. There is a half-smile on his face. President Bush looks at his portrait. A tear runs down his cheek.

President Bush: “We’ve got all sorts of dignitaries here. I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to come and witness my hanging. (Laughter) Fortunately, it’s my portrait. ( Laughter.) I’m particularly pleased to be here with the artist. Now, I was somewhat concerned when Laura told me that the Gentlings were famous painters of birds ( Laughter), but they would make time to paint my picture. ( Laughter) Pretty tough old bird here to paint, wasn’t I? ( Laughter) But I appreciate, Scott, your taking time to figure me out. It’s a real pleasure for me to work with you. I know it’s a challenge on your part, but it looks like you did me justice and I thank you. And it’s good to see your brother, Stuart, too. The Gentlings are a part of the really fantastic artistic community we have here in Texas. These guys may seem a little odd when you meet them upstairs ( Laughter), but they’re really good at what they do... .”

Sources: Associated Press and White House transcripts.

hey may seem a little odd when you meet them upstairs in the Capitol, but not in Fort Worth. Scott and Stuart Gentling are fraternal twins, highly accomplished painters, and grand but benign eccentrics of a kind that Fort Worth enjoys, cherishes, supports. It is difficult to imagine them prospering for almost 40 years elsewhere — say, in Dallas, where the tickets to acceptance into high society are money, power, or bland conformity. The Gentlings’ favorite century is the 18th, and they managed to reinvent in 20th-century Texas a network of appreciative patrons and eager buyers that works for them like the system in 18th-century England that supported painters such as Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. Wealthy patrons in Fort Worth supported the twins’ best-known project, a 47-pound book of prints of their paintings of Texas birds that sold for $2,500 a copy. Just as most of Reynolds’ and Gainsborough’s patrons are remembered now not for their money and power but for the art they commissioned or collected, it’s a good bet that most of the Fort Worth gentry who hired the Gentlings to paint their portraits will have a secondhand afterlife as names in footnotes to scholarly articles about American painters of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Meadows Art Museum director Edmund Pillsbury met Scott and Stuart when he arrived in Fort Worth to be director of the Kimbell Art Museum. He found the twins to be brilliant men and fascinating characters. When Pillsbury saw their work, he knew at once what he was looking at and why it was good.

After leaving the Kimbell, Pillsbury was the managing partner of an art gallery in Dallas that sold the Gentlings’ paintings. At that time, Houston Chronicle writer Edwin Lanham asked him to describe the Gentlings’ style. Pillsbury said that it is “romantic realism,” the style of painting that Andrew Wyeth used in the late 20th century with great artistic and financial success.

“If they do a wonderfully careful dry-brush watercolor of a old house or an interesting place, it’s because of the nostalgia created by the feeling of that place,” Pillsbury said. “They would be considered probably traditional, conservative artists, but their technique is impeccable, and their range of interests is very wide. ... They’re a very special breed of artist-scholar-collector. ...They’re terribly inquisitive people who are totally sui generis... . They’re not trying to emulate anybody or anything. They’re trying to be themselves.’’

Pillsbury said that he hoped to make the twins’ work more widely known. He said, “You would expect people with such talent and such technique who were working in such a conservative style to be commercially very successful, appealing to people who want a very flattering, recognizable image. But they’ve never really sold themselves out to the marketplace.”

They’ve never had to. In 1986, when a CNN reporter asked the twins why they didn’t have national reputations, Stuart smiled and said serenely, “Wealthy Texans buy up everything we do.’’ The Gentlings always have the current edition of the Fort Worth Social Directory at hand. “You don’t have one?’’ Stuart said to a visitor who came to see the new gallery the Gentlings are building. “It’s indispensable!” Now that the twins are becoming more widely known, they may have to subscribe to the social directories for New York and Los Angeles.

tuart and Scott Gentling were born 15 minutes apart, on New Year’s Eve, 1942, in Rochester, Minn., and moved with their family to Fort Worth in 1948. The Gentlings were a family of six: father Allen, an anesthesiologist; mother Barbara, a homemaker; older brother, Peter; twins Stuart and Scott; younger sister, Suzanne.

The Gentling twins grew up in Fort Worth in the 1950s, when the West Side was all one neighborhood, at least for lively white boys. The Gentling family lived in a nice middle-class house that was within easy walking distance of the big houses of the wealthy and the mansions of the truly rich that perched along the crest of the bluff above the West Fork of the Trinity River. The twins would cut across the yards of the great houses on the north side of Crestline Road to explore the woods and the river bottom. They were young 18th-century gentlemen naturalists going out to explore and describe the world and then catalogue its contents. Stuart and Scott went to public schools with many of the children who lived in the big houses and mansions and knew those children as classmates, as equals, although the twins were smarter and more interesting than most of them. Everybody said so.

The Gentling twins have never doubted their capabilities or their importance. As a practical matter, they do pay attention to what the world thinks of them and their work, but the only judgments that really matter to them are their own. Stuart says that he and Scott are “wombmates,” and adds, “I’ve never known what it is like not to be a twin.” A woman who has known them since they were boys says, “Stuart and Scott have always been a closed corporation.”

As boys, the twins rarely stooped to pranks or ordinary mischief. Their exploits, driven by insatiable curiosity, usually were about something of intellectual significance. There are dozens of Gentling twins stories, all based on things that the boys actually did, but in the telling and retelling the stories have been polished as smooth as stones in a creek. The stories are told with admiration and glee, not least by the Gentlings themselves.

For instance, there’s the story of Stuart and Scott and the homemade three-stage rockets.

In 1957, when the twins were 15, the Soviet Union astounded and frightened the world by successfully putting the first manmade satellite into earth orbit. Scott and Stuart decided to investigate rocket propulsion. They made three-stage rockets out of soda straws. They talked their wealthy Dutch uncle Harry Tennison into buying a can of gunpowder for them. With two other boys, they went to the balcony of the Loffland mansion to conduct their experiments. Successful launch. Successful launch. Successful launch. But when they primed the launching pad with black powder again, they made a little mistake. The whole can of gunpowder ignited with a boom! that echoed all over Westover Hills. When Harry Tennison visited Stuart and Scott in the hospital, their eyebrows were burned off, their faces and scalps were blistered, but their sharpest pain was embarrassment. Someone said it with flowers and sent the twins a floral arrangement with a rocket sticking out of it.

Then there is the story of Stuart and Scott and their pheasant farm on the slopes behind the great houses in Westover Hills. And the time they stole gravel from Sid Bass’ driveway. And many people tell the tale about the time they made fake shrunken heads and sold them through a pawnshop downtown for $2.50 apiece. Some tellers add a delicious detail: When the twins ran out of hair for their shrunken heads, they whistled for their dog, Mandy.

And lots of folks on the West Side remember the time that the twins made a one-third scale, 750-pound model of a Civil War cannon, which they tested on Christmas day by firing it off in Harry Tennison’s driveway. They were surprised by the recoil. Harry Tennison told them he wouldn’t buy any more gunpowder for them.

The twins’ room in their parents’ house is the subject of many legends. The late Dutch Phillips, who grew up with Scott and Stuart, described it as “a Comanche war camp.” It was filled with live reptiles, birds, insects, and mammals and with the dead animals that Stuart was practicing on for a correspondence course in taxidermy. There were piles of books and papers. There were pieces of projects just begun, still in progress, abandoned. There were collections of objects of all kinds, animal, vegetable, and mineral. After the twins saw a B movie called The Treasure of the Golden Condor when they were seven, comic books about ancient Mexico joined the piles of artifacts. Sequences in the movie showed pre-Columbian ruins, sparking an interest that then produced piles of scholarly books on the Aztec civilization and eventually a lifelong passion, something of an obsession for Scott. There were models of sailing ships in the twins’ room and Scott’s miniature railroad diorama. There were smells the twins declined to identify. There were also two beds. The family’s maid said that she would not go into the twins’ room, ever.

he most important story about the Gentlings’ development as artists is about Stuart and the Fort Worth Children’s Museum, precursor of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. When Stuart was 13, he found in the museum’s library a new book of pictures of American birds by the great naturalist and artist John James Audubon. Stuart looked into the book, and a new world opened up for him. He took the book home and tried to copy Audubon’s picture of wood ducks, his favorite bird. Scott already knew how to use watercolors, and he helped Stuart. Then they painted a large copy of the print of Audubon’s painting of American eider ducks.

Audubon’s birds led them to their vocations as painters. They went on to study many other painters and to paint a wide range of subjects, but birds were their first love. After graduating from Arlington Heights High School in 1961, they entered Tulane University, which they chose largely because it was in New Orleans, Audubon country.

Scott dropped out of Tulane after a year, came home to Fort Worth, and then went to the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in Philadelphia. Stuart graduated from Tulane and spent a year in law school at the University of Texas, during which he spent most of his time copying by hand an Aztec grammar. He joined Scott at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in 1966. The twins left the academy without bothering to graduate. Scott left because he had learned about all that he could learn there, Stuart because Scott was his best teacher.

And that brings us to the story of the Lupton sisters.

In August 1964, the Fort Worth Art Museum (precursor of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) staged an exhibit of Scott’s paintings. Among those who saw Scott’s one-man show there were Harry Tennison’s wife, Gloria Lupton Tennison, and Shirley Lupton Geren (later Holmes). The Lupton sisters were heirs to a fortune founded on the Fort Worth Coca-Cola bottling franchise. They were sophisticated, well-traveled, and knew something about art. They had watched Stuart and Scott grow up, but they had not seen so many of Scott’s recent paintings of still lifes, landscapes, people, and birds hanging together, had not seen what they added up to. After looking at Scott’s paintings in the museum, the sisters decided that he was a genius.

They went to see Scott, who was in Fort Worth for summer vacation. The sisters made their way through dirty clothes and creative debris to look at more of his paintings. Did he have a commercial gallery where his work was being shown? No? The Lupton sisters discussed the matter. Anne Burnett Waggoner Hall Windfohr (later Tandy), known to all Fort Worth as Big Anne, was a good friend. She was truly rich, she was buying contemporary art, and her endorsement would bring other buyers to Scott. The sisters invited her to dinner. As bait, they told her that the main course would be dove, Big Anne’s favorite food.

The Lupton sisters had thought they had plenty of doves frozen and waiting to be cooked. Wrong. But they were hunters, and they would go out and shoot doves for Big Anne. Since Texas doves had flown south for the winter, the Lupton sisters flew to Mexico in a Coca-Cola company plane and shot the doves they needed.

Big Anne relished her dove dinner and was very impressed by Scott’s paintings. She went to see Donald Vogel, owner of the Valley House Gallery in Dallas and told him about Scott. Vogel said, well, yes, send him to me in 10 years or so. Big Anne told Vogel that she had been buying a hell of a lot of art from him and that Scott’s paintings would be in the upcoming group show at the gallery. They were. They sold out. Scott could have a career as an artist.

Thus began the informal network of rich patrons, purchasers, and art dealers in Forth Worth and in Texas that grew and grew and that sustains the twins today. Unlike the system of patronage in 18th-century England, it works for Stuart and Scott Gentling, but for no one else. It brought Scott to the attention of Laura Bush.

he first paintings the Gentlings sold when they set up shop in Fort Worth were Texas landscapes, still lifes, and pictures of people they knew. In the still lifes and landscapes in which no living creature appears, there is still a presence, a feeling of habitation, a mortal ache for a place, for fleeting human life. The twins began to sell reproductions of their work to people who would not have been able to buy original paintings. A line of steady customers formed in Fort Worth. In houses in affluent parts of town, it became fashionable to have a Gentling print or two hanging in the living room. If the twins have ever painted pictures too real or too shocking to hang on the walls of respectable households those paintings are not widely known. Human suffering and mischance are offstage in the world the Gentlings depict.

The twins often describe their way of painting as “strict realism,” a style that commonsensical people think they can understand at a glance and appreciate without the help of a museum guide or an art critic — although Edmund Pillsbury calls it “romantic realism.” The Gentlings’ paintings seem to portray the world in front of us, but with an artist’s eye for beauty and an artist’s skill in rendering it with focus and clarity. When Scott began his career as a painter, one of the qualities the local gentry admired in his work was his careful rendering of details: the snagged thread on a shirt, the rust on the hinge of a pasture gate, the subtle shapes and shades of shadows under clouds moving across a prairie landscape. If the Gentlings’ style had been on the cutting edge of non-figurative art, they probably would have been forced to make their livings as so many other artists have: by doing commercial art like Andy Warhol, by turning out illustrations like Edward Hopper or, as innumerable artists did and still do, by teaching students who have more enthusiasm than talent. The Gentlings never had to try to make art after a hard day at a salaried job. They have never applied for a grant.

The twins have mastered the art of cultivating wealthy patrons. For instance, there’s the story about the Gentlings and Fort Worth great lady Ruth Carter Stevenson. An admirer of their work, Miss Ruth, as she was known, once sent the twins a beautiful bunch of roses. Scott returned the gesture by painting a small picture of the perfect rose in the bunch and giving it to her. Miss Ruth used ordinary money to buy the roses she gave. Scott used his talent and skill to give her a rose that would never fade or die, a unique and priceless present no one else could give her.

Stuart says readily, “Scottie is a better painter than I am. He has that little something extra.” Scott’s paintings sell for somewhat more than Stuart’s do. To a trained eye, the twins’ work is fraternal, not identical. Pillsbury told Edwin Lanham that even when Stuart and Scott are painting the same subjects, “Scott’s is a much more patient, meticulous hand, so there’s a higher degree of linear resolution. In the case of Stuart, there’s a different kind of intensity. There’s an emotional intensity — the colors, the execution is a little bit quicker... .” Pillsbury said that the differences in style reflect the differences in Scott’s and Stuart’s temperaments.

When they paint commissioned portraits, the Gentlings use tricks of the trade that Reynolds and Gainsborough brought to perfection in their portraits of idle English noblemen and the beautiful, insipid women who made the British aristocracy what it is today. The subjects of those commissioned pictures loved the way they were portrayed. Those who knew how to read a picture delighted in the forgiving shadows, the flattering highlights, and the tactful softenings and tightenings these great painters used to please their patrons, but also enjoyed the sly wit and covert accuracy that showed these vain creatures for what they were in real life. The subjects of Scott’s finished portraits likewise usually love what they see. President Bush does.

hen President Bush said, “Laura told me that the Gentlings were famous painters of birds,” he was referring to Scott and Stuart’s first large-scale project, Of Birds and Texas, their 1986 self-published book that weighed 47 pounds, came as loose “elephant folio” sheets in a custom-made box with operating instructions, and sold for $2,500 a copy. The twins took their inspiration from John James Audubon. Stuart believes that he and Scott have some kind of mystical connection with Audubon and that his ghost stepped in and saved the Gentlings’ ambitious undertaking from disaster.

In 1977, for the opening of a Fort Worth art gallery in which they were partners, the twins published prints of Scott’s painting of Kentucky warblers and Stuart’s painting of a Harris’ hawk. The prints were popular and sold well, so the twins did more bird paintings and sold prints of them as a set. Stuart began to dream out loud to Scott about their publishing a book of prints of their bird paintings. Scott was skeptical until a friend of the Gentlings tricked the twins into going with him on a nine-day bird-watching expedition across most regions of Texas, the biggest flyway for migrating birds in the world.

The twins began work on their book in 1983. By 1984, they had enough paintings completed or under way to use one of Audubon’s methods of raising money for his projects. In May 1984, gallery owner Ralph Carr staged a grand viewing of the bird paintings at his gallery for people who he thought would be pleased and excited to become patrons for the book. Stuart once wrote, “One of Ralph’s greatest talents was his ability to read the social pulse of Fort Worth.” Carr’s showrooms were filled to overflowing. According to Stuart, more than 90 people signed up for copies of the book sight unseen, and a patron in Dallas ordered 10. The subscription money went into escrow, and the twins floated a loan for their work using that money as collateral. The trustees of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History caught bird-book fever and voted to purchase the twins’ entire collection of bird paintings for $300,000.

The Gentlings began to work in earnest. Scott did most of the painting, while Stuart tended to the practical business of getting the book into print. But Scott and Stuart did paint many of the bird pictures together, Scott doing an initial pencil sketch, Stuart putting in color, Scott adding details, and the other way around and back and forth. The composite artist who did these paintings had a personality that was like both of them and neither. When Stuart and Scott were joined at their painting hands, another artist emerged: a third twin.

The Gentlings call their bird paintings an homage to Audubon, but their way of portraying birds in their habitats is softer than his. Audubon’s birds are as strange as they are beautiful , and they are explicitly part of what Alfred, Lord Tennyson called “nature red in tooth and claw.’’ The Gentlings’ birds are every bit as strange and beautiful as Audubon’s, but in the Texas they inhabit, death and gore are out of sight. The Gentlings’ two sharp-shinned hawks glide above the woods looking for breakfast, but are not yet swooping down on meadowlarks singing so sweetly below. Audubon’s two great-footed hawks are on the ground, hungrily ripping into the ducks they have caught. Blood drips from the male’s beak. The Gentlings’ young male mockingbird is pinwheeling above blooming honeysuckle on a soft summer night, singing his heart out. Audubon’s mockingbirds shriek in terror as a rattlesnake invades their nest, its mouth gaping open to strike.

In 1985, the twins would discover that, as brilliant, capable, and well connected as they were, on-the-job training wasn’t sufficient for them to pull off the project they had begun with boyish enthusiasm but insufficient capital. Before the crises began to break, however, the great Audubon’s ghost interceded with a Christmas present that would save their project.

One day in December 1984, Stuart found in the day’s mail a catalogue from the Print Shoppe in Philadelphia. He had never heard of it. One of the items for sale was “Great Crow Blackbird, pen and watercolor drawing attributed to John James Audubon. Signed in an engraver’s script, ‘Drawn from Nature by John James Audubon.’ Price: $18,000.” Stuart’s eyes opened wide when he looked at the photo of the picture. He was certain that he was seeing Audubon’s long-lost painting of boat-tailed grackles. The twins decided to buy the painting before someone else figured out that it was real. Stuart phoned the dealer and promised a $6,500 down payment by express mail. Then Stuart called him back to make sure that the dealer considered the painting sold. The twins raised the remainder of the purchase price from wealthy patrons.

The next year, still working on Of Birds and Texas, the twins began to run out of money. They mortgaged their house. Their mother mortgaged her house. The printer needed more money. The twins put up Audubon’s boat-tailed grackle as collateral for a bank loan that Harry Tennison co-signed. The books were printed; Stuart and Scott delivered them to their loyal subscribers and hustled for more buyers. But they needed more money and then they needed still more money. Of Birds and Texas was officially published in 1986, but the twins were forced to sell their authentic Audubon painting to climb out of debt.

On May 28, 1987, Sotheby’s auction house sold the picture for $253,000. The reported final cost of the Gentlings’ bird book project was $850,000. Stuart and Scott say that they eventually turned a profit, but they don’t say how much.

In 2001 the University of Texas Press published a trade edition of the bird book for the rest of us. The portable version weighs only 4 pounds, 4 ounces, and sells for a mere $75.

fter the bird book, the twins’ next big project was the design of the decorations for the dome of Bass Hall, a commission from their boyhood friend Ed Bass. Scott and Stuart have always been literary artists. Their paintings come with stories, with explanations of symbols in them, with erudite disquisitions on allusions and hidden meanings. The Bass Hall decorations have enough stories within stories to fill a booklet. The Gentlings’ patrons and admirers can point to the laurel motifs in the Bass Hall decorations and sound like learned scholars when they explain the symbolism there and its roots in ancient Greece. Or was it ancient Rome? This literary material will keep art historians happily occupied for weeks at a time.

In 2003, the Gentlings for the first time allowed a public exhibition of their grandest undertaking — the Aztec project, an undertaking that makes Of Birds and Texas look like a whim. The inspiration for the project came from The Treasure of the Golden Condor, the low-budget movie that had shown them that there was such a thing as pre-Columbian culture.

For 20 years, off and on, between paying jobs and sometimes during them, Scott and Stuart have stolen time and spent money out of their own pockets to recreate the magnificent Aztec city of Tenochtitlan as it was in 1519, just before the Spanish army led by Hernando Cortez marched in and conquered it. Mexico City was built on top of its ruins. In addition to the beautiful paintings they have done, the Gentlings have filled dozens of notebooks with drawings of and text about the ancient city. Scott has built and continually revised a model of the “sacred precinct” of Tenochtitlan built around the Templo Mayor, the holy pyramid that was the center of the city’s religion and culture. Carolyn Tate, art professor at Texas Tech University, organized and raised the money for “1519/The One Reed Year: Wonders of Aztec Mexico,” an exhibition of some of the materials the twins have produced. The show was mounted last year at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock.

The Gentlings’ Tenochtitlan is based on prodigious scholarship and research; new ways of looking at archeological, anthropological, and historical evidence; and on their own legwork in Mexico. But the Gentlings’ Aztec city is another work of their imaginations, a disciplined fantasy, a fresh remembering of a place that does not exist — and never in thumpable reality was quite the way the twins depict it. The Gentlings say so. Scott wrote that his continuing work on his models of Tenochtitlan “has paid off handsomely. Having beheld them in sunlight, their images have been burned into my visual memory in such a vivid way that I feel I have actually seen the very buildings of the ancient city. In no other way would I have been able to observe and capture [this] in paint ... .’’

The Gentlings work in a modernized form of romantic realism, and, as they did in their bird book, they leave some unpleasant elements of life in Tenochtitlan offstage. There are little specks of bright red on the idols in the painting showing the Temple of the Red Death Goddess. With a second glance at the painting of the Templo Mayor, you focus on the triangular splash of crimson dribbling down the temple’s steep steps. In the same picture, a gigantic rack opposite the temple stands in soft sunlight, but not with enough definition to make clear that the rack holds thousands of human skulls. These details allude to the unending human sacrifices that the Conquistadors reported and that many scholars believe were the spiritual fuel and social glue of Aztec Mexico, but as usual, the Gentlings leave pain and death offstage. The twins assimilated hundreds and hundreds of pieces of more and less reliable information, but they did not fall into an abyss of minutia as many self-taught enthusiasts would have. Instead, they presented their findings as vivid, compelling images animated by “the thousand subtleties of shadows and reflected lights and colors that so impressed the Spanish conquerors,’’ a living city. Some academic experts have complained that the Gentlings’ portrayal of Aztec Mexico is too specific, too real. But in the exhibition catalogue Stuart wrote that an eminent scholar of Aztec civilization told him that the Gentlings’ model, paintings, and drawings “had given him a wonderful vision of Mexico’s past that he had not seen before.’’

“Yes, I guess we will do a book of our Aztec work,” Stuart said, “but we’re not going to let it take over our lives the way Of Birds and Texas did.’’

owadays the Gentlings are open for business on many fronts. Their new gallery, a short walk from their house on the West Side, will show their work in surroundings of quiet, tasteful, palpable, slightly intimidating luxury equal to anything in New York, Paris, Milan. Their website, gentling.com, is up and humming, offering services (commissioned portraits, at $30,000 to $50,000 each) and merchandise ranging from prints of their paintings to a ceramic tile of a skull with a merry grin. Also, there’s a reproduction of an Aztec project painting of the Mexican eagle-cactus-snake symbol with an analog clock in its center. This kind of commercial hustle is not to everyone’s taste, but the Gentlings’ real work — painting pictures that give pleasure to the eyes and food for the mind and soul — continues and has eloquent advocates.

New York novelist, essayist, and art critic Michael Thomas is among them. In December, he wrote in an e-mail, “I met Scott and Stuart Gentling in 1978, introduced by a mutual friend at a Kimbell Art Museum function. At the end of that evening, we went back to their Harley Street house, and I was dazzled by what I saw; before I left, I had acquired a marvelous dry-brush watercolor by Scott that I call ‘The Mozart Coat.’ Within a few months, I had acquired a no-less-wonderful painting by Stuart, of a spring squall moving across a West Texas meadow. These paintings have stayed with me for the past quarter-century, through marriages, moves, career changes. Now hanging with pride of place in my Brooklyn loft, they are looked at every day with pleasure and deepening appreciation — by me, by my visitors.

“The Gentlings are terrific artists. They do what they do as well as it can be done, I think. It will be their fate to be deprecated by people who natter on about ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A,’ the more obscure and harder to read the better. But to these eyes of mine, trained in art history and honed by looking seriously at pictures for close to 50 years now, their work is intellectually absorbing, aesthetically captivating, visually fixating, technically resplendent. What the hell more can people want?”

If Scott’s and Stuart’s patterns of life and work continue the way they have for the past 10 years, the twins will stay rooted in Fort Worth, in the center of the comfortable world they have made for themselves, the heroes of their own lives.

Stuart will continue as Mr. Outside, taking care of worldly business, cultivating patrons, keeping the merchandise moving, tending to the legends of the Gentling twins, painting when he can or must.

And more often than not, Scott will stay at home, a little distant, a little prickly, sitting on his bed, chain-smoking — and painting and drawing, drawing and painting, writing in his Aztec notebooks.


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