Marcel (1887-1968), spent much his life in Manhattan but summered in Wapatusset to avoid the city’s simmering heat (he once said that it used to make the back of his neck all dirty and gritty). During his annual New England pilgrimage, the artist would spend daylight hours on Rocky Beach, metal detector in hand, looking for discarded treasures, lost Masonic lodge rings, and spare change.In the evenings, and until the wee hours of the morn, the artist would create hundreds of original pieces. Signed examples of his early work (Lighthouse, Rowboat, Dilapidated Fence and 3 Seagull, series [1949-1957]), still hang in the four deluxe water-view suites of Wapatusset’s Lobster Trap Inn ($79/night, in-season, includes Cable TV, a 16 oz. bottle of Wapatusset Reservoir Water, and continental breakfast buffet).
“We love his early work, the colors go perfectly with our quilted bed spreads and the beautifully rendered ocean scenes have made windows in our ‘water-view’ rooms virtually unnecessary,” stated hotel manager, C. Wiley Crepes.
“Something happened to his work in the early 60s, his subject matter became more obscure and mysterious. We acquired a couple of works from this, his ‘Scary Hobo’ period, but had to eventually get rid of them. They were just so darn weird – and were scaring away our clientele – especially the young ones.”
Former Marcel, summer landlady, Rose Thorne had this to say about Champdu: “Champy, as we used to call him, was always a joy to be around. He was always quick with a smile and he always carried a slightly obscure and mysterious joke, right on the tip of his tongue.”
Mr. Marcel rented a small room above the Thorne barn, which he converted into a summer studio and living space. “When he drove away in the summer of 1968, we fully expected to see him in the following June,” added Rose. “It was in the middle of November that we first heard about the hay-bailer accident and Champy’s untimely death.”
Recently, Ms. Thorne decided to put the family homestead on the market. As a first step in the home-selling process, Rose called “The Clutter Chick” to engage the company in the junk culling process.
“We found the three framed canvases on the third day of our purge,” remarked Clutter Chick, Millie McGrovan. “We had just stumbled on to a collection of macrame plant hangers and an upright salon hairdryer. There they were, right behind the stuffed Marlin and the Yellow Cab, passenger door!”
The Meatgrinder Incident (1967)
“I’m no art lover, myself,” stated McGrovan. “For me, a bare white wall is a happy wall! You can have your tchotchkes and knickknacks, I subscribe to the Ghandi movement – bed roll, spinning wheel and a glass of Chardonnay.”
The three surrealist masterpieces were eventually transported to the Wapatusset Recycling Center’s, ‘Take-It-Or-Leave-It’ kiosk.
The Tire Changer (1966)
It was last Saturday, when Dina Hannedy, assistant wARTS director, discovered the framed treasures while dropping off 250 lbs. of National Geographics.“In college, I became a huge Champdu Marcel fan after receiving a free calendar from a local insurance agent. The ‘Twelve months of Marcel,’ featured work from his Big-Eyed Puppy period,” stated a proud Hannedy – as she stood next to the new installation at the wARTS Gallery.
Seven Fish Smoking (1967)
“I recognized Marcel’s signature, right away, [he used to shape the nouns in his name like little hearts) and I knew that these were the three missing paintings from his ‘Cigarette Butt Series.’ There was the mysterious bonfire on Rocky Beach in the summer of 1967, where these pieces were rumored to have been lost. Thankfully, Ms. Thorne’s, a clinician’s definition of a classic pack-rat, had buried them for safekeeping.”
The works will remain on display until Labor Day weekend.