by Pierce Rafferty
On June 6, 2012, while conducting last minute research for the Charlie Ferguson art exhibit at the H.L Ferguson Museum, I came across a color snapshot of a painting Charlie did in the 1950s of the interior of Ed Hedge’s Fish Market on West Harbor. Because interiors by Charlie are so rare and because Charlie told me a funny story about doubling as a fish seller at the Market while he was painting the scene, I immediately tried to track the painting down. After contacting the family that had originally bought the painting circa the 1950s, it soon became clear that despite their best efforts to track the painting it was probably in storage and thus unavailable for inclusion in the show. I was sorry not to find it, but later that same day the Museum received an e-mail that more than made up for the earlier fruitless search. The stranger who wrote the e-mail had researched the name “H.L. Ferguson,” discovered the Museum’s website and written the following message to our contact e-mail address:
“To Whom It May Concern: I recently purchased a charming painting at a tag sale in East Moriches. The subject is a small dwelling on the water’s edge, with a sign that says ‘Fish Market.’ It is either an acrylic or oil, and is signed by H. L. Ferguson. The title of the painting is etched in the frame. It is Billy’s Roost. On the back of the canvas it is marked with the initials H.L.F. and dated 1954. I was wondering if this painting was created by the gentleman whose name is on your lovely museum. I am awaiting your reply. Marjorie E. Blizzard”
I immediately wrote Marjorie back that it was indeed the same H.L. Ferguson and that he painted on Fishers Island in the 1940s and 1950s. I was excited that she had found the painting and told her about the remarkable coincidence that I had spent the lion’s share of the day trying to track a painting of the same subject done by Charlie Ferguson, H.L. Ferguson’s son for an upcoming exhibition. Marjorie immediately replied: “I would be so honored, and it would make me so happy, to donate it [the painting] to your lovely museum. Please contact me as to the most appropriate and expeditious way to get it to you.” She was thrilled that the painting had “found its way home.”
The painting was subsequently sent to the Museum by USPS and arrived before the opening on June 30. Vicki, my wife, took the accompanying photo of Charlie posing with his father’s painting so that we could show Marjorie that “Billy’s Roost” had indeed found its way home. (Incidentally, the “Billy” of “Billy’s Roost” was Ed Hedge’s pet gull. He can be seen perched to the left of the Market.) Plans are afoot to have Marjorie visit the island in the fall. Charlie Ferguson posing with the painting by his father, H.L. Ferguson, at HLFM Opening, June 30, 2012.