Mrs. Wonderley was everything her name suggested. She was joyful, energetic, vibrant…she taught with a passion and love of the thing; Art. Her knowledge of the subject ran deep. Art’s history, movements and techniques were all introduced to her students. Her classes ranged from pottery to macramé and from mixed-medium to painting, drawing and graphics. Mrs. Wonderley taught from her head but she taught mostly from her heart and love. Her gift to us was a richer understanding and meaning to what art was and could be. She inspired and was wonderful!
The methods of teaching she choose were tried and true and from the respected scientific laws of seeing. Drawings from plaster models and life were done in her art room as we learned the importance of symmetry, perspective, form and composition. There was little she missed but one of the simplest and yet most extraordinary things she did was after instruction and background on our assignments she would jump in and do her own version of the topic. There was no competition in this but she knew as did Leonardo that working with a superior more experienced artist would only make us better. The reality is that she truly enjoyed expressing herself as she continued her own learning and artistic growth. At these times she would most often create originals but copies would sometimes be her choice of expression, depending on her whim.
On one occasion as we students worked on assignment Mrs. Wonderley chose to copy something from Picasso’s Blue Period, “The Greedy Child.” To see her copying as a drawing this master piece of 20th century painting, this modernist marvel from a master’s hand was a thing of beauty onto itself. She worked with a relaxed diligence that showcased her talent and ability to see and reproduce both the detail, depth of feeling and nuance of the original. It was impossible to discern any real difference between the graphic structure of the image she copied from and the image we saw unfold on Mrs. Wonderley’s paper. Her choice to copy “The Greedy Child” would increase my admiration for my teacher as well as for the masterful, Pablo Picasso.
Forty years later while walking, relaxing, passing through the National Gallery in Washington, DC my grandchildren and I would stop to sit before a work from the museum’s permanent collection. This was an opportunity to study and further enjoy a painting of beauty, worthy of deeper reflection. It was a gift of sort from me to them. I felt something wholly unique and special as we look at the miraculous, this original work of art “The Greedy Child.” I thought about Mrs. Wonderley and as we looked; the wheel turned. Within this rarest of moments I somehow knew the essence and meaning of art.