By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
BANGOR — A recent restoration brought new life to a mid-19th century oil painting owned by Dr. Alan Boone and his wife, Gayle.
The painting, which has hung in an upstairs bedroom of their Bangor home for 24 years, depicts a toddler, Charles Harrison Church, and his mother, Lovina. He apparently stands on her knee as she sits next to a window backdropped by spring or summer flowers. His father also was named Charles Church.
Boone is not sure when portrait artist F.G. Haynes did the oil painting; Charles H. Church was born in Phillips in 1842, and his likely age when he posed for Haynes could be 2½ to 3, thus the painting dates to no earlier than 1844.
Charles Church joined the 7th Maine Infantry Regiment on Aug. 21, 1861, and fought in several battles before being captured in 1864. He survived seven months’ imprisonment at the notorious prison in Andersonville, Ga.
In 1871 Church married Eldora Allen; they lost two sons, Augustus and Clinton, in 1877, but their daughter Hope survived childhood and later married Harry Wellington. Alan Boone has found no evidence that the Wellingtons had children.
Charles Harrison Church died in Presque Isle in December 1925.
He likely inherited the mid-1840s painting after Lovina’s death in 1879. Neither Alan nor Gayle Boone has any familial connection to the Churches, and Alan does not know why his father, Dr. Storer Boone of Presque Isle, inherited the painting in the 1960s from Holly Brewer. She was a partner in the Boone & Brewer Construction Co. with Frank Boone, Storer’s brother. Alan can find no link between Brewer and the Churches, either.
However, Storer Boone did know Charles Church, and they even played cribbage together in the early 1920s in Presque Isle, Alan Boone indicated. Storer’s father, Sherman Boone, had graduated from McGill University with a medical degree; Storer also studied medicine at McGill, graduating from that Montreal school in 1919 and going into medical practice in Presque Isle.
After his graduation from McGill, Alan Boone became an internist and a medical oncologist. He was the chief of medicine at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor from 1989 to 2002.
The Church painting had hung on a bedroom wall in the Boones’ home since 1989, when the family heirlooms were divided up after the death of Alan’s mother. “I inherited this picture,” Alan said. The painting suffered some damage, especially after inexplicably falling off the wall a few years ago.
By then the painting “was exceedingly brittle,” Alan said. “It desperately needed cleaning.”
The Boones contacted John Squadra, a Maine artist and poet, and experienced fine art restorer. “We saw examples of what he had done,” Alan Boone said. “He was highly recommended. As soon as we trusted someone to do it [restore the painting], we did it immediately.”
Squadra carefully restored the painting, which the Boones returned to its familiar perch. Today the painting’s colors are vibrant, its details so clear that the pale blue eyes shared by Lovina and Charles are discernible. Sunlight angles through the window to illuminate a window sill; artist Haynes evidently decided to pose his subjects at a time of day when sunlight would not shine directly across them.
Closer inspection hints at Lovina’s femininity and economic status. Clad in a dark green dress (possibly her Sunday best) and a ruffled white cap secured beneath her chin by a light blue ribbon, she wears an earring (possibly pearl) on her left ear. The lace edging her collar indicates her family’s financial stability; lace was an expensive accessory in that era.
As for little Charles, he holds a toy mallet in his left hand and points to his mother with his right forefinger; this subtle gesture identifies for onlookers the relationship between the woman and child.
After Squadra restored the painting, the Boones had the frame restored at School Street Framing in Brewer. That business also restored the frame of a painting that belonged to Gayle’s grandmother, Zeula Miller Carson. That painting, which depicts American Indians or gypsies — Gayle is not sure which — sitting at a campfire near a stream.
Alan Boone likes to look at the Church painting now and then. “I think it’s a neat piece,” he said. “We value it for what it is.” He hopes to find the painting a permanent home in Presque Isle, in a place where people can see Lovina and young Charles and enjoy this fine example of an American primitive.