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Old Hickory

Sam and Robbie Vickers know more about art in Florida than I do—and perhaps anyone else. I believe that when someone’s interest is so intense and their immersion in the subject at hand so complete, the results are simply stunning. The Vickers prove my point. Sam is from and of Florida: He understands the topography, the vegetation, the architecture, and the people. I have rarely sold him a painting; I’ve merely been the purveyor who put it before him. Jacksonville is the Vickers’ hometown, but the entire state had the benefit of their collection through a state-sponsored tour on the occasion of Florida’s sesquicentennial.

In the summer of 1998, I had left Baton Rouge, headed for South Carolina and my wife, Jane’s, birthday celebration the next day. I had planned to drive straight through, but my phone rang. The Aaron Haughton Corwine portrait of Andrew Jackson was in Memphis and available. To my mind, this was the best likeness of Jackson: painted from life as he stopped over in Cincinnati en route back to the Hermitage near Nashville following his loss to John Quincy Adams in the 1824 presidential election. I had seen it at the Tennessee State Museum in 1991 where it was part of an exhibition entitled Old Hickory: A Life Sketch of Andrew Jackson. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson P. Ravenscroft had given the painting to a municipal foundation in Phoenix to be sold and gifted the proceeds to benefit Native American causes. The irony—and apparently the motive for their gift—was that Jackson had been the architect of Indian removal from the Southeast via the Trail of Tears.

The mistake I made was not so much in missing yet another family birthday in pursuit of a picture, but in calling home too late to explain my absence. My first conversation was with the woman in Memphis who had the painting in her living room. My second was with Sam, who directed me without hesitation to buy it if I knew it to meet his standards. The third call was to Jane. The first two were placed before I came to the split at Slidell, Louisiana; the third after I had turned heading north toward Memphis. Andrew Jackson was the Governor of Territorial Florida and the man for whom Jacksonville was named. Jane exiled me to quite another territory when I came in two days later.

Aaron Haughton Corwine (1802-1830)
Andrew Jackson (1825)
Oil on Canvas
27 1/2 x 22 inches
Owner: Collection of Sam and Robbie Vickers, Jacksonville, Florida
1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
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