‘It’s like listening to music’

Topeka man exhibits private Sudlow collection

When Horace Eubank saw his first Robert Sudlow painting, he had no idea it would spark a passion for the noted Lawrence landscape artist’s work that would last nearly 40 years — and counting.

“I got acquainted with some Sudlow art in 1964 at a show in a little gallery in Topeka. It was strictly serendipitous. I saw this show — a collection of various painters here — and I said, ‘Well, I want to find out who this is,” said Eubank, a retired high school teacher.

“At that show was a painting of some cattails in a swamp, and I was taken with that. The show triggered my calling him (Sudlow), and I went over to his studio in Lawrence and visited him. I bought my first painting in 1965; it’s a California scene, ‘Wood Mystery.'”

Eubank, who lives in Topeka, still has the Sudlow painting — and many more of the artist’s works.

Since 1965, Eubank has acquired a collection of 29 pieces of Sudlow’s art: landscape paintings, lithographs, ink-wash and graphite drawings, figure studies.

The public will have the opportunity to view all of the artwork at once during an exhibit that begins Monday and runs through July 30 at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Major gift to library

The exhibit is called “Robert Sudlow: Paintings from the Collection of Horace Eubank.” It’s one of seven to nine fine-art exhibits displayed each year in the extensively renovated library’s Sabatini Gallery.

The earliest work is that first Sudlow painting Eubank acquired in 1965. The most recent piece was added to the collection in 2002. The oil paintings are exclusively landscapes, but the exhibit will include figure studies that most Sudlow enthusiasts likely have never seen.

Robert Sudlow displays a painting he created at a pond near his hillside home south of Lawrence. About 29 Sudlow works in the private collection of Topekan Horace Eubank will be on view Monday through July 30 in the Sabatini Gallery at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Eubank has mounted two exhibits of his collection at Topeka High School, for the benefit of art students there. The last time was six to eight years ago.

He also has loaned some of his pieces to different exhibits, such as a big retrospective of Sudlow’s work mounted by ExhibitsUSA in recent years.

At the library gallery exhibit’s outset Saturday, Eubank was to announce that he would donate the collection as a gift to the library upon his death.

In a telephone interview earlier this week, however, Eubank — who will only admit to being “past 65” — sounded hesitant.

“It’s a bit unusual to announce a gift before you die. It’s a little premature, don’t you think? My doctor tells me I’m good for 20 more years,” he said.

The library already has its own collection of about 3,500 art objects, many of which have been donated as gifts. Others have been acquired using library funds, according to Sherry Best, director of the Sabatini Gallery.

‘Love and joy’ of collecting

Since Eubank began collecting Sudlow’s work, the two men have become good friends.

What: “Robert Sudlow: Paintings from the Collection of Horace Eubank”When: Monday through July 30Where: Sabatini Gallery, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 S.W. 10th Ave., Topeka.Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and noon-9 p.m. SundayInfo: (785) 580-4516

“He’s been a great art teacher for me. I am a retired teacher, but I still think we can learn,” Eubank said.

He taught speech and English at Topeka West High School for 20 years, retiring in 1980.

Sudlow, 84, lives on 28 acres in southern Douglas County. In 1947, he became a faculty member in Kansas University’s art department. He retired in 1987.

His landscape paintings are part of public and private collections across the United States, as well as abroad.

“He’s an interesting guy,” Sudlow said of the Topeka collector. “He’s taught literature, he knows a number of artists, he goes to California. I think he’s picked some of my best stuff. He’s a discerning fellow.”

“He gave me some faith in myself when I didn’t have much, and we’ve developed a good friendship over the years. We have a lot in common. We’ve kicked around a lot of things.”

They’ve even painted together, with Eubank suggesting some prime landscapes in Barber County as subjects.

“The mere presence of that art and being near it and looking at it, there’s a stimulation there,” Eubank said. “That may not be very scientific, but that’s the feel. It’s like listening to music.

“I’m not in it (collecting art) for the business, but for the love and the joy. It was a case of serendipity. I just fell into it.”