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CAPTAIN OTTO'S CELLO

 

by Robert Genn (2003)

 

 

Yesterday the painter and musician Guttorn Otto visited my studio. Born in Poland in 1919,

Guttorn was conscripted into the German army for the duration of the Second World War.

Severely wounded three times, he was always patched back together and sent again to the fight.

"I was one of the lucky ones," he says, "One time I had sixty pieces of shrapnel in me."

 

After the war he was billeted on a Bavarian farm where he worked for two sisters

whose brothers had been killed in the war. In an attic room Otto found a dilapidated cello

formerly owned by one of the dead brothers. Otto repaired the cello and taught himself to play.

When he immigrated to Canada in 1952, the cello came with him.

In his new country Guttorn Otto worked as a house painter, part-time musician and

painter. He loved the bush, the wild places of Canada, the quiet northern lakes and

rivers, the peace of the land. He married, raised a boy and a girl. Painting on location

with a generous stroke, his work became popular and collected.

At 83 he's still going strong. His eyes light up when he talks about painting from coast

to coast. He's lithe and supple, with a jumpy nature and a broad, mischievous grin.

His large hands are always moving, his mind active and curious. He's made a life

of venturing forth from his acreage near Ballantrae, Ontario. I feel his zest for just

about everything--music, travel, books, women. We talk about how older artists tend

to tighten up and become less bold, and how the wise ones go about fighting the

tendency. We talk about painting less, but better. We talk about what a prolific artist

does with the buildup of a life's work. We talk of the joy of teaching, of giving real

value to struggling painters through the art of knowledgeable demonstration.

"Everybody wants to learn to paint right now," he says. "It's really quite beautiful

. It's a beautiful life. It's too bad the art schools don't tell how beautiful it is. I'm just in

the middle of my dual life, you know. When I'm home with the orchestra I long for

the bush. After a while in the bush I desire to return only to my beautiful cello. Beautiful."

Best regards,

Robert Genn

PS: "I paint what appeals to me. The rough skies, the giant storms, the quilt of

snow in an October wood, the tiny forest flowers emerging." (Guttorn Otto)

Esoterica: Guttorn Otto works mainly in oil. He paints wet into wet, often as large as

four by eight feet. When a change is needed he pulls off a watercolour.

 

"I don't have email," he says. "I'm too busy. Where would I find the time?

Besides, luckily for me, there's still no computer in the bush.

 

"This letter has been reproduced  with permission from the author

– Canadian Artist Robert Genn –

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Guttorn Otto