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Iconic Newport Artist Eveline Roberge

The artist in her studio

Eveline Roberge has been one of Newport’s most sought-after and iconic artists for decades. Originally from a small village in Somerset, England, fortune led her to the City-by-the-Sea in the late 1970’s, where she has been capturing the town’s seascapes and architecture in her vividly detailed and colorful paintings ever since. After recently returning from a several-month stay in England to visit family, Eveline invited Newport Seen over to see her lovely new home and to talk about her artwork, hobbies, and to share stories from her past.

Needlepoint of Newport Harbor with Trinity

Church tower


Eveline’s painting began in childhood. She moved from England to America in 1946, after working as a British Red Cross nurse at the National Fire Service through the Battle of Britain in World War II. “Each morning, we nurses were surprised to wake up and find ourselves still there,” she says. “There was no time for painting during the war!” She took up art again after relocating to America: first in Providence, where she had her own furniture store on South Main Street, and then in Seekonk, where she raised her two sons, Patrick and Warren. Her rural home there provided her with much inspiration for painting; upon her walls hang two paintings of “Dusty” the horse and “Chumleigh” the sheep, who belonged to her sons. She describes how geese would come and snap off the heads of her geraniums, and then “they decided to stay.” Similarly, five stray cats found their way into the home. “When you like animals, I think they just know. We gave them a home,” says Eveline.

Pelham Street


Ultimately, her path led her to Newport. Once here, she purchased and restored the (allegedly haunted) Langley House on Pelham Street. Originally a fisherman’s cottage, Eveline and her former husband transformed the house’s addition into a gallery and studio, creating a little English courtyard and making it her home for 28 years. “It was just so special,” she says. The house’s location soon led her to discover what would become the single most frequently featured subject in her portfolio, her “trademark”: Trinity Church and Queen Anne Square. Eveline also professes a great love for painting flowers (her “first love,” in fact) and served as one of the Visiting Gardeners to the Newport Garden Club for twelve years. Her camellias have won prizes at the Providence Garden Show.

Mantelpiece painting: South Devon, England.

Screen: the Colony House in Newport


NS: “What brought you to Newport originally?
ER: My son was working making light fixtures at a furniture gallery down on Brick Marketplace, which was owned by the Preservation Society at the time. The gallery decided to do a show of my artwork there. After that, several ladies came to my house and told me they would like to show my work. It was such a friendly welcome that I couldn’t resist moving here! It seemed like the natural thing to do. We think we’re in charge of our lives; we’re not. There’s a higher power at work here.


NS: What originally inspired you to take up painting?
ER: As child, growing up near the woods in England, I always loved leaves. I don’t care if they’re brown – they’re all beautiful to me. I would go out into the woods and collect leaves and place them in jars. I began to paint them. My mother was very house proud and wanted the old leaves out, but I had an aunt living in nearby North Nibley, Gloucestershire at that time who encouraged me to paint, and so I would paint leaves, flowers - all kinds of things. At my elementary school, there was an annual flower show, and students were asked to enter a contest to create a poster for the show. I did mine of two tents and two old-fashioned ladies wearing crinoline bonnets and carrying baskets of produce down to the show – it won first prize!

At home: Eveline's green thumb


NS: Who have been your close or most unforgettable friends here – and why?
ER: That is a difficult question because I’ve met so many remarkable people in Newport over the years. Wiley Buchanan leaps to mind – I painted his house, “Bulie,” on Bellevue, as well as his loghouse in Virginia and homestead on the Louisiana Border. I’ve also been very close with all of the Auchinclosses. Yusha’s a very old friend; his parents were also wonderful.


NS: How would you describe your painting style?
ER: [laughing] Untutored! My mentality is, ‘just paint.’


NS: Who are your favorite artists, or the artists who have inspired you the most?
ER: I love Mimi Sammis’s work. She’s a sculptor living in Narragansett. Her art is very clever!

Painted Screen. "I love geese!" says Eveline


NS: What have your favorite shows been? Have you done any one-woman shows?
ER: Oh, lots of them! As for a favorite… I did a show five years ago down at Newport Shipyard. It was a two-day opening, and it was almost all friends and people who already knew me and my work – not a lot of walk-ins. It was very special.


NS: How did you become involved in Trinity Church?
ER: I started going to Trinity simply because it was the closest Episcopalian church to where I lived. I became very much ensconced. Canon Ballard and his wife, Charlotte, were heading it up at the time. They became my neighbors and we were all very close friends. I started to paint the church and never stopped. I would walk along Queen Anne Square every summer. I still design and teach needlepoint for Trinity - mostly biblical scenes.

Children painting at the Newport Flower Show


NS: Who have been your most famous or most interesting customers?
ER: I’ve done commissions for the Haffenreffers, for the Dewolfes in Bristol, for the Hudners, for the Freemans in Providence, and for the Auchinclosses and the Kiernans in Newport. The Kiernans have made Hammersmith Farm back to the way it was originally; I am sure Yusha’s father is smiling down to see them loving it and using it the way it was meant to be! I muraled the Rogers High School dining room in the vocational department; amazingly, the walls still look the same as they did when I painted them! It was great fun doing it. The art students came and watched me, it was like giving a history lesson. I painted murals in the Sheffield-Huntington House on Elm Street. But the one that leaps to mind is when I muraled the lighthouse on North Dumpling Island in Long Island Sound.

18th Century pine blanket chest painted with

Tennis Hall of Fame theme.


The island had just been purchased by David Levitt in 1980, and I received a phone call from him very late at night asking if I would paint for him. I told him, “I don’t know who you are, but if you would like to arrange for a commission, please call back between nine o’clock and four o’clock, every day except Sunday.” And so the next day, he called me promptly at 10:00 a.m. He arranged for his private plane to come and pick me up. I remember watching a seaplane dipping down to land, and out of it stepped a young girl who couldn’t have been more than eighteen. ‘Surely you can’t be the pilot!’ I cried. I didn’t want to get in the plane at that point. But she assured me that she was Mr. Levitt’s personal pilot. Once I reached the lighthouse, David asked me to paint one wall with a skyline of Boston, one with a skyline of New York City, another wall with Newport Harbor, and the fourth wall with Mystic, CT. I had the most wonderful time painting there! I would paint every day from ten to four, and then I would come home to Newport every Friday for the weekend. It took about two months.”

Trinity Church at night
  

 


Eveline always encourages children who love to paint, and used to teach classes in Seekonk. “The one thing I always tell parents,” she says, “is to never tell your child ‘it doesn’t actually look like that’ when you see what they’ve painted. Maybe you don’t see the dog that way, but she does. You can destroy a child’s artistic dream just by saying that one phrase.” She praises Child & Family Services in Middletown as an outstanding organization that encourages children to be creative, and she has donated paintings and offered other support for them over the years.

South Devon, England


Her own style has certainly evolved since childhood, even if she still loves to paint many of the same subjects that she always has. “It’s so much fun to see my old work from years ago,” says Eveline. “When I see my old work, I laugh. The natural progression is to change and grow. My philosophy is that if you don’t change and grow, then you don’t want to!”
 

 

 

Sunny downstairs sitting room.

 

 

 

 

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