There are times when an image crosses your desk, and it captures your attention, despite its rather ordinary composition. In this instance, that image arrived in the form of a small photo depicting an artist standing at the edge of a cliff, looking rather pleased with himself as he grasps the familiar leg of an easel holding his plein air painting. There was nothing particularly striking about the photo itself, and at this first meeting, I merely logged it as interesting, but moved on to other pressing matters. It was the second time the photograph caught my eye, as I was perusing the Whitaker image archives, that I felt compelled to pass it along to the Foundation board, along with a query asking if anyone knew the gentleman in the photo, or could provide any contextual information about why this image might appear in the Whitaker photo archives.
As it so happens, this smiling gentleman, clad in a jaunty angled fedora, was none other than famous watercolor artist Roy Mason. Roy and his wife Lena were longtime friends of the Whitakers, who they met in 1940s while both couples resided in New York. When the Masons moved to La Jolla, CA in the early 1960s, it would be a combination of their warm influence and the enchanting culture and climate of La Jolla, which would persuade Fred and Eileen to join their friends by moving to the area in 1965. Over the coming decades, the friendship between the Masons and Whitakers would continue to grow as both couples flourished within the elite artist community of La Jolla and San Diego. Fred and Roy’s paintings were even featured alongside each other in the late 1960s as part of a group exhibition celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the La Jolla Art Association.
In Roy and Lena, Fred and Eileen found kindred artistic souls, as reflected by the words of Eileen Monaghan Whitaker in the book Contrasts that Complement, where she remarks that
“It was natural to fall in love with Roy the instant you met him – everyone did…Roy was a bright man with broad interests, and a fine painter as well! There was never a more attractive couple than Roy and Lena. It was wonderful for us to have the Masons, such good friends and stimulating people, so close.” (Jennings, 53)
Whether it was hosting a social gathering for the arts, exchanging advice, introducing one another to collectors and patrons, or inspiring each other to continue to refine their skills and achieve new heights of personal and professional success, the legacy of the unique, decades long friendship between the Whitakers and Masons would be the enrichment of both their contemporary artistic community, as well as future generations of watercolor artists.