PROSPECT — A book for historians. A book for art lovers. A book for his mother.
That is how Prospect resident and author John Altson described his sixth book, “Louise Altson: A Gifted Artist Who Captured the Person, Not Just the Image.”
The book, which was released in April, tells the story of Altson’s mother, Louise.
“She was a woman of faith first and foremost. She was a dedicated artist and art was the most important thing in her life, even before her children for much of her life,” Altson said.
The book features Louise Altson’s paintings, correspondences she had with some of her more famous clients, her recollections on her career, and clients’ recollections on Louise Altson.
Louise Altson moved to New York City from England in 1939 at the start of WWII. Although she was eventually known for her portraits, her career started with commercial work, such as magazine covers and billboards, Altson said.
“My dad was an artist and his father was also an artist, and they were all living together. Dad didn’t want two portrait artists in the family. As long as my grandfather was alive mom wasn’t allowed to do portraits, which was her passion. For the first 10 years or so while in New York, where we were living, she did commercial work,” Altson said.
Altson said his mother immediately began to paint portraits after his grandfather passed away in 1950.
“That’s when she started and she painted for 40 years. She painted about 700 portraits,” Altson said.
Louise Altson’s clients included many famous families, such as the Maytag, the Firestone, the Woolworth, and the Whittemore families, Altson said.
One of her most well-known works is a portrait of former President George H.W. Bush’s daughter Robin. The painting was commissioned and painted before Robin Bush passed away from leukemia, Altson said.
“The portrait still hangs in our living room here in Houston, and it still brings us great joy and comfort. I might add that nearly every guest in our home comments on how beautifully Louise captured our little girl. We treasure this very special gift,” Bush wrote of the painting, according to an excerpt from the book.
Altson said a friend suggested he write the book, saying his mother’s life would make a great story.
Altson worked with his sister, Jean Truax, as well as his bother and sister-in-law, George and Carol Altson, to collect and compile information about his mother’s paintings.
“My sister-in-law did a lot of the background work. Mom didn’t keep very good records, so it was a real challenge to match the photographs she had of the portraits to correspondence to find out who was what,” Altson said.
Altson said working on this book was a way for his family to honor their mother.
“We wanted to do tribute to her. She was a very talented lady and her story needed to be told,” Altson said.