Typically when I write a “Where Were They Then?” post the title is preceded by “Stunning Visual Evidence the Phoenix Area Has Changed in the Last Century!”
Not so for this one. The reason will become obvious later on.
Dave Picerne, a long-time client and owner of The Picerne Collection of Arizona Landmark Art, recently started collecting again after a lengthy hiatus.
The painting shown above is a piece Dave acquired at the most recent Scottsdale Art Auction. The title, Arroyo Vista, provided no clue where the painting had been created. It was likely one of those generic description type names that auction houses typically give to untitled paintings. (I.e. Thomas Gainesborough never gave the title The Blue Boy to his most iconic painting…or so I’ve been told.)
“We’ll call it Roosevelt Dam,” Dave told me shortly after the auctioneer’s hammer hit the table.
I disagreed. “I think it is of the Salt River, but before the dam was built.”
Megargee first came to Arizona in the 1890s. The dam was finished in 1911.
The one thing we both agreed on was if we had “Salt River” in the title no one would be able to dispute us.
It turns out we were both wrong.
Shortly thereafter I contacted the one person I know who could dispute us.
Harvey Leake. No one I know personally has seen more of the state of Arizona than Harvey.
“Nice painting!” Harvey responded in an email. “My hunch is …the Verde River in the general area of Bartlett Resorvoir.”
He suggested I make a trip to the area and see if “…anything in the skyline is recognizable.”
Since Bartlett Lake is less than a 30 minute drive from my house I went there the next day.
The road to Bartlett Lake drove me right into the skyline. Although it is not obvious from the photo shown in the header, I believe Megargee’s perspective was from one of the ridges over my right shoulder when I took the picture.
When it cools down later this year and I have a little more time I hope to do some hiking in the area and maybe find the exact spot -or close to it.
In retrospect Bartlett Lake makes sense.
Megargee sold Casa Hermosa, his home in Paradise Valley, in 1941. (Casa Hermosa later became the Hermosa Inn.)
He then moved to Cave Creek where he lived in several different homes over the next ten years. As shown in the two images above, he also painted several scenes which bear a strong resemblance stylistically and thematically to the Bartlett Lake painting. All capture the natural beauty of the high Sonoran Desert under a vast, clear sky.
Fortunately, except for the paved road, the Bartlett Lake remains little changed from the time Megargee painted it.
Hence the reason for dropping the “Stunning Visual Evidence the Phoenix Area Has Changed in the Last Century!” from the title. Hopefully there will be more of these in the future.
Next: Where were they then? (minus the “Stunning Visual Evidence…) Part II
(Update May 16, 2021 I have been told by a reliable source the painting recently belonged to Fred Unger a well known Phoenix area art patron. One of his many real estate projects included the restoration of the Hermosa Inn.)
Shortly after the auction I contacted Harvey Leake. I could think of no other person who has experienced so much of the state first hand. And he was the only one I could think of who could