LA GRANGE – Charles Vickery often traveled to the east and west coasts to spend time with the sea, which he became famous for painting. But Vickery, who grew up in Western Springs, always remained close to home, working out of a studio in Western Springs and then in downtown La Grange.
From 1980 on, his studio was feet from the store that sold nothing but his paintings. Bert Jacobs and his father, also Bert, combined to operate the Clipper Ship Gallery at 10 W. Harris Ave. for more than 30 years. In April, the younger Jacobs announced that he would be closing the gallery once his lease expires June 1. A group of past La Grange Business Association presidents assembled to toast to Jacobs at a May 22 farewell event at Palmer's Place.
Jacobs, 70, said he had been thinking about closing the gallery for several years, partially because of the struggling economy.
"People don't have to have paintings," Jacobs said.
He'll continue to sell Vickery's work online, where collectors as far as Great Britain and Zurich, Switzerland, have ordered paintings.
Jacobs' father was a friend of Vickery, who painted Jesus walking on the sea for the retirement home the older Jacobs used to run. That painting led him to open the gallery in 1980. His son joined him in 1987.
By serving as an exclusive seller of Vickery's paintings and distributing prints to 80-100 galleries and print shops across the country, Clipper Ship provided protection for the artist, revered for his ability to capture the mood of the sea.
"Movement is the thing," Vickery said, as written on his website, charlesvickery.com. "The wind can create sudden drama in as much time as it takes to blink your eyes."
Vickery, who died in 1998, credited Lake Michigan as being his greatest instructor, his website says. He said he spent his early painting years living in a tent on the lake's shore and eating peanut butter sandwiches.
Jacobs' favorite moments running the gallery were watching collectors receive the paintings they ordered.
"To see the look on their faces when they said, 'That's my oil!" Jacobs said.