It is with sadness that I write of Charlie Cawley’s passing. He was a great man who touched the lives of many, many people including ours. His goodness reached far and wide, but I want to touch on his love of art and our relationship.
When I introduced myself to him for the first time, I told him my name was Bill Beebe and I wanted to thank him for buying a number of my paintings. He looked at me with a smile and a twinkle in his eye and said, “You’re William to me.” He knew me from the signatures on my paintings as William R. Beebe. That moment changed our lives!
His love of art brought us together. He was a perfectionist and he told me he loved the detail in my paintings. We became good friends and within a short period of time he ended up hiring me as the resident artist for MBNA, working directly under him. I painted for him for almost ten wonderful years.
Charlie was very proud of his company and proud of the people working for him. He loved art and was a major collector. He thought, what better way to immortalize the company than to have paintings of each of the MBNA office buildings painted and reproduced for the quarterly report covers.
So my job was to produce oil paintings of each of the office buildings here in the US and abroad. He was always so anxious to see each painting after being directly involved in picking the final image from my photographs. A few were still very wet and needed weeks of drying time, but his excitement over the process would cause him to have them sent off to the photographer for reproduction purposes before they were ready. ☺
He called me the evolutionary painter; he knew that one of the qualities of oil paint is that you can paint over parts of a painting if you want to change something. So if you x-ray some of my MBNA building paintings you might see three sets of flags in front of the office building where there should only be one. We would work together on getting it just right.
Charlie had such a good eye for detail. On a few occasions the quarterly report would come out and I would see my painting on the cover but something would look different. For example, I painted the MBNA office in Ireland, which had asymmetric windows on the top floor. It was before Photoshop, but somehow he managed to have another window placed on the second floor to balance out the composition. It was as if I had painted it that way. I found that most amusing.
Another instance I found amusing was an altered image of my painting of one of the Wilmington, DE office buildings. I had painted a rather large cloud above the building to add some interest to the sky. The quarterly report came out and the sky was blue! His instincts told him that large looming clouds can be an ominous sign and that wouldn’t be good to have over a company building. I learned quickly to paint more friendly skies! ☺
Even though I painted for him and for the company, he never stifled my creativity. He always allowed me to paint what I loved in-between projects, including historic Maine schooners, coastal Maine, lighthouses, etc… He included my ships in his collection along with some of the greats like Antonio Jacobsen, and Montague Dawson. He included my paintings of coastal Maine in his collection with the most famous 20th Century American artist, Andrew Wyeth, and his equally famous son’s (Jamie Wyeth) paintings of Maine.
Being part of the MBNA and Cawley/Starfire Marine collections was a great honor! It gave me a greater sense of confidence in my art, a gift that many artists never receive in their lifetime. For that I will always be grateful.
He promoted the arts wherever MBNA was located and wherever he traveled, helping artists and galleries succeed, and helping towns and cities flourish.
Charlie helped transform the lives of literally thousands of people. My story is just one of many. He loved to share his tremendous success with others and encourage people to be the best they could be. He was a visionary. He was a philanthropist. He was a devoted and loving family man. He was a friend.
Thank you Charlie for your friendship, for believing in my art, and for all of the good times we shared together. We will miss you!