Walter Cheever:
Polly Woods has many faces
in famous father's portraits

November 05, 1999
Santa Paula News
There are many faces of Polly Woods, a longtime Santa Paula resident who spent much of her childhood posing for her famous artist father, Walter Cheever. "I was his favorite model and posed for him quite a bit," said Woods. ". . .I guess because I could sit still the longest."Known as the Dean of American Painters and Dean of American Portrait Painters, Cheever's work is much in evidence in the home where Polly and husband Gordon Woods have lived for many years.Her father passed away in 1951 when he was 70 years old: Born into a "very poor family" in Massachusetts, Cheever was able to attend art school, although it took him eight years to graduate. He became an artist as well as a renowned art teacher (including at UCSB), eventually living on a small citrus ranch in Glendale. His wife Bertha was an art designer who also proved to be a good subject for Cheever's paintings, said Polly."Oh, I have no idea how many portraits he painted but he did still life and landscapes also," she noted, as she pointed out many of her father's rich paintings.Gordon Woods said Cheever was asked to submit work to the world-famous Laguna Art Festival and was the focus of many one-man exhibits; three of his paintings - two of them on loan and the third donated in memory of Polly's parents - are hung at Santa Paula Memorial Hospital.Cheever's paintings fetch high prices although the bulk of his work is still family-owned.One outstanding painting contains Bertha Cheever in two different poses serenely sitting in a sunny room, "my favorite," noted Polly.Polly realized her father had a different way of making a living "from the very beginning. . .as soon as I realized anything," she realized her father was an artist. As a man, he had a "very good sense of humor, although he was quiet. . .he was one of the best friends I ever had," said Polly. As a student at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, "whenever I got a letter from my father all my friends wanted to read it, they were so interesting."An art major, Polly remembers summers in Mexico City, when "we had a model come in everyday. . .it was marvelous. Father was very encouraging," to budding artists in his family.
Polly Woods had a twin sister, the late Peggy, as well as another sister, also deceased, Consuelo Julian, who became an abstract and modern artist of note. The Woods' daughter Ann Warren graduated from UCSB and is artistic; son John Cheever Woods graduated from the Brooks Institute and is a photographer.Although Polly says she isn't artistically inclined, Gordon - her husband of 56 years - noted that she did the design and displays for the Future Farmers of America at the annual Ventura County Fair while he was a Santa Paula Union High School teacher and agricultural advisor.Polly has not painted in quite a while, although some of her own works are displayed in the Woods' home. "I'll have to give that [painting] some thought; I don't think I'll be exhibiting soon," she noted with a laugh."The first time I met Polly's father and said I was from Santa Paula, he asked if I knew Douglas Shively," a noted area artist and banker, said Gordon. "I guess I gave him the right answer. . ."CAPTION:Polly Woods of Santa Paula was a favorite model for her father, the late Walter Cheever, known as the Dean of American Portrait Painters.

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