About 15 years ago, my wife and I stumbled upon an estate sale on the outskirts of Seattle.Inside the house, a large portfolio was laid open, displaying a charcoal illustration of young adults playing croquet. It was a rather large illustration, about 18 x 15 inches in size, and had an interesting signature in the corner that appeared to read, RV Culter. The artist had clearly drawn the scene with a very loose hand, but the facial expressions of all of the figures were perfectly captured, and the perspective of the players purposefully introduced the viewer to their game. The whole image has been divided horizontally, with the forecourt left almost untouched, to represent the lawn and to boldly contrast against the main character’s silhouette. The upper half, on the other hand, displays a detailed background that gradually fades and nearly disappears, forcing the viewer to immediately focus is on the main character in the forecourt – a young woman standing in a long flowing skirt, facing her opponents with her back to the viewer. Her restrained profile and statuesque figure suggest feminine innocence, as she awaits her next turn. Meanwhile, the taunting smile on the nearest man suggests he will ignore the forlorn look on another player, as his mallet, held high above his head, prepares to propel her ball as far as possible from the field of play. The final player seems amused as he watches from the farthest wicket, while an elderly couple watches the contest seated from a nearby bench of a stately home. The drawing was genuinely amusing and brilliantly designed.The paper was quite thick and in excellent condition, however had a slight yellowish cast, which I initially mistook for age or water damage, but later learned was a thin layer of varnish to seal the charcoal. On either side of the drawing were publishing marks to align images for reproduction and on the verso were several hand-written numbers and a copyright notice for LIFE PUBLISHING COMPANY. A small piece of paper had been glued to the back to display the artist’s conceptual statement, which read: “The Gay Nineties. The styles of the day sometimes proved a factor in the popular game of Croquet. For instance – the modish lady in the foreground, in strolling about awaiting her turn to play, has happened to drag her skirt across the ball, leaving it – by the merest prank of Fate – in a much better position for her next wicket.”. Handwritten in pencil on the inside of the portfolio was “Charles Dana Gibson”. The exterior had only a few remnants of the original leather, but otherwise was in good condition. The center of the front cover was deeply impressed with “THE GAY TWENTIES”. Beneath the first drawing were 15 more of Culter’s drawings humorously recording glimpses of American lifestyles at the end of the 19th century. One by one, I picked up each piece and admired the wit and perception displayed by Culter, as family events, fashion trends, actors, statesmen, soldiers, musicians, and new-fangled gadgetry all were cast with his unique, tongue-in-cheek imagery. Along with the illustrations was a very brief synopsis of his association with Life Publishing, which began in the Spring of 1925, when he, along with three of his drawings, went into the offices of Life Publishing in New York to meet Charles Dana Gibson, the magazine’s owner and publisher, Robert Sherwood, the editor; and Frank Casey, the art editor. Each of the drawings humorously captured everyday scenes and people from his childhood memories, which Culter referred to as “The Gay Nineties”. While Gibson and his editors admired Culter’s works, they were skeptical the general public would appreciate them as they represented a bygone era, however agreed to publish all three. To their great surprise, “The Gay Nineties” was an instant hit and immediately became a weekly addition to Life. By 1927, Culter’s following had become so great, The Life Publishing Company reproduced 70 of his illustrations in a book titled, “The Gay Nineties – an Album of Reminiscent Drawings by Richard Vincent Culter”. People of all ages and from all walks of life were captured through Culter’s gifted mind and talented hand, reflecting the less hectic, and somewhat more joyful, days gone by. Tragically, 45-year old Richard Vincent Culter died unexpectedly in January of 1929, leaving an unfulfilled legacy of his timeless humor and artistic talents. Apparently, the portfolio I found in Seattle had originally contained all of the 70 drawings by Culter and was the personal property of Charles Dana Gibson. With newfound interest, I looked again at the drawings and continued to smile, seeing things I’d missed the first time. Each of the drawings was priced individually, and even after 30 or 40 minutes of admiring, it was still impossible to choose my favorites, so I successfully negotiated for all of them. They went into a large plastic sleeve for protection where they still remain. Even today, more than 15 years after acquiring them, I still love to carefully review and critically analyze each piece, as I’ve done dozens of times, yet still can’t pick my favorite, but I have finally narrowed it down to the top ten. Thank you, Mr. Culter, for keeping your youth alive.