Donald Purdy was born April 1924, five years before the 1929 Crash, in Norwalk, Connecticut. We mention the Crash of 29 because in his formative growing up years, that the ensuing Depression influenced his personality and development greatly.
At 18 he was drafted into the Army and served almost 4 years and then on to college for seven years, B.A. at University of Connecticut, then onto graduate school at Boston University, earning a M.A. in Psychology, and then finish his graduate work for PH.D. in Psychology. It was at this point that he decided in the summer of 1952, he did not want to continue and write his dissertation. He had been painting for the last few years & working in galleries part-time. He had met many artists and decided he wanted to pursue painting. In all of those years of college he had never taken a single course in art.
He had completed all course work for his Doctorate, but there was still a dissertation that could take a year or two. He made the decision that he wanted to pursue art. While in Boston for 3 years he had worked in galleries and had done picture framing for a large art store once he had come to the conclusion that he wanted to be a part of the art world. He left Boston with $25.00 to my name, a wife and a baby on the way. His parents kindly invited him and his family to go to their cottage in Connecticut for a start. They managed to get jobs in New Haven and he found work as a picture framer & was off to a new start. For the next ten years, New Haven was his home. For the first seven years he managed to gut buildings in central New Haven, where he would run rooming houses. In each place he would get room for a gallery, a basement to paint in, a room to live in & then he would rent out the remaining 6-7 rooms for an entire pronominal Land lord. It worked out very well, the gallery brought in a little money. He managed to paint every night and his wife ran the gallery. They enjoyed modest success and managed. In the fourth or fifth year they had a stroke of good fortune. A gentleman offered him a contract to buy paintings each month from him for the next seven years. He allowed him to still sell his paintings in New York and Connecticut. He had been going in to New York and selling his paintings to about twelve galleries, so it was wonderful to be allowed to continue. He had galleries up and down Madison Avenue and even on 57th Street in New York City (Schoneman Galleries).
The next phase, a move to Wilton augured in a new kind of outlet for him besides continuing my seven year contract with my agent, he went to New York once a week and began dealing in 19th century European and American art. He traded his own paintings for relatively inexpensive other paintings & prints. At that time for example Lautrec posters were less than $1,000 each. Slowly he worked his way into paintings by The Eight and at that time they were very reasonable ($200 – $2,000), an Ashcan artist like Lawson was $1,200 – $1,500. Gradually, over the years this business grew enormously and he dealt almost exclusively with art dealers, in New York & across the country. He never had a gallery again, no advertising ever, business conducted from the home, no overheard. Donald Purdy is now 85 and still paints every day. He states “It hasn’t been easy, we have foregone many of the amenities, like vacations etc., but I must confess it has been completely rewarding. I write this to offer hope to up and coming artists. At times it does seem formidable to envision marriage, bringing up a family and simply painting for a life time. I always remembered a little book, given to me by my high school French teacher entitled “pas à pas”, step by step. It always suggested to me it always was possible to go where I wanted to go and to do so “pas à pas”, step by step.”