Painting returned to artist#8217;s family

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 21, 2007

It was one student’s masterpiece that was stashed in a corner of history.

But it is now back in the hands of the family of its creator, a matter made possible by a governmental resolution and a loving brother and just maybe coincidence.

In the late 1940s, Ironton High School student Edgar Dodson completed a painting of Jesus Christ carrying his cross to Calvary, an art class assignment that gained him community recognition.

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“The painting was hung in the J.C. Penney at Easter,” his brother, Donald Dodson recalled. “I don’t recall seeing it, but I heard about it.”

The painting took an estimated 60 hours out of Edgar Dodson’s life, 60 hours he spent turning canvas into a stark depiction of Christ on his way to his crucifixion.

When Edgar Dodson graduated in 1949, he asked then-art teacher Lillian Humphrey if he could take his painting with him and was told no.

“She told him if it was painted on school property, it would be kept,” Donald Dodson said.

Edgar Dodson moved away from Ironton and eventually settled in Des Moines, Iowa; Donald Dodson moved to Ashland, Ky., and the painting was put away and forgotten.

The one day not long ago, two minds miles apart had a similar thought: where was Edgar’s painting?

“I woke up one night, couldn’t sleep, and for some reason thought about the painting,” Donald recalled. And about the same time, Edgar, in Des Moines, visited a craft store and saw some paintings and mentioned to the store owner he could paint. When he got an IHS yearbook out, he found a photograph of himself, shot while he was painting his portrait of Christ.

Donald called school officials and asked if they were tearing down the old high school, might someone have found his brother’s painting? Superintendent Dean Nance said school employees went looking and sure enough, the painting was still in the high school and still in remarkably good condition. Even the details of Christ’s hands are still finely visible, his expression of resolution and sorrow still evident on his face. Edgar Dodson’s name is still legible at the bottom of the painting. Edgar Dodson’s masterpiece was still intact.

When the school board met Tuesday night, they agreed to give Donald Dodson his brother’s painting. He will keep his brother’s masterpiece for now and later give it to his niece, Tara Dodson, who also lives in Des Moines. In the meantime, Donald will get a chance to admire his brother’s handiwork that was once forgotten.

“I was told it was good. You know, I hadn’t seen it.” He paused and added, “I wasn’t disappointed.”