Throwback Thursday – That Was Montauk

“That’s Montauk” poster reproducing the painting by Kenneth Walsh | Montauk Library Archives

Gone but (maybe) not forgotten: Slater Drugs, the New York Ocean Science Laboratory, the Dolphin, Bill’s Greenhouse, First National Bank, the Ronjo, the Texaco station, and $50 fines in East Hampton Town.

Still kicking (at least so far):  the New York State parks, Gosman’s Dock, Uihlein’s, the Viking, White’s, the IGA, John’s Pancake House, Shagwong, Duryea’s Dock, and Pizza Village — which is one of many Montauk establishments where this poster by the artist Kenneth Walsh could be found hanging.

The poster is a reproduction of a 1976 acrylic triptych mural – one panel apiece representing Montauk’s downtown, its fishing industry, and its beaches. Kenneth Walsh (1922-1980) worked as a commercial artist and painted “soft realism” watercolors, with Montauk’s seascapes and harbor two of his favorite subjects, as he had a house in Hither Hills and a gallery at Gosman’s Dock. He enjoyed surfcasting and beachcombing and created sculptures and mobiles from driftwood and other treasures the ocean dispensed.

In the early 1970s he went through a period of bipolar disorder that upended his commercial career. When he came through the tunnel he began to paint prolifically, virtually “nonstop,” his son Christopher said, and in “a strikingly different, modernist style.”

“One sees many Picasso-esque faces and figures that are at once frontal and profile views,” Christopher wrote for an exhibit of his father’s 1970s work in 2017 at the Woodbine Collection in Montauk. “It’s not minimalist, but it definitely does more with less.”

Years after his father’s death, the son started collecting and restoring his works, in the process creating an online catalog and store, There he describes the iconic 1976 Montauk mural and poster – topped with the words “That’s Montauk” — as “the Montauk zeitgeist, replete with references that only old-timers will see and understand.”

Rumor has it that “Bills Greenhouse” belonged to Bill Wilson, whose true profession was selling real estate. Christopher Walsh doesn’t remember that, but said the late John Gosman Sr., who was friends with his father, told Christopher that his father added stubble to the face of the lady in the green dress after being told that she resembled Bill of the greenhouse.

Christopher said there are still a number of original posters of the painting, including a framed one at the East Hampton home of Larry Siedlick, who owns the Montauk Beach House (formerly the Ronjo).

The painting itself was sold at the 2017 exhibit at the Woodbine Collection. The gallery owner, said Christopher Walsh, “told me [the buyer] has a house in Montauk and likes to surfcast.”

One Comment

  • User Avatar
    Jan Rieger Reply

    I worked for Bill Wilson for a summer in the early 1970’s. He had a landscaping business and a small retail space in town. Near Marshall’s as I recall. He specialized in creating terraces and walkways from a mixture of resin and stones. That was hot, dirty work as the resin was heated and mixed with the stones in a cement mixer. He also specialized in drinking beer at Lakeside Inn on Friday afternoons and we would go there to be paid for the week.

Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.