The walls of art galleries in this country, and no doubt elsewhere, are well stocked with the paintings of entertainment celebrities from Tony Martin to Frank Sinatra to Red Skelton. This may not be surprising because, broadly speaking, painting could be considered another form of entertainment, and those talented in the fine arts are often gifted with more than one talent. In the art of politics, however, it's much more rare to find painters. Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower come to mind, and if you want to stretch the definition a bit, you might include Britain's Prince Charles and his watercolor landscapes in this rarefied group. Apparently, we also need to include a relatively NEW member in this elite roster. His recent one-man show at Palm Beach, Florida's prestigious Wally Findlay Gallery chalked up sales that surprised everyone, including the artist--Donald T. Regan.
If you're trying to place the name, pull out your wallet, you might find his signature on at least one of your older 20-dollar bills. He was once chief of staff and Treasury Secretary for Ronald Reagan. His work is not spectacular. One did sell for $6,000, however. Many are around ten by fourteen inches, and he seems to have a preferences for East-coast lighthouses. Other subjects include sunsets, Virginia farms, tropical scenes, storms, and historic buildings, especially those in and around Williamsburg, Virginia. The local Junior League there has even made money selling a print of one of his paintings. He doesn't paint people. You won't find a figure in any of his work. And, there is no doubt those in charge of the Findlay Galleries or those paying the big bucks wouldn't have given him the time of day had he merely been in charge of counting the money at the Treasury Department during his Washington tenure.
He classes himself as a "primitive," and indeed, his colors would tend to confirm this label. They are literal and unimaginative. He does appear to have a handle on linear perspective, however. Don't expect any "Grandma Moses" flatness to his many buildings and landscapes. There is, though, a tendency toward the aerial viewpoint that is not uncommon amongst primitive painters. Now 80 years old, most of his gallery work appears to have been done in the last couple years. So successful was his February show that another is planned in August of this year. One thing Regan doesn't do often is give his work to charity. Tax laws don't allow such write-offs. As he explains, "Some damn fool at Treasury once said a guy could just scribble on paper and sell it for $5,000 and take a write-off." His voice trails off guiltily. Sounds like that pronouncement might be right up there with the "ketchup is a vegetable" school lunch controversy from the Reagan era.