This touching, personal charcoal portrait by Rolf Armstrong features his long-time housekeeper and personal friend Rebekah Louisa Hooper--Ma Hoops--in a lovingly rendered Hawaiian islands view, with traditional plumeria tucked behind her ear.
Ma Hoops worked at Armstrong's homes in Honolulu, Hawaii and Marblehead, Massachusetts, becoming a fixture in his tight knit circle. Considered a mother figure to many of his models, most notably Jewel Flowers, she was dear to the heart of the artist and had a glint in her eye, as this charming artwork makes clear.
This charcoal portrait comes from the estate of Mike Wooldridge, who obtained it (along with the touching personal letter from Ma Hoops to Jewel) from the collection of Jewel Flowers.
The two sided letter, included with sale, was written to Jewel shortly after Rolf Armstrong's death in 1960. The handwritten portion reads as follows:
"Dear Jewell, I made this copy for you [referring to the typewritten note on the verso]. I thought I could perhaps bring you news and tell you about it when you and Mr. Dayton come later in the spring. I know he'll want to get it over as fast as he can. I'd love it if you could stay a while, if not do plan to bring you family and visit in the summer time. I am very fond of you--I guess you know--and you and Pat could have some time together.
When I see you at Idlewild, have any definite questions ready that you would like Anna Lang to answer. I am trying again to pack and bag. I had so many things out that I knew would please Rolf--things he has given me and he did seem to enjoy seeing me decked out, and I tried to "look pretty." Sometimes it was a struggle for an old lady. My house is a mess. I'm having the living room painted, you won't know the difference as the colors will be the same but it has not been touched in 20 years and Oh boy! But I'll be out of it and it will be fresh and replaced when I get back. Best wishes of you, my thoughts are with you."
The typewritten portion reads as follows:
Feb. 25, 1960
Fort Sewall, Marblehead, Mass.
My dear Anna Lang,
Jewell has told me that Mr. and Mrs. Bob Armstrong are having a simple service in memory of Rolf. I know you with many other of his friends will be there. I am taking my little part by writing to you. I think it would please him. We know each other only by name. He has told me many nice things about you and I am sure that in turn he has told you of me. His sudden going has been a severe shock to all of us--his friends at Fort Sewall. I had planned to come to Hawaii in this next month and had looked forward to seeing him and I know he would have had us meet. I have been in constant touch with dear little Jewell and she thinks that I should come along to the islands--I agree--So I shall expect to arrive at the Reef-Tower on March 15 and shall probably stay for two or three weeks and I shall hope that sometime during my stay we can meet and chat. Other friends from here who knew Rolf are to spend a week there during my visit. Jewell calls me Ma Hoops--(as most of the young folks do)--Rolf called me Louisa--most of my friends call me Beckie--my name is Rebekah Louisa Hooper--Ten years ago when I was in the islands a dear old lady gave me the name Kaui--so you can take your choice. With sincerest sympathy to a good friend of Rolf's, B Hooper.