Richard Osmanski has a question for you.
It’s a question to which he himself doesn’t know the answer.
But he has a sense that someone here in Beaufort County just might.
It’s a simple question really, assuming it gets asked of the right person.
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And it’s one that beckoned when Osmanski and his wife began to consider downsizing their home in Columbia.
Who is the woman in this portrait that has been hanging on our dining room wall?
Osmanski wants to find the woman — or her family — and give her — or them — this painting.
“I’m pretty sure it was of a real person,” he told me Friday.
So, folks, we have a mystery on our hands. And, as with any good mystery, I have some clues to help you along.
First, let’s talk about the artist.
When Osmanski’s father, Gen. Frank A. Osmanski, retired, he and his wife, Edie, moved to the Beaufort area.
The general and Mrs. Osmanski lived on Lady’s Island at Lucy Creek and had an active social life — which means there might be a few people still living in the area who remember them as friends of their parents.
Edie Osmanski, Richard’s mother, was an artist and was known locally for her paintings, which could be seen in local shop windows, “most notably that of the corner hardware store, when it was there …,” Richard wrote in an email.
She even painted a billboard in Beaufort, he said.
Mostly she painted portraits and landscapes, including a few of Lucy Creek. And she painted and drew in sketchbooks throughout the family’s travels in Europe and Southeast Asia.
“She had an interesting journal on China,” her daughter, Ellen Osmanski, who lives in Beaufort, said Wednesday.
Before Mrs. Osmanski died in 1994 — seven years after the general passed away — she split her paintings among her three children.
Richard knows the identities of the other two portraits he received and that hang in his house among some of his mother’s watercolors and drawings: one was of their gardener in Vietnam, the other was of someone his mother met in Nepal.
It’s this third portrait that escapes him.
The painting in question appears to be of an African-American woman wearing a long-sleeved, crew neck shirt and a scarf on her head.
The woman is looking to her left, perhaps in annoyance, perhaps in impatience, maybe in contemplation, or maybe to avoid looking at the artist who had taken such an interest in her.
I asked Richard if his mother likely painted this woman from a photograph or in-person.
“I would think she had her pose,” he said, “and she would've gotten to know her a bit first and then asked if it would be all right.”
The painting, he said, is marked “3/94,” which he believes means his mother painted it in March 1994, just a few months before she died at age 80.
On the back of the painting is a single name: Angela.
At first, Richard thought the woman might have been his mother’s housekeeper. He ran this theory past his sister, Ellen.
No, she told him. That wasn’t of the housekeeper. The housekeeper painting was the portrait Ellen inherited.
This woman, his sister said, was someone their mother painted when she went to the Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon.
“That’s definitely the one,” Ellen said Wednesday.
Their mother and a friend visited the village (touted as North America’s oldest authentic African village) and this woman — Angela? — allowed her to paint her.
Richard Osmanski thinks she’d be in her 50s or early 60s today.
And that’s it.
Those are all the clues we have.
Osmanski hopes to find the woman before Christmas so that he can give her — or her family — the portrait as a gift.
He’s enjoyed it, he said, but it’s time to give it back to its rightful owner.
“In a sense,” he said, “it’s her painting.”
So …. do you recognize her?
If so, send an email to columnist Liz Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 843-706-8140. Richard Osmanski is not asking for payment for the painting and said he’ll keep the woman’s or her family’s anonymity if they desire.