Biography of Roy

Roy was born in Philadelphia, November 26, 1943, grew up and was raised by his divorced mother Alberta Insley Blankenship (Speck) 1922 – 1996, and maternal grandparents Florence Insley Speck (1884 – 1979) and Dr. Frank Goldsmith Speck (1881 – 1950) at their winter home in Swarthmore, PA (103 Cornell Ave.) and Annisquam Riverview cottage #51, Riverview, Gloucester, MA in summers.

Dr. Speck was one of the foremost authorities on the American Indian (specialty Woodland Indians), wrote 400 books and articles on all aspects of the American Indian as well as dozens of articles on natural history topics. He wrote poetry, played the mandolin and harmonica, and painted dozens of primitive 2-dimensional landscapes and seascapes on small panels. Dr. Speck died in February 1950 when Roy was six years old but he had had a profound effect upon the young boy in his formative years teaching him ways to mentally record by listening and how to absorb the feelings of touch by taste and smell.

According to his mother Roy was a prolific scribbler with crayons on paper, walls, and furniture before he could walk. According to grandmother Speck his first spoken words “car door” were uttered with crayons in one hand and a scratch pad in the other.

At age nine through thirteen (1952 – 1956) he joined in summer painting and drawing classes with his grandmother Speck at the Gloucester in-home studio of Alice Beach Winter (1877 – 1970). At age twelve and thirteen Roy was dubbed Emile Gruppe’s (1896 – 1978) “studio urchin” by Emile’s wife Dottie for hanging around Emile’s studio so often. Roy often tired of the indoor studio time with the ladies work shop and was excused to retreat down the road to artist Arthur Safford’s (1901 – 1992) home and studio or to Gruppe’s Rocky Neck Studio. Alice Winter and grandmother Speck were friends of many local artists including the Safford’s and Gruppe’s.

Roy’s summers in Gloucester were spent with fishing rod, Kodak box camera, and sketching pad while rowing up and down the Annisquam River in his beloved “Sea Pup” or hiking alone in the North Shore woods from Magnolia to Wingersheek Beach. He would spend all day observing nature, collecting and drawing insects, snakes, and turtles. He spent hours observing and befriending the fishermen at work on the docks and boats in Gloucester Harbor, ran bike errands and caulked boats for Herb Montgomery’s boatyard crew on the Annisquam River. He ate quarts of blueberries and dug up artifacts from the foundations of old abandoned homes on Dog Town Common. Roy’s most popular stomping ground was Sunset Rock on Poles Hill where he could sit for hours observing 360 degree distant views of Gloucester harbor, Annisquam River, Wolf Hill, Rust and Merchants Islands, Wheelers point, and Ipswich Bay. When he tired of exploring, collecting, or drawing he would often nap between the crevasses of the big rocks. Many of his early black and white photographs, colored pencil, crayon, and charcoal sketches made before 1958 from summers in Gloucester, trips to Washington DC, and New York City have survived.

Roy grew up in two family owned museum households loaded with Mission and Arts and Crafts furniture, all sorts of rare American Indian artifacts collected from the American Indians by his grandfather Speck, and romantic landscape and marine paintings covering the walls painted by his great grandfather and Hudson River artist Albert Babb Insley (1842 – 1937).
In the summer of 1959 at age sixteen Roy painted still life subjects at the Gloucester studios of Arthur Safford, landscapes with palette knife with Ken Gore (1911 – 1991), and seascapes with Riverview neighbor and artist Roger Curtis (1910 – 2000) in his basement and at Curtis Cove. He became great friends plein air painting with Wayne Morrell (b. 1923) including in the back yard of “Twin Acre Farm” home of Roy’s uncle Reiny Speck, Rockport, MA. By the Fall of 1959 Roy was exhibiting photographs and watercolors in the College Hall meeting room, Swarthmore College (PA) of local Swarthmore scenes. Roy’s mother was instrumental in having this small exhibit travel to the Rose Valley School (PA), the Media Friends School (PA), where she taught school, and the Swarthmore Public Library. His work was represented and sold by the Edith Jewett Gift Shop in Swarthmore.

By the summer of 1960 while working at the Seaward Inn, Rockport, MA, Roy accepted an invitation from Dr. Speck’s old friend and colleague Ernest Dodge, Director of the Peabody Museum (now the Peabody – Essex), Salem, MA to exhibit twelve of his black and white photographs depicting the neighborhood around Swarthmore, PA titled “Off Yale Avenue”. In 1961, during his second summer working at the Seaward Inn Roy gave demonstrations of his painting techniques to guests depicting the beautiful rock gardens he had created on the grounds of the Inn. The owners of the Seaward Inn, Roger and Ann Cameron sponsored an exhibition of Roy’s interpretive watercolors of Cape Ann at the Ipswich Community Arts Center (MA) in August of 1961. The same summer Roy’s Annisquam River photographs were shown at the Annisquam Library and Community Center where a few were auctioned off at the Annual Annisquam Fair.

Upon graduating from Brandywine High School, Wilmington, DE, in 1962, Roy enlisted in the US Navy becoming a Radioman and Cameraman. While stationed at FOCCPAC, Hawaii, (1963 – 1964) he worked off duty hours at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, observing project restorations and cleaning the conservation laboratory. Also, on off duty weekends, Roy flew with military personnel to the islands of Kaui, Maui, and the big island of Hawaii to plein air paint and photograph the islands.
From 1965 through August 1966 Roy served as Radioman and Cameraman first on the USS Catamount (LSD – 17) and later the USS Fort Marion (LSD – 22). He founded “The Forts Flapper” a newsy and humorous newspaper to lift shipboard moral on two tours of duty to Vietnam and received the Commanding Officers Commendation Award. He compiled portfolios of his drawings, photographs, and 8mm movies of Pacific Naval operations and shipboard life off the coast of Vietnam for CINCPAC, and took photo’s of coastal life in different regions of the Pacific Ocean.

After being honorably discharged in August 1966, Roy spent the autumn in New England plein air painting in Vermont and New Hampshire and on Cape Ann with artists Emile Gruppe, Otis Pierce Cook (1900 – 1980), Walter Bollendonk (1897 – 1978), and Marian Williams Steele (b. 1916). He joined the artist memberships in the Delaware Society of Artists, Wilmington, DE, The Chester County Art Association, West Chester, PA, and the Newburyport Art Association, Newburyport, MA.
In the spring of 1967 while Roy was plein air painting on The Arden Green, in Arden, DE, he was interrupted, joined, and immediately befriended by Gordon Salter, who was an Arden resident, artist, professional conservator of furniture and paintings, and a world renowned wood scientist at the Winterthur Museum, Wilmington, DE. This chance encounter led Roy to become a professional conservator of paintings after an intense apprenticeship under the tutelage of the Winterthur Museum Conservation staff of Salter, Jayne, Ann Clapp, and John Melody.

Roy enrolled at the University of Delaware summer of 1968 receiving his BAAS degree in 1973 the same year he was ‘grandfathered’ as a FELLOW into the professional ranks of the American Institute of Conservators (AIC) from the International Conservator Group (IIC). To pay his own way through college he taught art classes at the Ursuline Academy, Wilmington, DE, was a part time instructor at the Art History Department, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, a full time sales and advertising manager and layout designer for Deme Publications, Marshallton, DE, and a weekend sales associate with Bert and Charlotte Rowland, Rowland Antiques, Buckingham, PA.

Roy’s art instructors at the University of Delaware included: Victor Spinski (ceramics), Gus Sermas and Charles Rowe (figure drawing), Mike Miller (print making), and Julio DaCunha (painting). He returned to his alma mater Brandywine High in 1972 for his teaching internship with John Modica.

In 1972 Roy was juried into the professional artist membership of the North Shore Arts Association (NSAA), Gloucester, MA where he still exhibits annually. Since 1968 his paintings have been represented and sold by Frank Sylvia, Sylvia Art and Antiques, Nantucket, MA, Carspecken-Scott Gallery, Wilmington, DE, Bert Rowland Antiques, Buckingham, PA, artist/agent Roger Curtis, Gloucester, MA, and Lou Pollack, Pollack’s Art and Antiques Galleries, Rockport, MA. He was hired as the Curator and Exhibition Coordinator for the Morris Library, University of Delaware, Newark, DE (1972 – 1975) and as the Chief Conservator of Government paintings, Boggs Federal Building, Wilmington, DE (1973 – 2005).

In 1969 Roy assisted his friend Ted Segal, painting conservator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on painting conservation projects unrelated to the museums collections. In 1972 he was Painting Conservator – in – Residence at the Carspecken-Scott Gallery, Wilmington, DE (1972 – 1979) and in 1981 he designed and build his own state – of – the – art painting conservation studio in north Wilmington at 1603 Veale Road, Westwood Manor (Roy’s home and studio at 1603 Veale Road in Westwood Manor, North Wilmington, DE was sold in 1994. His present address is: Box 7221, Wilmington, DE 19803).

Roy’s monogram, a designed scroll, palette, and brushes, was selected in a contest to permanently represent the Professional Conservators of the Paintings Group in the AIC. He has been listed as a research scientist within the AIC organization and continues to monitor commercially manufactured pigments and protective chemical finishes used by artists. He has been a paintings conservator (studio in North Wilmington, DE) as well as a fine art consultant in private practice serving hundreds of public and private institutions and individuals since 1973 to include: The Peabody-Essex Museum (Director Ernest Dodge), Salem, MA; The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA; Emile and Dorothy Gruppe Estate and the Charles and Alice Winter Estate both from Gloucester, MA, as well as a consultant of fine art owned by the City of Gloucester, MA; Nancy Noel Richardson (Essex, CT, and Dufuskie Island, Hilton Head, SC); The Julliard School and The William Doyle Gallery both of New York City, NY; The University of Pennsylvania Museum and The Swedish Museum both of Philadelphia, PA; Malcolm Polis, (Director Plymouth Meeting Gallery, PA); Bob Congdon, Frank Sylvia, (Nantucket, MA); United States District Court, Boggs Federal Building, Mr. Tyler McConnell, Esq. (Delaware Trust Bank, DE); Historical Society of Delaware, Delaware Art Museum (Director, Bruce St. John); Mrs. David Craven Foundation, (DE), the DuPont Company, (DE); the Hercules Powder Company (DE); Grand Opera House, Widner University, all in Wilmington, DE; Dr. Edward P. Richardson (Director, Winterthur Museum, Wilmington, DE and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA); Quester Maritime Gallery, Stonington, CT; Mary and Bayard Sharp (Director, Elsie Johnson) The Gallery At Centerville, DE; Wesley College, Dover, DE; The University of Delaware, Newark, DE; and Betsy and Andrew Wyeth (Chadds Ford, PA, and Cushing, ME).

In 1975 Roy was in the graduate program at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia painting cityscapes with instructor David G. Pease. In 1976 he had a Bicentennial Exhibition and sale of his paintings in the Main Hall, Concord Pike Library, Wilmington, DE.

Roy wrote a column for the Gannett Papers titled COLLECTING which was published weekly from 1975 to 1977. By the late 1970′s and early 1980′s Roy’s Chesapeake Bay paintings were being exhibited and sold by the Ron Cavalier Galleries, Stamford, CT, pastel landscapes from McClees Gallery, Upper Darby, PA, New York cityscapes, from the Marbella Gallery, New York City, and marine and sporting subjects from the Quester Maritime Gallery, Stonington, CT.
Roy had a one man show of 44 of his works at the Nancy Richardson Art and Antiques Galleries, On The Square, Essex, CT. August through September 1981. The show sold out in three weeks. Six commissions were also contracted.

In her essay written for Roy’s 1981 one man Essex, CT. show brochure, art critique Ruth Kaplan writes:

“Creating a painting that communicates is no small task. Authenticity is all to rare today, when media hype and hyperbole in general seem to be the coin of the realm. Roy Blankenship is totally sure of his craft, philosophies, and abilities. When he is building a painting, every brushstroke brings his work closer to capturing the mood and essence of a scene. He paints the sea and surf on location, where he can scrutinize the waves breaking and rolling, the peculiar cloud formations that day, the sandy or rocky beach. Experiencing the surf’s sound and the smell of salt spray is not merely a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, it is part of his craft and in the final analysis, the authenticity of his paintings”.


In 1982 Roy compiled, wrote, designed, and published the first ever catalog on the life of his great grandfather titled The Delicate Palette of Albert Insley (1842 – 1937). Later, in 1984 – ’85 he helped organize and was curator and lecturer on tour for the major Insley retrospective that traveled to six major museums and historical societies.

Roy was co-chairman of a special seminar on his grandfather Dr. Frank G. Speck at the 85th Annual Meeting of the Anthropological Association, Philadelphia, in 1984. In 1991 Roy compiled and edited the first ever book on the life of his grandfather Speck titled The Life and Times of Frank Goldsmith Speck (1881 – 1950).
In 1995, Roy co-organized and co-lectured with Dr. Matthew Brucolli on a major “Retrospective of the Work of Francois Coradal Cugat (1893 – 1981) at the McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina, SC, which took place during the months May through October. Roy rediscovered the dynamic and colorful estate of works by F.C. Cugat and is presently writing and compiling a book about the artist.

In 1996, the New England Genealogical Historical Society, Boston, MA (Director, Ralph Crandall) hired Roy to be their Chief Conservator and Advisor for their vast priceless holdings of fine art paintings which continues to be an ongoing and very rewarding project filled with new discoveries.

In December 2000, Roy had a very successful one-man exhibit of thirty nine paintings at the Richard Worth Art and Antique Gallery, Chadds Ford, PA. Sixteen of his paintings were sold. He juried into the professional membership of the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts (DFVA) in 2001 and became a Board Member in 2004.
In her major article in the Chester County Town and Country Living Magazine (summer 2001) on Roy Blankenship, art critique Cathy Viksjo is quoted:

“Roy Blankenship is a classic example of the learned artist in the truest sense of the Renaissance tradition – one that stressed humanistic disciplines as well as refined and graceful paintings. In his elegant art, the virtues of combining talent, intelligence, sensitivity, technique, and sound academics are readily apparent even to the most casual observer. There is a tonal refinement of color and a subtlety of mood in his artworks.”

A few of the dozen awards Roy has won over the years include: Second-In-Show for graphite drawing, “Boat-Haven, DaNang, Vietnam”, Balboa Park Center, San Diego, CA., 1966; Award of Excellence for ceramic sculpture, “Gadfly”, Delaware Art Museum, Wilm., DE., 1973; New Member Award for an oil painting, “Pebble Beach”, North Shore Arts Association, Gloucester, MA., 1972; First Place Award for black and white photography, “Eastern Point Lighthouse, Gloucester, MA.”, 20th Annual Hercules Invitational Art Exhibit, Wilmington, DE., 1977; First Place Award for an oil painting, “Summer Moods, Sussex County Farm, DE.” 21st Annual Hercules Invitational Art Exhibit, (Newport Country Club), Wilmington, DE., 1978; and Honorable Mention Excellence Award for water media, “Playing the 9th Hole”, Chester County Art Association, West Chester, PA., 2002.

Roy is a charter artist and/or long time standing member of many art and museum affiliations to include: Oil Painters of America (OPA), Professional Art League (Salmagundi Club) NYC, American Society of Marine Painters (ASMA), FELLOW of the American Institute of Conservators (AIC), Washington, DC, the North Shore Arts Association (NSAA), Gloucester, MA, and the Chester County Art Association (CCAA), West Chester, PA.

Major works by Roy are in numerous public and private collections around the country to include: Delaware Art Museum (DE), Peabody-Essex Museum (MA), Swarthmore College (PA), Ipswich Historical Society (MA), Ursuline Academy (DE), Delaware Trust Bank (DE), Farmer’s Bank (DE), Wilmington Trust Bank (DE), University Museum, University of Pennsylvania (PA), University of Delaware (DE), DuPont Collection (DE), Hercules Powder (DE), Atlas Powder Company (ICI America, Asta-Zeneca) DE, US Navy (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; San Diego, CA; CINCPAC, Hawaii; Washington, DC), the Julliard School (NY), the Bishop Museum, Hawaii, the James Mitchner Foundation, Auston, TX, Mrs. David Craven Foundation (DE), Mrs. Sophie DuPont May (DE), Mary and Bayard Sharp (DE), Mrs. Nancy Richardson (SC, FL, CT), Mary and Richard Worth (PA), among many others.

Roy has had six one-man shows including: Roy Blankenship, A Bicentennial Show, The Concord Pike Library, Wilmington, DE, Oct. 14th – Nov. 10th, 1976; Roy Blankenship – A Major Retrospective, Nancy Richardson Art and Antique Gallery, Essex Square, Essex, CT, Aug. 16th – Sept. 12th, 1981; and R.M. Worth Antiques and Fine Art Galleries, Chadds Ford, PA, Dec. 1st – 31st, 2000.

Additional information and featured articles including illustrations of Roy’s art can be found in the following publications: Artists USA (Vol.1. 1970 – ’71), (Vol. 2, 1972 – ’73); “Roy Blankenship – A Man For All Arts” by Laura Healy Sutherland, Delaware Today Magazine, January 1971; Biographies of American Artists, 1974; Who’s Who In American Art, 1973 – ’74; Who’s Who In The East, 1973 – ’74; US Art Magazine, May – June 1989; The Virginian Magazine, Sept. – Oct. 1989; Who Was Who In American Art, 1999; Area Painter With An Unusual Background” by Catherine Quillman, The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 17th, 2000; ROY BLANKENSHIP (featured artist with color illustration), Chester County Town and Country Living Magazine, Summer 2001; Who’s Who In America, 2003, ’04, ’05, ’06; Who’s Who In The World, 2004, ’05, ’06.

Roy has two children (Troy b. 1980 and Beth b. 1987) from a previous marriage. He married professional artist Lois Showalter on April 1st, 2000 and they exhibit their work together in two man and group shows around the country. A few of their exhibits together include: “Inspirations”, Kendal At Longwood, Longwood, PA, Apr. 1st – 30th, 2001; “Palette Perceptions”, The Wilmington Public Library, Wilmington, DE, May 1st – 31st, 2002; “New Subjects – Favorite places”, The Sawyer Free Library, Gloucester, MA, Aug. 1st – 31st, 2002; “Spring Show At Crosslands, Crosslands Gallery, Kennett Square, PA, May 9th – June 6th, 2003; and “Colorful Expressions”, Alison Building Gallery, Jenner’s Pond, West Grove, PA, Apr. 1st – May 30th, 2004. They maintain a studio and home in north Wilmington, DE and summer at the family cottage/studio on the Annisquam River, Gloucester, MA.

Roy and Lois’s art work can be viewed on their website: www.RoyBlankenship.com or www. Loisshowalter.com. You can e-mail them at royblankenship@AOL.com or loisshow@AOL.com. Their studio phone: (302) 529-1184.