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A Subtle Softening

As painter Isabelle Beutell Dayton transitions from representational toward abstract, her focus remains on calmness

“Beach Path,” 36 inches x 48 inches

“Beach Path,” 36 inches x 48 inches

Isabelle Beuttell Dayton is a consummate, successful and serious artist. She has lived most of her life in Vero Beach, where her oil paintings grace the walls of many of its residents’ dwellings. She says, “The eye of the beholder is what art is about. I’ve felt for a long time that art is not separate from seeing. I know who taught me to tie my shoes. But, I wonder who taught me to see. Much of what we call art begins with the inner lens that comes into focus with living.”

Art played a role in most of Isabelle’s life. When she was 5 years old, her maternal grandmother gave her an unsigned oil painting of the “old woman who lived in a shoe” surrounded by a flock of children. As she lay in bed at night, Isabelle would study the painting, counting and recounting the children. Isabelle says, “I would have to say that one painting was tattooed into my child’s brain more than any ‘art excursion.’ The painting hung in my room until I was grown. Then it hung in my children’s rooms.”  

As a young child, when Isabelle put pencil to paper, it always felt beautiful. She says, “It was all fun, not seen as art. Perhaps fun is the essential essence of it all. It still is fun.”

About the time she turned 9, Isabelle’s family moved from the northeast to Vero Beach. They lived in the country on 4.5 acres in a converted speakeasy called the Paradise Inn. The large rambling structure could accommodate Isabelle and her eight siblings. Her father decorated the enormous rooms that formerly housed the roulette wheels with huge paintings that he’d purchased at a hotel in Ohio. According to Isabelle, those paintings by Alex Warshawsky functioned like wallpaper. She says, “I’d have to say I’m agnostic as I don’t know how much of an influence those paintings were on my own art. The artist keenly captured the rough hands and weather-beaten countenances of his subjects.”