Edward C. Saffell Jr.

Edward C. Saffell Jr. was a teacher and artist who enjoyed painting Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club fox hunts, horses, hounds and horsemen.
Edward C. Saffell Jr. was a teacher and artist who enjoyed painting Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club fox hunts, horses, hounds and horsemen. (Baltimore Sun)

Edward C. Saffell Jr., a teacher and artist whose artwork reflected Baltimore and Maryland scenes, died March 11 at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson of complications from the flu. He was 81.

The son of Edward C. Saffell Sr., a truck driver, and Annie Saffell, a bookkeeper, Edward Cline Saffell Jr. was born in Front Royal, Va., and later moved with his family to Baltimore.


Mr. Saffell dropped out of City College and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950. "His mother had to give her permission and signed for him to join the Marines," said a stepdaughter, Angela Cruz of Manchester, Conn.

After being discharged in the early 1950s, Mr. Saffell returned to City College, where he attended night classes and earned a General Educational Development certificate.


He enrolled at what is now Towson University, where he spent two years. "I found myself drawing in class all the time, so I quit," wrote Mr. Saffell in a biographical sketch.

"All I know is that when I'm drawing, I'm in the Zen of the Buddhist concept of the moment. All my energy is there," he explained in a 2003 magazine interview with The Chronicle of the Horse. "When I draw, I experience a nirvana sort of thing."

"He then began a period of independent study, mostly at the Pratt Library," said Ms. Cruz. "During this time, he also taught art at Parkville High School and began substitute teaching at the Maryland Institute [College of Art], where he was offered a fellowship and earned his bachelor's degree in fine arts there."

After briefly teaching art in Baltimore County public schools, he entered the University of Arizona, from which he earned a master's degree in 1966. In 1968, he began pursuing doctoral studies in education with a minor in philosophy at Pennsylvania State in State College, Pa.

He did not complete his dissertation, said Ms. Cruz. He then spent a year teaching at the University of Hawaii before returning to Baltimore in 1970. For the next 18 years until retiring in 1988, he taught art and photography at Parkville, Dundalk and Overlea high schools.

In addition to teaching, Mr. Saffell became a prolific painter of Maryland scenes, working in watercolor, oil and graphite.

In 1974, he was commissioned to paint murals for the Patterson Park Recreation Center. He later painted a mural whose theme was clipper ships and their place in war and commerce at the Farring-Baybrook Recreation Center in Curtis Bay.

One of his more ambitious undertakings as a muralist took place at Overlea High School during the time Mr. Saffell was chairman of the art department and was credited with rejuvenating the school's art program.

He had student artists paint 33 murals that were hung in the school's gym and reflected its athletic history.

"We'll accept anything that is not obscene or cruel," Mr. Saffell told The Evening Sun in a 1981 article.

"When the first bunch [of paintings] went up, some crazy hoodlums, real thug-types, threatened to tear them down. Some of our kids heard about it and asked them, 'Which arm do you want broken?' " he said.

"He loved painting horses and had a lifelong love of carousel horses," said Ms. Cruz.


While Mr. Saffell never rode to the hounds — and regretted never having done so — he maintained a longtime relationship with Elkridge-Harford Hunt, whose fox hunts he chronicled with his paintings and drawings and described as a "beautiful phenomenon," in The Chronicle of the Horse article.

"It's just like watching the ballet — you have to have an understanding," he said.

Mr. Saffell said because of his understanding of fox hunting, he was able to transfer that knowledge and the excitement of what he called "the moment" into his drawings and paintings.

"My interest in horses and hounds goes back to the primordial days," he told the magazine. "I have this theory that man would not have progressed without the hound and the horse. The dog made it possible for people to sleep at night, as he was their protection. The dog's nose was a radar for hunting too," he said.

"As time went on, the horse came into the picture as transportation. The Plains Indians took the Spanish horses, and their whole life centered around the horse. Hunting is a natural part of man's evolution," he said in the interview.

"When I'm drawing, I can feel everything. I don't paint horses; I paint pictures with horses in them," he said in the interview. "When you ride a horse, you feel the horse. In drawing, it is more important to know how something feels than what it looks like."

Mr. Saffell, longtime Lutherville resident, explained his philosophy of what makes a good depiction of fox hunting.

"I close my eye and see it all," he told The Chronicle of the Horse. "When I look at a good hunt painting, I can hear the hounds. That is what truly sets apart a good painting from the rest."

His equestrian art led him to be awarded a Fulbright scholarship, which led to study in the Netherlands. Many of his works graced The Chronicle of the Horse, an American weekly equestrian magazine.

Because of heart problems and the physically taxing nature of fox hunts, Mr. Saffell stopped painting in the late 1990s.

In his retirement, he took up competitive shooting and won many awards for his "sharp eye and accuracy," said Ms. Cruz. He was a member of the Monumental Rifle and Pistol Club in Marriottsville.

Mr. Saffell also maintained an extensive correspondence with family and friends and often included a drawing or a collage with his letters.

Plans for a memorial service to be held this spring are incomplete.

In addition to Ms. Cruz, he is survived by his wife of 38 years, the former Mary Lou Scarborough; a son, Jacques Saffell of Tsukuba City, Japan; two other stepdaughters, Karen Cruz and Cynthia Cruz, both of Lutherville; five grandchildren; and a great-grandson. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.

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