Cambridge painter holds first exhibition at age 96

By Luke Reiter

From the moment he first put brush to page Marvin Paulson was hooked. After only a few lessons he was filling canvasses with trees, mountains and houses, to the astonishment of family and friends. It seemed as though Paulson was born to paint––he just waited 92 years to get around to it.

Marvin Paulson, 96, poses with his work at his first art show held on Wednesday, April 20. Photo by Luke Reiter

According to Paulson it all started when he was just “strolling the halls” of his assisted living facility in Las Vegas, Nev., when some acquaintances invited him to sit in on an art class.

“Well,  I sat in and they handed me a brush,” Paulson recalled.

Paulson decided the activity suited him, and he soon was filling the walls of his apartment with his paintings and gathering admiration from visitors.

Paulson signed his works “Marvin of Seville,” in tribute to his living facility, the Atria Seville. About two years ago, however, Paulson decided to move to Cambridge to be near to his remaining family including his nephew, Craig Paulson (former principal at Cambridge-Isanti High School) and his niece, Carmen Klomp. His recent works are signed “Marvin of GracePointe,” to reflect his new residence at GracePointe Crossing.

Paulson, now 96, has no shortage of life experiences to draw inspiration from. He and his late wife, Muriel, lived in 41 locations all over the country while he worked as a geodetic engineer, including one year in which they moved seven times.

Paulson spent his career aboard ships mapping the U.S. coastlines or hiking long distances over  treacherous terrain to establish the longitude, latitude and elevation of the Alaskan wilderness.

Paulson’s favorite subjects are lakes, mountains and forests, including some landscapes he hasn’t seen in more than 50 years.

“I think it’s just that fact that I’ve climbed a lot of ‘em for surveying,” Paulson said.

A few of those paintings went on public display for the first time on Wednesday, April 20, in GracePointe’s Commons Building just outside Cambridge.

“Uncle Marvin’s an inspiration to all of us,” said niece Carmen Klomp, who assisted with the show.

Unfortunately for Paulson, painting doesn’t get easier with age. A condition known as macular degeneration has impaired his vision over the past few years so he can only see his work using his peripheral vision. He said recently he discovered he can no longer see when his brush makes contact with the page.

Still Paulson persists, repainting some pieces multiple times.

“He has to be very precise,” Klomp said. “I think it’s the civil engineer in him.”

Paulson enjoys sharing his art, but he doesn’t believe the secret to building skills at his age is such a secret.

“Well, all you gotta’ do is start, and have an avid interest,” Paulson said.