Artist recovers from stroke, loss of work during attacks

— Among the moneyed and powerful, Raymond Whyte's paintings were a favorite for the exquisite detail that flowed from his steady hand for more than half a century.

Among the fans was B. Gerald Cantor, founder of the Cantor Fitzgerald investment company, who adorned his firm's headquarters on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center with several of Whyte's paintings.

Two years ago, Whyte and his wife, Erica, were living a quiet retirement in this coastal Gulf town when a stroke halted his painting with the paralysis of his right hand.

Then two months ago came another blow � the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center that killed 657 Cantor Fitzgerald employees and reduced five of Whyte's prized works to just another part of the rubble.

One of the works destroyed was an elaborate, three-paneled portrait of Cantor that documented the breadth and power of his companies in Whyte's slightly surrealistic style.

Rather than crumbling, the 78-year-old Whyte is determined to paint again, even though the prospect of creating what was lost is slim.

The Whytes moved to Spring Hill 17 years ago from New York after a friend relocated there. Erica Whyte is a former dress designer. They traveled the world and often threw lavish parties for visiting friends in their elegant, lakefront home.

Whyte's works were part of the private collections of the mega rich, such as Malcolm Forbes and J. Paul Getty. But he counted Cantor, a world-renowned patron of the arts, as both a fan and a friend.

Whyte and Cantor had attended the same elementary school together in New York. As adults, they reunited and many portraits of Cantor and his wife, Iris, followed.

Cantor, who died in 1996, and his wife are especially known in the art world for amassing the world's largest private collection of Rodin sculptures.

Scalzo said it has been difficult to see his friend, who is also an artist he admires, struggle with the effects of the stroke.

"He was a very well-spoken gentleman, noting like you would expect from an artist," Scalzo said, noting Whyte often wore a three-piece suit to show openings. "His ideas weren't conservative, but he is."

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