Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Service of the Story Behind the Picture

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Norman Rockwell self portrait. Photo: painted.com

I love to read captions in museums with nuggets of information beside objects and pictures. It was from such a label by a pair of gloves at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y. that I learned, decades ago, that FDR’s father, James Roosevelt I, was considerably older than his mother Sara–26 years in fact. Captions of pictures with no information other than the artist’s name and date irritate me, especially if the picture goes by “Untitled.”

“Bright Future for Banking” Photo: theknow.denverpost.com

Stories behind pictures, an artist or illustrator are fun to read. James Barron wrote such a piece in The New York Times: “A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again.”

Charlotte Sorenson, an octogenarian living in Boulder, Colo., was 15 when she posed for a Rockwell illustration “Bright Future for Banking,” that he created in around 1955 for a bank ad. She is in a white cap and gown, front, right, in the photo at the right. The picture was published inside the Saturday Evening Post, not on its cover where his most iconic work appeared. Sorenson recently saw the illustration in a gallery ad because it is for sale–more about that shortly.

His models, regardless of the destination of the work, most often were his Stockbridge, Mass. neighbors. Sorenson told Barron “‘It was quite common to be sitting somewhere or walking somewhere, and he would spot you and in his mind he had some painting that he was thinking of, so he would ask you or send somebody to ask if you would come up to his studio.’” While she posed alone schoolmates surrounded her in the illustration. To name a few she identified “Carrots,” for her red hair and two Normans. She admitted she was disappointed that the art didn’t appear on a cover.

Barron wrote: “Rockwell’s studio on Main Street had a plate-glass window and was nicely situated for people-watching. Sorenson remembers that it was across the street from one important local hub, the drugstore, and next to another, the Western Union office.”

Photo: thebark.com

She doesn’t remember much about the sitting. Stephanie Plunkett, the deputy director and chief curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge said that a studio assistant took photographs of the models in the studio, one-by-one. Rockwell directed the shoots. “He thought of himself as a movie director casting a role,” she said. He gave the models a coke and paid them $5 to $10 for a 20 minute session, reported Barron.

Art critics were not kind to Rockwell in the day, their disdain vividly expressed by the word “treacly.” According to Barron, a Time Magazine critic wrote in 1943 about a series “The Four Freedoms”  that Rockwell “would probably be incapable of portraying a really evil human being, or even a really complex one — perhaps even a real one.”

However period magazine readers loved his work and today his fans pay dearly for originals. “Bright Future for Banking” is for sale for $885,000 at the M.S. Rau gallery in New Orleans. It was in a Rau ad that Sorenson saw it again. Barron quoted prices of other Rockwell originals from $46 and $8.45 million in 2013 to $15.4 million in 2006 and $1.9 million in 2017. Remember that the bank ad picture was not on a cover which is reflected in the price.

I always loved the American scenes and characters Rockwell depicted even though they were of a life far from mine growing up in NYC. The Pollyanna in me delights in happy endings. Life is complicated enough that I don’t feel everything must capture challenges and a sad side.

I enjoyed my visits to the Rockwell Museum in its original spot at Rockwell’s home and studio in midtown Stockbridge as well as in its new much larger location outside of town. Have you been? Do you read captions in museums? Do you have a story about a favorite picture, sculpture or artist? If funds were no issue, is there an artist whose work you’d enjoy buying for your home or office?

Photo: smithsonianmag.com

 

Service of Arts Attendance

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

standing ovation

Alexander Forbes wrote “Why Falling Arts Attendance Has Major Implications for the US Economy,” in artnet.com. He based his arguments on the result of National Endowment for the Arts {NEA} studies.

Attendance at musical performances—jazz, classical, opera, musical theatre—as well as plays, ballet, art museums and galleries, all of which he called “benchmark activities,” have declined between 1992, where 41 percent of US adults attended at least one, and 20 years later, in 2012. That year, 21 percent visited a gallery or art museum and 33 percent went to any benchmark activity.

audience in the park 2Of those who attended an event, 73 percent “said their main reason for doing so was to socialize with friends or family, while 22 percent who wanted to participate in an arts activity but didn’t, say it was because they didn’t have someone to join them,” wrote Forbes.

So who is attending, according to the NEA? “Despite similar household incomes and education, people who call themselves middle-class were more likely to attend the arts than those who identified themselves as working class.” Forbes noted the obvious fact that people who define themselves as working class may be working on weekends and evenings when events take place and museums and galleries are open.

kids at concertHe reported that the misunderstanding by some that arts are “for elites by elites,” is worse than before. “Anti-arts rhetoric has become particularly malignant in the years since the economic collapse with many populist-leaning politicians worldwide attacking the arts as unnecessary luxuries that one percent-ers like to enjoy and make the rest of us pay for.”

So what do the arts contribute to US GDP? Forbes wrote $698 billion in 2012 or 4.32 percent of GDP. Note: He clarified that the figure included film, television and advertising industries along with the usual suspects.

Yet he didn’t point out essential information: What percentage of the $698 billion do TV and advertising represent? [I’m giving film the benefit of the doubt and determining that people attend movie theatres though clearly Netflix sales count in this number.] He compared the total to the construction industry with “only” a $586 billion contribution to GDP and transportation and warehousing–$464 billion.

museum visitorsForbes highlighted the trade surplus generated by the arts–$25 billion—which, given that we don’t export a great deal these days since we stopped manufacturing much, is significant. He also reported that “for every 100 new jobs created in the arts, 62 new jobs are created, on average, in other industries.” And: “For every dollar of increased spending on artworks, $1.98 of total economic output is created. In the case of museums, every new dollar of demand creates $1.76 of gains.”

Do you think that the impact on this country’s economy of fewer people attending “benchmark arts activities” will be as damaging as Forbes suggests should the downward slide continue? Do you attend such events to socialize? If nobody is free to go with you, do you stay home? Are there other potentially dire consequences of this downward trend?

dancers on stage

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