Blog Archives

Now that the Political Season is 0ver…

After the most expensive and longest and most frustrating presidential campaign in our history, we can now get back to0 the important stuff. To me, of course, that is the Arts, especially Visual Arts and Theatre. To kick off my searches and good feelings, here’s some verse by Kurt Vonnegut that my pal Joe Bratcher uploaded to Facebook:

I agree with you, Kurt. We have enough investment bankers, corporate execs and politicians already. Artists we need more of.

Thomas Kinkade Dead at 54…

As my wife, who has been an artist who associates with professional artists and has for the last 40 years, points out, the death of Thomas Kinkade will stop the production of some of the world’s most awful art.

Things like this:

…which, at best, can be called kitsch, decorate the living rooms of millions of Americans with clear plastic covered couches. Nothing says more for the need for art education in our schools… something the reactionary budget strippers cut first.

Yet, Kinkade made a fortune at it. Who would have guessed?

The 163d Birthday of the greatest Trompe L’Oeil Painter…

William Michael Harnett,  1848 – 1892

The Old Cupboard Door

The Trompe L’Oeil (“fool the eye”) Movement  of the late 19th Century produced some of the most amazing paintings in a style so realistic that the images looked like three dimensional objects waiting to be plucked off walls. Of all the painters in this movement, William Michael Harnett, whose 163d birthday is today, was undoubtedly the most accomplished.

As a boy, I first saw one of Harnett’s paintings in the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut – The Faithful Colt (the Colt Firearms Company was in Hartford) , painted in 1890:

The Faithful Colt

From Wikipedia:

Harnett was born in Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland during the time of the potato famine. Shortly after his birth his family emigrated to America, settling in Philadelphia. Becoming a United States citizen in 1868, he made a living as a young man by engraving designs on table silver, while also taking night classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later, in New York, at Cooper Union and at the National Academy of Design. His first known oil painting, a still life, dates from 1874.

Another museum with a great Trompe LO’eil collection, including Harnett, was near my Connecticut home… the New Britain Museum. This is in its collection:

Still Life with Violin, 1886

So a Happy Birthday remembrance for William Michael Harnett, one of my earliest “favorite artists.”

American artist George Tooker dies at 90…

Landscape with Figures

His work was associated with both the Magic Realism and Social Realism movements, but George Tooker‘s paintings were like none other. He studied at the Art Student’s League after having gotten a degree in English from Harvard and a brief stint in the Marine Corps.

He was raised in and Episcopalian family but became a Catholic, an influence that often  appeared in his paintings.

His paintings are icons in contemporary American art. He came of age in the 1930s; he studied with Paul Cadmus, and he learned how to work in egg tempera, a painterly technique developed in the Renaissance which produces a luminous quality yet requires meticulous application.

The Subway

Early in his career Tooker was often compared with other painters such as Andrew Wyeth, and Edward Hopper, as well as Cadmus.

Tooker lived for many years in Hartland, Vermont. He died on March 27th of kidney failure.

B. H. Friedman… Novelist and Biographer… Dies in Manhattan at 84

I knew Bob Friedman in Provincetown in my Fine Arts Work Center days back in the seventies. He was an advisor to both the Writing and the Visual arts programs and was best known for his biography of Jackson Pollock.

I first met B. H. Friedman before I started at the FAWC as a friend of Hudson and Ione Walker whose house I was staying in on a Provincetown summer break. He was an interesting conversationalist and a friend to most of the well known artists who summered in P-Town.

He was well known as a New Yorker writer, too. The cause of death was complications of pneumonia, according to, Daisy Friedman, in the NY Times obituary.

Roy R. Neuberger Died Yesterday at Age 107…

…here was a guy who showed how the rich ought to live.

In his long and productive life as an investor in so many businesses and companies that kept America in the forefront of Industry, he as also one of the greatest committed art collectors in the world, leaving thousands of works by 20th Century contemporaries to over 70 institutions, including the major basis of the Roy R. Neuberger Museum in Purchase, NY.

From the NY Times:

Like any collector, Mr. Neuberger rued the ones that got away. He remembered passing up a Grant Wood painting as well as refusing to pay $300 for a Jasper Johns in the late 1950s. One time a dealer offered him a Picasso sculpture for $1,500, but he declined because he was buying works only by American artists. “I was such a square that I stupidly didn’t buy it,” he told The New York Times in an interview in 2003.

Mr. Neuberger bought all his works himself, usually through dealers. And his taste ran toward the bold. “I liked adventuresome work that I often didn’t understand,” he told The Times as he was celebrating his 100th birthday. “For art to be very good it has to be over your head.”

But he said he enjoyed the challenge that the work posed to the viewer. “Those who understand the mysteries of art,” he said, “are made happier by doing so.”

Neuberger went into the office and worked until age 99… he was primarily self-taught as an investor and as an art collector. He was married to his wife, Marie, who died in 1997 for 64 years.

This was, indeed, a great man.