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 uploaded to Facebook:
I agree with you, Kurt. We have enough investment bankers, corporate execs and politicians already. Artists we need more of.
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?
William Michael Harnett, 1848 – 1892
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.
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:
So a Happy Birthday remembrance for William Michael Harnett, one of my earliest “favorite artists.”
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.
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.
- Happy 107th Birthday, Roy Neuberger! (blogs.wsj.com)
- Two Neuberger Berman Closed-End Funds Announce Stockholder Approval of Proposed Reorganization (eon.businesswire.com)
- Art Review | Westchester: R.H. Quaytman Exhibition at Neuberger – Art Review (nytimes.com)
- Art Review: An Era’s Injustices Fuel an Artist’s Activist Works (nytimes.com)