Thursday, May 26, 2016

Schulenberg's Page: New York, Part LXI

Text and Illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg

Even as Paul Bartel and I were talking about how we were going to put together our movie, "The Secret Cinema," I was running around town on appointments and seeing people, professionally and socially.

My friend Jack Godby introduced me to Diana Epstein who'd opened a store on East 77th Street. Diana's store, Tender Buttons, specialized in buttons, some of them going back to the 18th century. She was a warm and very smart woman. Nothing was more pleasant than visiting Diana on a rainy day while chatting over tea and learning the history of some of her buttons. She was a couture social historian.
East 77th Street around Third and Second Avenues had a fascinating mix of small boutiques and antique stores on the ground floors of the apartment buildings.

After visiting Diana, I went to the theater for an imaginative staging of "The Lower Depths."
With the war in Vietnam beginning to heat up and voting rights in the South being headline news every night, every theatrical production had some allusion to the contemporary political social scene.
Carole Gister was working with Harry Belafonte and had met Martin Luther King who'd been Belafonte's childhood friend. She'd also been working in David Merrick's office and was able to get Jack a job there too.
There was a fascinating show of work by Egon Schiele, and while it was quite a success there were some who were drawn there by the publicity and articles on Schiele and his place in pre-WW I art, but still just didn't get it.
Egon Schiele, Seated Woman with Bent Knee, 1917.
I'd noticed that the average New Yorker-on-the-street was made to feel like a cretin if he were not familiar and conversant with every movement of early 20th century art! "Why is a painting by Paul Klee more 'important' than a large oil painting by the French academic Bouguereau?" asked a full page ad in The New York Times! You don't know? Sign up for a mail order art appreciation course!
Paul Klee, Jardin fantastique abstrait, 1920.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Admiration, 1897.
After, down to The Hip Bagel in the Village for a coffee break!
And meeting with my old friend Fred Fagan, whom I hadn't seen since before I left for Paris.
And Eve Max, a friend from Paris when she was working with Time Life, was now back in New York working at Diplomat Magazine.
She had married Jack Tibby of Time Life in New York.
Eve told me there was an important exhibition of the work of the American painter George Bellows. She wanted to write an article, but wasn't able to go see it. She asked if I would see it and write some notes from which she could write the article.

So I went. It was very comprehensive; and I noticed that prior to the famous Armory Show pre-WW I, the first time that Americans saw what the Europeans (primarily the French painters were doing), Bellows was somewhat at a loss for a strong statement in his work. His figure paintings seemed loosely influenced by some of the 18th century English portrait painters and lacked relevance to the early 20th century and the dynamism of that time.
George Bellows, Madeline Davis, 1914.
Seeing Picasso's work and that of Matisse and the others appeared to give Bellows a shot in the arm and, as with many of the American painters of the time, changed his work forever.
George Bellows, Village on the Hill, 1916.
I commented on what appeared to be the motivating force for a change in the direction of his work and I went to the Diplomat offices to drop off my notes for Eve.
To my surprise, Eve just removed my "Hi Eve, here are my notes on Bellows," and printed my notes intact as an article!

I was suddenly an art critic for Diplomat Magazine!
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