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Posts Tagged ‘art’

Rather than one long disquisition this week, we’ll make a couple of stops, beginning with a subject we touched on last time around.

My post on the Pink Tent Festival, an annual arts festival held in downtown Stamford’s Mill River Park in the ’60s and ’70s, raised but did not answer the question of whether my grandpa ever had his paintings displayed there.

A little more calendar digging suggests he did:

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June 24, 1974. Mets win, Yanks lose, Phillies in first (what?)

“Koreen” was a family nickname for my grandma, Corine.

Longtime readers will recognize that June 24, 1974, would have been a birthday ending in five or zero for her … hence the dinner out at Chimney Corners, which longtime readers might also remember hearing about.

But what catches my eye here is the mention of “art delivery” at the Pink Tent trailer at two points during the day. (While I didn’t take a pic, the adjoining calendar entry for June 30 mentions “art pickup.”)

I’m taking that to mean that my grandpa must have had a painting or two on exhibit at a significant local arts festival, since he had art dropoff and pickup marked on his calendar.

That’s pretty cool. My grandfather flew the flag for the enthusiastic (and not unskilled) amateur, and I’m glad to know that an event like Pink Tent had space for the likes of him alongside more commercially successful artists.

I also enjoy the thought of thousands of culture-minded Stamfordites strolling through the festival, taking a look at his work, regardless of what they thought of it.

What’s more, I remember that his year-end roundup of art expenses for 1974 mentions two art sales. I wonder if either of them took place at Pink Tent? Maybe he picked up less than he dropped off.

Cool, anyway.

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From there, we’ll make two more stops over the following weeks, just for giggles.

The first will be the Fourth of July, which landed on a Thursday that year (making for a super-convenient, beer-soaked, heat-stroked four-day holiday weekend):

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July 4, 1974. Mets win, Yanks split a doubleheader, Phillies already back down to third place.

This is what a Fourth of July is supposed to be. It’s wretchedly hot, there’s fireworks, and there’s a picnic of some sort.

(The “J’s” were my maternal grandparents, who also lived in Stamford. There must have been a big family get-together over there, probably full of corn and burgers and macaroni salad. Indeed, I feel full of corn and burgers and macaroni salad just thinking about it.)

And finally, the end of the vacation:

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July 8, 1974. Mets and Yanks win; Phillies in second.

I’m writing this on Father’s Day (I sometimes write these entries a week or two in advance.)

While days like Father’s Day tend to focus on Life-Changing Teachings and Formative Moments, this entry strikes me as one of the thousands of smaller-scale times when fathers (and mothers) earn their stripes.

We’re looking at a more than six-hour interstate road trip in a big hot car with two little kids, one three-and-a-half years old, the other just turned one. I don’t know how gracefully my parents got through it, but they did, and that’s as much a credit to them as any Big Lesson they conveyed.

Perhaps my grandpa watched them leave and remembered when he’d been the boss of similar trips, back in the day … and he wondered how the boy in his back seat had gotten to be thirty-plus years old with two kids of his own.

Or maybe he just went back inside and opened a cold bottle of 7-Up and thought, “Damn, it’s hot.”

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I really only wrote this post so I could use the word “Mamaroneck.”

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June 13, 1973. Mets and Yankees win. The Yanks are in first, but it’s a dogfight.

Some aficionados of New York City delight in the neighborhoods, nooks and crannies of the city proper. They can tell you exactly where Gerritsen Beach is, or the pleasures to be found in New Dorp, or the right combination of public transportation to take to get to Maspeth.

I’ve always been kinda ambivalent about New York City itself. Plus, I’ve had some of the happier times of my life in the suburbs of big cities — whether it was visiting Stamford as a kid, or living and working in the western suburbs of Boston as a young man.

(If you buy Rochester, N.Y., as a “big city,” you could say I spent my entire childhood pleasantly in that mode as well — identifying with the city, reading and watching its news, listening to its radio stations, but from a distance.)

So I’m not that attached to New York City proper.

No, my interest lies with that sweeping, humming, densely populated region called the Tri-State Area … all those bedroom communities whose names bespeak both a close attachment to the big city, and a certain separation from it.

They’re places that got blacked out in ’65. Places where people drive — or drove — station cars. Places where generations of fiction writers have set their comedies (or, perhaps more often, tragedies) of manners. Places sufficiently caught up in New York’s sprawl that their own names have attained a certain amount of familiarity as well.

Places like Secaucus, and Pound Ridge, and New Canaan, and Scarsdale (whose name I cannot hear without thinking, “Where the hell am Iiiii?”), and Englewood Cliffs, and Pelham, and Tenafly, and Massapequa …

… and, yes, Mamaroneck.

I don’t actually know anything about Mamaroneck; I’ve certainly never been there. I have a vague sense of how to pronounce it (heavy on the second syllable), and I know it’s in the Holy Sprawl someplace, and I figure there’s probably a commuter rail station there.

(There is, Wiki says. There’s also a well-known golf course. The town is in southern Westchester County, on the water, and Google Maps says it’s about 25 minutes from Stamford in Sunday-night traffic on Route 95.)

I’ve written before about the various painting and drawing classes my grandfather took, especially following his retirement in 1971.

Bob Calrow was a Connecticut-based watercolorist who taught a number of the painting classes my grandfather took. He was apparently very good: This August 1973 article from a Tri-State Area newspaper mentions that Calrow had won 50 prizes for his work in the previous four years. (You can see Calrow’s name mentioned in several of the images here.)

In October of that year, the New York Times noted that Calrow would be leading an educational painting trip to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas near year’s end. I can’t imagine my grandpa gave an expedition like that any serious thought, but I wonder if the idea tempted him at all.

Anyway, getting back to the calendar entry at hand, my grandpa probably headed out to Mamaroneck to check out his well-known teacher’s work in person and maybe mingle for a minute or two. Perhaps there were other artists on display whose work he found instructive as well.

Since my grandpa hadn’t even met his second grandson yet, he didn’t realize he was feeding his second grandson’s geography jones.

Sure was thoughtful of him, though.

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When you’re a kid, you never stop to think how your parents and grandparents achieved their particular talents.

If I thought about it at all, I probably thought that my grandfather (my brother and I called him “Drawing Boy”) had been effortlessly turning out painted canvases and sketched caricatures for decades, with as much inborn natural grace as he used to remove a splinter.

I didn’t have any concept of the work he’d put into his artistic skills. He’d just always been doing it.

Discovering his daily calendars and some of his personal journals has brought into better focus the effort he put into improving his art.

I can’t ever remember seeing him go to art class — maybe because he would have blown off such events when I was in town, to spend time with his family.

His calendars have schooled me on the number of classes he took in the ’60s and ’70s. In the early days, his classes were simply a hobby. As he got older and retired, they filled other needs: They also became a chance to get out of the house where he spent most of his time, meet like-minded new people, feed his head with knowledge, and relax.

As with his other public endeavors, I wonder whether anyone from those long-ago art classes remembers him. Is there someone still kicking around Fairfield County who sat in the same room with an earnest, friendly retired draftsman from Springdale? Someone who chatted with him about Vietnam or OPEC or Bobby Valentine during breaks from the easel?

If there is … well, the Comments box is at the bottom of this post.

In the meantime, I’ll devote the rest of this week’s post to drawings and notes from my grandpa’s sketchbook, spanning roughly the years 1966 to 1974. (Some are dated, some are not.)

There’s probably nothing here you won’t find in the journals of a half-million people who have taken art classes over the years.

Still, the drawings mean something to me, just because they represent my grandpa simultaneously at work and at play, learning and relaxing, unwinding and improving … and, above all, doing something near to his heart.

I didn’t see a lot of that firsthand as a kid, but I enjoy seeing it now.

Undated, but one of the first shots I have from the art notebook. My grandpa comes face to face with an eternally difficult lesson: Technique is just a means to express what you have to say.

Undated, but one of the first shots I have from the art notebook. My grandpa comes face to face with an eternally difficult lesson: Technique is just a means to express what you have to say.

Oct. 24, 1966. Learning the formal basics of perspective.

Oct. 24, 1966. Learning the formal basics of perspective.

Oct. 17, 1966. Don't worry, I'm not gonna show you every single page of detail from his sketchbook. Just found this interesting. Wonder if people taking art class today get the same primer on colors?

Oct. 17, 1966. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna show you every single page of detail from his sketchbook. Just found this interesting. Wonder if people taking art class today get the same primer on colors?

March 4, 1968. "DON'T MAKE UNINTERESTING LINE." Easy to say, hard to live by.

March 4, 1968. “DON’T MAKE UNINTERESTING LINE.” Easy to say, hard to live by. (This entire blog post might be an uninteresting line. Sorry, folks. I haven’t taken any blogging classes.)

Circa 1969. Some interesting aphorisms here (whoops, forgot to mention that you can click these to see them larger.) Wonder when my grandpa achieved the 100-watercolor threshold?

Circa 1969. Some interesting aphorisms here. (Whoops, forgot to mention that you can click these pictures to see them larger.) Wonder when my grandpa achieved the 100-watercolor threshold?

Circa 1969. I can't remember any painting of my grandpa's in which he went into such detail on trees.

Circa 1969. I can’t remember any painting of my grandpa’s in which he went into such detail on trees. His poplar looks kinda fake, but I totally buy his birch. No dogwoods, unfortunately.

I kinda love this one; it looks like my grandfather is creating a windblown New England village from scratch, like a merciful yet puritan God.

I kinda love this one; it looks like my grandfather is creating a windblown New England hill-village from scratch, like a merciful yet puritan God. In my mind this is somewhere near the Quabbin Reservoir.

We skip ahead to January 1973. The teacher, who asks, "Who likes dirty snow?," has clearly never lived near the Great Lakes in April.

We skip ahead to January 1973. Some hippy-dippiness interspersed with some useful tips. The teacher, who asks, “Who likes dirty snow?,” has clearly never lived near the Great Lakes in April.

Year-end 1973. It ain't cheap being an artist, yo.

Year-end 1973. It ain’t cheap being an artist, yo.

Year-end 1974. Note that he's got some money incoming to offset his expenses.

Year-end 1974. Note that he’s got some money incoming to offset his expenses. Who bought “Full Steam Ahead” and “Reflections On A Rainy Day,” and are they still on somebody’s wall?

Back to February 1973. Some useful tips on surf -- though, again, I am not sure my grandpa ever availed himself of them in his personal art.

Back to February 1973. Some useful tips on surf — though, again, I am not sure my grandpa ever availed himself of them in his personal art.

July 10, 1973. I doubt my grandpa hunted or spotted ducks once in his lifetime, so this lesson must have been useful. Somebody's darling grandson is five days old.

July 10, 1973. I doubt my grandpa hunted or spotted ducks once in his lifetime, so this lesson on marshes and estuaries must have been useful. Somebody’s darling grandson was five days old.

Sept. 18, 1973. The birthday of a friend of mine who grew up in Rochester but whom I didn't meet until college. The sketch at bottom predates a painting.

Sept. 18, 1973. The birthday of a friend of mine who grew up in Rochester but whom I didn’t meet until college. The sketch at bottom predates a painting in my personal collection.

One last from mid-September 1973. We leave my grandpa contemplating the intersection of metropolis and tugboat.

One last from mid-September 1973. We leave my grandpa contemplating the intersection of metropolis and tugboat. Is there any god or cosmic force that disapproves of a humble tugboat?

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I don’t know much about my grandpa’s dating history, which is fine with me; I don’t need or want to know that.

I do know that — no matter what was going on in the real world — my grandpa went through a period when women were an ongoing source of inspiration at his artist’s table.

I believe most if not all of these drawings date to the mid-1930s, many years before the Hope Street calendars, and before my grandpa got married or moved to Stamford. (He was living in Springfield, Mass., then.)

He did an occasional side business as a commercial artist, and some of the drawings below might have been made for that purpose. Others might have been made as part of art classes.

And others … well, who knows? Bill Blumenau was a red-blooded young man, and maybe he just liked to make beautiful dames appear out of the air.

A gallery, then, of The Women Of Bill Blumenau:

The geometric quality of this one -- is that the right word? -- leads me to wonder if it began life as a class drawing exercise.

The geometric quality of this one — is that the right word? — leads me to wonder if it began life as a class drawing exercise. (Sorry for the intrusive folds in some of these pictures, but they’ve been folded up for 80 years.)

 

This one, meanwhile, looks like a rough sketch of something a florist might have commissioned -- or something my grandpa sketched out in hopes of selling to a florist.

This one, meanwhile, looks like a rough sketch of something a florist might have commissioned — or something my grandpa sketched out in hopes of selling to a florist.

 

Wonder what 19-year-old this was meant for? It's clearly a rough sketch, yet at the same time, he sketched in the woman's body pretty extensively.

Wonder what 19-year-old this was meant for? It’s clearly a rough sketch, yet at the same time, he shaded in the woman’s body pretty extensively.

 

This face, with its heavy lids and puckered mouth, looks like an exaggerated version of the face in the florist ad mockup above. (Which leads to another thought: I imagine most of these faces are based on pix of actresses clipped from magazines, not on real-life models. Can any movie buffs in the audience tell me if any of these sketches look like famous actresses of the day?)

This face, with its heavy lids and puckered mouth, looks like an exaggerated version of the face in the florist ad mockup above. (I imagine most of these faces are based on pix of actresses clipped from magazines, not on real-life models. Can any movie buffs in the audience tell me if any of these sketches look like famous actresses of the day?)

 

This one's pretty; not sure what else to say about it.

This one’s pretty; not sure what else to say about it.

 

The only dated picture in the collection: Sept. 24, 1933.

The only dated picture in the collection: Sept. 24, 1933.

 

The image of a woman as a perfect factory-produced good just waiting to be unwrapped would not play well with the women I've known. Times change.

The image of a woman as a perfect factory-produced good, unsullied in any way and just waiting to be unwrapped, would not play well with the women I’ve known. Times change.

 

A couple of dance-related sketches, now.

A couple of dance-related sketches, now.

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Finally, my grandpa illustrated at least one catalog for Foerster’s Furriers, a long-ago Springfield business. There’s nothing particularly distinctive about these drawings — neither Foerster nor my grandpa wanted to break new ground, apparently. But, they still seem like suitable additions to the Gallery of Dames.

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I find myself without words this week, and last week’s post leads nicely into a further discussion of the art of Bill Blumenau.

So — with the help of my dad, who took the pix — I’ll devote this week’s installment to a display of some of my grandfather’s paintings and drawings.

It’s possible that some of these were displayed in the 1975 art exhibit I wrote about last week. They might also have been shown in other exhibits in Stamford-area public places in the 1970s and ’80s.

Nowadays, they stay at home. But you can come into the gallery. You can even click the pictures to see ’em bigger, if you want.

Allegedly, the two kids are modeled on my brother and I, dropped into an unfamiliar setting.

Allegedly, the two kids are modeled on my brother and I, dropped into an unfamiliar setting. If you read this blog regularly, you’ve seen that red tuque before.

Here's another painting I've mentioned (but not shown) on the blog before.

Here’s another painting I’ve mentioned (but not shown) on the blog before.

No backstory on this one. Looks like something my grandfather might have photographed in Maine.

No backstory on this one. Looks like something my grandfather might have photographed in Maine.

I wonder where the inspiration for this came from. Personal travels in Stamford or Springfield, Mass., or maybe someone else's photo of New York City?

I wonder where the inspiration for this came from. Personal travels in Stamford or Springfield, Mass., or maybe someone else’s photo of New York City?

I enjoy the boringness of this moment in time - a guy doing his yardwork, perhaps, going into his crumbling back shed. I also love the tiny red splash of the handkerchief in his pocket.

I enjoy the mundanity of this moment in time. I also love the tiny red splash of the handkerchief in his pocket.

Dunno whether this was based on a picture or whether it just came out of my grandpa's imagination. I believe he usually painted from photos.

Always liked this one, myself.

This is based on one of the Keuka Lake pix taken around 1983 and mentioned, but not included, in this post.

This is based on one of the Keuka Lake pix taken around 1983 and mentioned, but not included, in this post.

This appears to me to be drawn, rather than painted, so I'll put it in for variety's sake.

This appears to me to be drawn, rather than painted, so I’ll put it in for variety’s sake.

One last from the coast. The ocean has probably claimed this place by now, wherever it was.

One last from the coast. The ocean has probably claimed this place by now, wherever it was.

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