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Posts Tagged ‘art’

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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If you’d been in Stamford, Connecticut, around this time 39 years ago, you would have seen a side of Bill Blumenau this blog has never entirely captured.

In fact, if you’d really been on the ball, you could have picked up a Bill Blumenau original for your living-room wall.

Talk about lost opportunities.

September 19 and 20, 1975.

September 19 and 20, 1975.

My brother and I called my grandfather “Drawing Boy,” a name my brother coined to describe his artistic proclivities.

And he did draw: My parents still have a colored charcoal portrait he did in the 1930s, and he drew handmade birthday and holiday cards well into the 1990s. The card he did to celebrate my engagement is on display upstairs in the guest room as I write this.

He also won local awards for his photography, a story longtime readers might remember. He was more into photography than painting when my dad was growing up in the ’50s, by my dad’s recollection.

At some point — probably after his kids moved out in the mid-to-late 1960s — the balance of his artistic interest tipped more toward oil, acrylic and watercolor painting.

His calendars from the late ’60s on include several references to painting and art classes. His photographs from those years include landscapes and scenery that he shot with an eye toward turning them into paintings.

(Barns were favorites of his. Among his photos, there exists a decaying envelope full of snapshots of barns in various stages of collapse.)

And, as early as I can remember, the bedroom at 1107 Hope Street that used to be my aunt’s had been converted into a makeshift studio, with an aluminum folding table set out to hold his supplies and an easel pushed back into the corner when the kids came to visit.

A rocky coast in Maine, circa 1971.

A rocky coast in Maine, circa 1971. No barns, but plenty of painterly ambience.

It appears that, once he’d been working in a format for a while, my grandpa was not shy about putting his work in front of others to see.

His entries in the local paper’s photography contest, detailed in the blog post linked above, are examples. So are the local art shows and exhibitions that begin to pop up on his calendars in the late 1960s and continue into the middle of the next decade.

In the early fall of 1975, his work was on display at one of Stamford’s snazziest new addresses, One Landmark Square.

The building, also known as Landmark Tower (hence the “L. Tower” on the calendar entry), had been completed just two years earlier. At 21 stories high, it ranked as Stamford’s tallest building until 2009.

I’ve seen several mentions of the Stamford Art Association holding exhibitions there over the years. (I emailed the art association, trying to find out if Bill Blumenau was ever a member, but never heard back. Alas.)

My guess is that my grandpa might have had one or two of his paintings displayed alongside the works of others as part of a group art show.

That would make sense — bringing a touch of color and some more foot traffic to the new local skyscraper, while giving local artists a distinctive platform to show off their work. And certainly, my grandpa was not well-known enough outside of his own house to command an entire show of his own work.

I don’t know whether my grandpa sold any of his paintings from this show. My limited knowledge of such things suggests there is usually a price tag available for the art on display, and if an art lover wants to make an offer, free enterprise runs its course.

I like the thought that somebody somewhere in western Connecticut has a Bill Blumenau original on their wall, or even in their attic, as a result of one of these kinds of events.

My grandpa’s painting style was realistic, of the sort that would have pleased a general audience. I find it easy to imagine someone liked his work enough to want to bring it home. It is perhaps a long shot to think that one of his paintings is still up in someone’s living room … but I find it a pleasant thought.

A not-very-well-photographed sample of Bill Blumenau's work.

A not-very-well-photographed sample of Bill Blumenau’s work.

The same, only different.

The same, only different. This entry really deserves better photography … but.

At some point when my parents finally downsize, my house will be home to the world’s largest collection of Bill Blumenau’s paintings. Not sure what I’ll do then.

Hold an art exhibit, maybe?

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One of the reasons I keep writing this blog, week in and week out, is that I love the feeling of creating.

I kind of enjoy looking at a blank page. I kind of enjoy looking at a full one, too.

But I love being somewhere in between — filling in the blanks, and taking the journey, and painting the picture, and having sideways diversions occur to me and having to decide whether to take them, and picking up a paragraph or two of text and moving them somewhere totally unexpected, and looking for just the right word to build a bridge from one thought to the next.

I’m not saying I do any of these things well by any means. But I enjoy doing them the way some people enjoy skiing down a fresh slope or skidding an MGB around a hairpin turn somewhere in the country.

A woman I follow on Twitter (she writes for Runner’s World magazine) recently used the term “pain cave” to refer to 5K footraces. It’s a pretty good analogy, and one that I’m sure applies to races of other lengths as well.

Once you’ve been running a few minutes, you enter a private zone dominated by thoughts of your own pain, tolerance and stamina, punctuated by occasional thoughts of the people in front of or behind you. You go into the cave and do battle with the bear for a while, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

Writing is kinda like that. You go into the cave, and lose sight of everything else, and see what you can put your hands on while you’re in there. And when it goes well, an hour or two go by without you noticing, and you’ve made something that no one else ever quite has before.

Even though it’s probably fiction, I’m going to assume that this week’s calendar finds my grandfather in his own version of that same headspace.

November 10, 1968.

November 10, 1968.

I’ve mentioned here and there that my grandpa was an artist.

It’s probably a topic that deserves more space than I’ve ever given it, because he was pretty good at it. Painting served as his release valve in his corporate days, and his creative outlet in retirement.

The mention of “Canvas Sunday” makes me think of his medium of choice.

Of course, it makes me think of some sort of church activity as well. (Maybe Canvas Sunday is the day when you canvass everyone in the congregation for the money they didn’t give you on Loyalty Sunday.)

And a Google search for “Canvass Sunday” suggests that it is, by and large, a day when people go door to door to spread the word about their particular beliefs. (It seems to be more of a political term than a religious term.)

But my grandpa, a learned man with an eye for detail, didn’t write “Canvass Sunday.”  He wrote “Canvas Sunday.”

So I’m going to go ahead and interpret it to mean what I want it to mean.

And what I want it to mean is that my grandpa spent Sunday, Nov. 10, 1968, in the creativity cave … communing with a piece of canvas to the exclusion of the outside world, and coming away from his labors with something new and distinctive.

That’s probably wishful thinking. But I can wish, if I want.

I think he enjoyed going into the cave as much as I do, and he wouldn’t complain about the notion of spending time there. Time in the cave helps us creative types put up with everything else in life.

Unfortunately, mine seems to be just about over for this week.  I expect I will crave it, and think about it, and chew on it in the back of my mind, until the next time I can spring myself for another of my personal versions of Canvas Sunday.

See, I’ve got this blank canvas for next week …

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