Friday, June 22, 2012

Gluyas Williams at Tanglewood

This summer marks the 75th anniversary of the music festival at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Tanglewood is in Lenox, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1951, Illustrator Gluyas Williams produced this marvelous crowd scene of the music festival for The New Yorker. In the background is the expansive Music Shed where the orchestra plays and concert attendees enjoy reserved seating. Outside on the lawn, Williams shows festival-goers enjoying the music from lawn chairs or picnic blankets, just as they do today.

Williams was nice enough to present the original artwork to the BSO the following year. Not quite so nicely, the Orchestra has since deaccessioned the piece. No doubt the Tanglewood complex's many offices, reception areas, rehearsal rooms, visitor centers, cafes, hallways, backstage areas, dressing rooms, lavatories, and even barns are so overflowing with fine art and music memorabilia accumulated since 1938 that they couldn't possibly hold on to this technically-brilliant published illustration from The New Yorker that was graciously gifted by the artist. 

Of course I don't have a problem with that.

The piece was sold last year by Taraba Illustration Art, LLC. Here's the actual sales listing for your reading pleasure, followed by a scan showing how the drawing appeared when published in the magazine. As to the not-very-difficult question of whether Gluyas Williams's fabulous compositions were rightly excluded from The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker because they're merely decorative illustrations and not proper cartoons, well, I think at this point in our relationship you can probably divine my opinion without my bothering to write it all out. Why is it that the no-brainers seem to give editors the most trouble?

Artist: Gluyas Williams (1888-1982)
Description: Crowd at Tanglewood awaiting start of Boston Symphony Orchestra performance.
Publication information: Reproduced in The New Yorker, 1951.
Medium: Pen and ink
Size: 13.25 x 10”
Signature: Signed lower left.
Condition: Very slight toning of the board, old mat should be replaced, modestly framed.
Provenance: Ex-collection of The Boston Symphony Orchestra... gifted from the artist in 1952.
Comment: At first I was puzzled when I couldn't find this artwork reproduced in The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker book and cds. Turns out that at some point in the production of that indispensable reference the editors (according to my source at the magazine) switched from thinking of Williams as a cartoonist and instead thought of him as an illustrator, hence the omission of this piece in that reference. While pictures of this sort represent a very specific niche... no one before or since has rendered this type of subject with the combination of humor and ability that Williams showed in just about every piece he ever did.
Price: SOLD

Gluyas Williams's signature

[End of listing]

Gluyas Williams, America's Playgrounds:  Concert at Tanglewood,
The New Yorker, August 4, 1951, p. 23


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