Sunday, March 5, 2017

James Stevenson's Wrong Address

Hartford was a patron of the arts, building an artists colony above Los Angeles and later a gallery in New York City, and his opinions the arts were equally strong. He criticized Abstract Expressionists, believing they had ushered in a great "ice age of art," freezing out the grand traditions of music, painting and sculpture; he described Pablo Picasso as a "mountebank".
Wikipedia entry on George Huntington Hartford II, March 4, 2017

George Huntington Hartford II, wealthy heir to the A&P fortune and owner of Paradise Island, collected Rembrandt and the French Impressionists but he absolutely despised the Abstract Expressionists. In 1964, to display his collection to the public, Huntington Hartford built his Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle designed by Edward Durell Stone, incidentally one of the most famously ugly yet distinctive buildings in New York. It must have been a time when the general public was knowledgable about the tastes and opinions of this wealthy collector, because there's no other explanation for the James Stevenson cartoon that ran in the April 18 issue of the New Yorker. Workmen try to carry a large Franz Kline painting into the gallery but are turned away without ceremony.

It's a patently ridiculous scenario with the unwanted painting somehow showing up at the gallery's doorstep, but a brilliant commentary on the culture of its day. The handsome original artwork was offered for sale at Swann Galleries last year where it failed to find a buyer. Perhaps no cartoon collector could see the humor in identifying a modern masterpiece and then sending it packing.

"You've got the wrong address, Mac."
James Stevenson, original art, The New Yorker, April 18, 1964, page 40

"You've got the wrong address, Mac."
James Stevenson, original art, The New Yorker, April 18, 1964, page 40

Swann Galleries Sale 2423, Lot 293, Illustration Art, September 29, 2017

"You've got the wrong address, Mac."
James Stevenson, original art, The New Yorker, April 18, 1964, page 40

Note:  Is that a real Franz Kline or did Stevenson make it up? Can anyone identify it?

To continue to celebrate the life and work of the late James Stevenson, I would like to hear from readers with original cartoon art, sketches, and paintings.

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