Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Salmagundi Art Club Library Benefit Dinner, May 9, 2012 6:00 p.m.

N.C. Wyeth, Side Pose, Unknown Photographer, 1920, From Wikimedia

Salmagundi Art Club Library Benefit Dinner, May 9, 2012 6:00 p.m.

On May 9, 2012, I went to the Salmagundi Club Library Benefit.   The event was to support the library.  The Salmagundi library was founded in 1899.  The club itself started in 1871.  It is located on 47 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

The even started with registration followed by a cash bar.  There was also an exhibit in the billiard room from the Society of Illustrators and the Art Students League.  Some of the art was quite interesting.  Among the illustrations there was a portrait drawing by Norman Rockwell, a small painting by N.C. Wyeth, and two drawings by Charles Dana Gibson, one of which was of Uncle Sam pulling battleships into a harbor.

One of the reasons I am so interested in the Society of Illustrators is that some members are cartoonists, comic artists, and fantasy artists.  I recognized this when I was at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival, a yearly event focused on mainly independent and alternative comics.  I collect “ground level” or early independent comics.  Titles like Star Reach, Alien Worlds, Parsifal, The First Kingdom, reprints of Flash Gordon,  and artists like Bernie Wrightson, Wendy Pini, Jeff Jones, and Vaughn Bode.

I also have been fascinated with the idea of the origins of fantasy art and the first modern fantasy novels.  The Story of the Glittering Plain and The Well at Worlds End which are the considered the first modern fantasy novels are by William Morris one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  I also like The Arabian Nights illustrations of Edmund Dulac, the fairytale illustrations of Arthur Rackham who also illustrated the Ring of the Nibelung, as well as Kay Nielsen.  As an aside, P. Craig Russell who has illustrated for Neil Gaiman, illustrated a complete line of graphic novels based on operas.

Howard Pyle who was N.C. Wyeth's teacher illustrated and wrote stories based on Arthurian romance.  I remember reading Howard Pyle as a teenager and enjoying the stories.  Howard Pyle in a sense reminds me of the modern fantasy artist Charles Vess.  There is a certain magic and legendary quality to his paintings and drawings.

At the dinner I had a chance to indulge one of my passions which is science fiction and fantasy art.  When I can afford it or find a bargain I collect Fantasy and Science Fiction art books.  One of the dinner guests was from the Society of Illustrators.  I had a chance to talk about people like Richard Powers, Vincent Di Fate, and Virgil Finlay.  The gentleman mentioned the book, Infinite Worlds The Fantastic Vision of Science Fiction Art by Vincent Di Fate which I have looked through many times.

The dinner itself was excellent, Salmagundi stew, wine, coffee, cake, and a salad.  It was quite filling.  Barbara Genco who is a consultant for Library Journal and retired from being the Head of Collection Development for Brooklyn Public Library arranged the dinner.

The lecture following was upstairs in the art gallery.  Douglas Allen Jr. was showing slides from his book N.C. Wyeth.  He had been collecting N.C. Wyeth's work for 65 years.  The lecture started with an overview of Howard Pyle.  There was a photograph of N.C. Wyeth dressed as Robinhood in Howard Pyles studio which was striking. 

N.C. Wyeth's main focus was on Western paintings.  N.C. Wyeth spent four weeks living in the west as a cowboy.  He came from a farm family background.  I liked the photograph of N.C. Wyeth in his woolly chaps and cowboy gear. He was an illustrator for Scribners and other magazines. Doug Allen Jr. showed many of his western illustrations including one of Wild Bill Hickock; his gun drawn playing cards.

N.C. Wyeth also illustrated over 150 books.  I was not so much fascinated with the western paintings and illustration, but with the pictures of pirates, knights, outlaws, and other more fantastic art.  Pictures from such books as The Black Arrow and Robinhood,

N.C. Wyeth illustrated Kidnapped and Treasure Island.  Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth’s teacher was also known for his pirate pictures.  I especially liked the fantastic picture of the book cover for Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini.  The pirate pictures and the wstern pictures reminded me a bit of Kelly Freas’s art who won the Hugo award ten times for his art.

One piece of fantasy art among the illustrations was a book cover by N.C. Wyeth for The Return of Tarzan.  N.C. Wyeth illustrated a number of Tarzan covers.  They remind me a bit of the artwork of Roy G. Krenkel.

I found the murals rather interesting.  It surprised me that N.C. Wyeth was not satisfied that he was not a fine artist, but a commercial artist.  In my personal view, I have always enjoyed illustration; especially people like Hokusai, Maxfield Parrish, and Mucha.  I like Toulouse Lautrec’s illustration and printmaking better than his paintings.

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