May 28, 2016: Fleet Week Visit to the U.S.S. Bataan

SCNY'16-COGAP Fleet Week Bataan - 01(By Anthony Almeida)

Poised and ready, the U.S.S. Bataan welcomes Salmagundians with a VIP tour during Fleet Week 2016, courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard and COGAP.

Here are some photos of encountered ship board moments.

March 30, 1915: Salmagundi’s Movie Debut

Salmagundians visit the Vitagraph Movie Studios in Flatbush, Brooklyn on March 30, 1915.

Salmagundians visit the Vitagraph Movie Studios in Flatbush, Brooklyn on March 30, 1915.

(By Bob Mueller, Chairman, Curators Committee)

The Curators Committee, aside from researching, documenting and preserving the Club’s art collection, also oversees the Club’s historic photographic archives. In the process of digitizing some of these photos, an image was found of a large group of Club members labeled on the back in pencil “Visit of the Club to Commodore Blackton’s movie studios, Brooklyn in about 1916 or 17.”  What follows is a bit of long forgotten Salmagundi history.

Today we take movies for granted, with their special effects, 3-D animation and the ability to transport us to amazing alternate realities.  But one reality remains the same, visual artists of myriad disciplines have always been essential to the cinematic process.  It’s hard for us to imagine that only a century ago, Hollywood was a fledging industry and movies were not only exclusively in B&W, but silent as well.   Among the pioneers of the early film industry was Commodore J. Stuart Blackton, an artist and illustrator who was elected an artist member of Salmagundi in 1914.  Blackton was known to have put on moving picture entertainments at the Club on a number occasions, all of which were well received.  His life and innovative technical achievements are a fascinating story and warrant further study.

As early as 1910, according to Blackton’s unpublished autobiography, “Silence is Golden,” he “discussed with members of Salmagundi the idea of “motion pictures in color,” and he also gave them screenings of Vitagraph films.  One screening, according to Blackton, triggered such an enthusiastic response that the art club members visited the American Vitagraph studios in Flatbush… in order to witness for themselves the technology that manufactured what one witness called the ‘living Corot.'” (1)

The reference relates to a particular film shown at the Club where Blackton superimposed a film of Isadora Duncan dancers on Corot’s painting Spring.  Blackton describes the scene as:

“A group of dancing nymphs, tiny figures in gossamer draperies [flit] like moths in cool shade. The painting was photographed on panchromatic negative. A second negative was taken of a group of Isadora Duncan dancers, softly lighted against a black background, the living dancers  in the same relative position as the figures in the paintings. These two negatives were printed together on one positive film, toned sepia and tinted a delicate green, the two groups of dancers blending one into the other. At first the effect on the screen was a Corot painting, then the living figures began to move in a graceful dance which increased in tempo, then slowed down until the living forms again became stationary.

The result was startlingly beautiful. A classic masterpiece familiar to all came to life and received itself again into a painting” (2)

Present at the screening was the poet Edwin Markham, who hailed the film as “sublimely poetic” and enthusiastically summarized his experience in words that Blackton called the “most perfect definition of Art ever uttered”: “Art is nature idealized.” (3)

It is likely that, rather than “Spring” or more appropriately, “Printemps,” the painting Blackton used for this film would have been Corot’s “Une matinée.  La danse des nymphs” of 1850 in the collection of the Musee d’Orsay.

Camille Corot,

Camille Corot, “Une matinée. La danse des nymphs” Oil on canvas, 1850, Musee d’Orsay

The Club’s Executive Committee minutes [3/19/1915] reflect that “Commodore J. Stuart Blackton, President of the Vitagraph Co. had invited the Members of the Club to lunch at the Studios and witness the making of moving pictures on Tuesday March 30.”  It was later reported in the May 8, 1915 issue of “Brooklyn Life” that Commodore Blackton “gave a buffet luncheon on the grounds of his Vitagraph Encampment recently, when he entertained about one hundred members of the Salmagundi Club, which has many Brooklyn members.  After the luncheon film were taken of the members in any way they cared to act and a few nights after … these same films were exhibited to the great amusement of the club.”

The minutes from the General Meeting of April 2, 1915 confirm this:  “Immediately after the meeting Mr. J. Stuart Blackton took command, and for two hours entertained the members with moving pictures of remarkable interest and beauty.  Among them, and perhaps not the least appreciated by the members was the picture made of the Salmagundians on their recent visit to the Vitagraph Studios.

The intermission was filled with enjoyable music by Mssrs. Weismann [Francis A Weismann, Tenor] and Miller [Duncan Miller, pianist]

The entertainment was [a] huge success and the evening closed with the presentation of a specially designed medal to Mr. Blackton in appreciation of the pleasure he gave the members on the occasion of the above mentioned visit.”
While some questions are answered here, still others are raised.  In any case, this century-old photo helps to link us to the earliest Club related film.  It is hoped that the footage still survives in some archive and that we might some day have the pleasure of viewing our forebears in a candid moment of shared Club Spirit.

Some Salmagundians Identified

Among those in the photograph, we can identify the following 46 members:
F. Ballard Williams (President), Commodore J. Stuart Blackton, Joseph Isidor, G.H. Frohmmann, Harry Townsend, Guy Wiggins, Ernest L. Blumenschein, Dave Robinson, Stan Hagar, Ward N. Hayes, Franklin DeHaven, George Reevs, Raymond Perry, Edward A. Quin, Charles E. Chambers, Walter Biggs, Carl Rungius, William Henry Shelton, C. H. Sherman, Galen Perret, Peter Newell, Charles L. Barstow, William Ritschel, Ernest David Roth, Philllip .J. Ross, Albert M. Garretson, William Bailey Snell, Frank Tenney Johnson, Robert Vonnoh, Arthur Litle, William Henry Howe, Eliot Clark,  Jerry Waltman, Bruce Crane,  John Ward Dunsmore, Francis Luis Mora, Walter Granville-Smith, Cyrus B. Currier,  William McGregor Smith, Carleton Wiggins,  Orlando Rouland, George Elmer Browne,  Benjamin Eggleston, Leo Mielziner, Walter Douglas, J. Francis Murphy.

NOTES

(1) Gerstner, David A.;  Manly Arts: Masculinity and Nation in Early American Cinema; Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2006, p. 62-3
Chapter Two “The Battle Cry of Peace and the Spectacle of Realism” which covers Blackton and Salmagundi can be read at: https://www.academia.edu/4684979/Manly_Arts._Chapter_2
(2) Blackton, J. Stuart,  “Silence Was Golden,” J. Stuart Blackton Collection. Folder 33, p26, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Margaret Herrick Library, Department of Special Collections (AMPAS). [as quoted in Gerstner p. 63]
(3) Gerstner, Manly Arts, p 62-3

May 30, 2015: SCNY Plein Air Paint Out in Central Park

SCNY'15-PleinAir-May30 - 09(Photos by Annie Shaver-Crandell)

Salmagundi’s Plein Air Painters (and friends) held their second 2015 Paint Out on Saturday, May 30th at the Boathouse Cafe and Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.

Next scheduled outing is Saturday, June 27th in Carl Schurz Park. Attendees will gather at the entrance to the park at East End Avenue and 86th Street at 9:00 AM.

May 11, 2014: The Changing Face of 47 Fifth

Facade-1911-Full(By Mitch Kahn)

While the Club undergoes several major internal reconstructive surgeries in anticipation of its 2017 centenary at 47 Fifth Avenue, this is as good a time as any to look back at a few of the external facelifts that have taken place during the 161 years since this double-wide wood frame townhouse was built for Pennsylvania Coal Company President Irad Hawley and his wife Sarah in 1853.

The side facing the avenue is ornamental, not structural. Brownstone was used for all the original Italianate style features including facade, balconies, staircase and balustrades. Not the strongest or longest lived of building materials, over time all of these elements would have to be refaced or replaced.

In an online game of “Photo Hunt” we’ll try to put together a “what and when timeline” of the changes.

Let’s start with an image (top left) that comes from a 1911 collection called “Fifth Avenue, New York, From Start to Finish”. This book is a highly revered compendium of panoramic photographs of Fifth Avenue. At a mere 58 years of age, and not yet in the Club’s possession, Number 47 appears in all its (original) brownstone glory. Note the absence of gas lamps. They came much later.

Stoop-1911Stoop-1937-AbbottThe staircase and its balustrades would be among the first to vanish. A side-by-side closeup comparison (above) of the 1911 image to Berenice Abbott’s classic 1937 photograph shows the stone replaced by, or encased in, a more imposing poured concrete superstructure (which is still with us today). The banisters are polished brass (those are no longer with us).

Another photo (below) from roughly the same time period offers a wider view of this same renovation.

Facade of 47 Fifth Avenue c. 1940s

Not only has the stoop been altered but the facade as well. The front wall is clad in a brown colored stucco with a cinderblock pattern chased into it. The triangular parlor floor pediments, stone balconies and other balustrades have been left in place, but the second and third floor window embellishments are greatly subdued. Our gas lamps have yet to sprout.

Juley_47FifthAve-c.1960-LR(1)
By 1960 (above), the triangular window pediments on the parlor floor have been exchanged for linear ones.

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 9.52.34 PMThis was not a total facade redux since ghosts of the former triangles can be seen above the windows (above and right). A closer inspection reveals that the balconies are now concrete and the stone balustrades, so prominent in Berenice Abbott’s photo, have turned into wrought iron. Our now-ubiquitous gas lamps have been planted in the garden, perhaps in exchange for the lost stonework, thus completing the transition.

In the early 1990s, following numerous cycles of theft and replacement, our polished brass banisters were reluctantly switched to wrought iron too. The last pair were taken just two weeks after being installed. On their final visit, the thieves, eyeing new black banisters, scratched the ends just to be sure we weren’t concealing more brass with a layer of paint.

In 1996, following decades of deterioration, interim refacings and stopgap repairs, and with a scaffolding shed many thought was permanently installed over the sidewalk to protect passersby from falling chunks of stucco and a badly sagging cornice aching to let go, Larry Burda, a NYC restoration contractor specializing in historic and landmarked brownstone properties, was engaged to totally strip the front of the house and bring it back to a more cohesive look.

47-Fifth-Avenue

This current (1997) iteration (pictured above) restores more prominent lintels to the upper floor windows. On the parlor floor, it was decided that in the absence of the elaborate stone balustrades, linear window lintels would be preferable to the heavy triangles. Other non-structural elements replaced during this update include the roofline cornice and decorative covers for the cantilevered balcony support beams. Irad and Sarah Hawley’s home is more consistent in appearance now than it had been over the preceding 75 years.

Current restoration efforts have turned inward, with repairs and upgrades planned for rooms, hallways, floors and galleries. Less obvious but even more critical are the building’s aging mechanical systems which are also being overhauled – all this in preparation for Salmagundi’s 100th anniversary as custodian of the extraordinary house at Number 47.

Jan 19: The Waterbury Salmagundians

SCNY'14-Waterbury Trip - 03(Photos by Anthony Almeida)

Salmagundians took to the road this past Sunday (January 19th) to celebrate the opening of Art Chair Charlie Yoder’s one-man exhibition at the Mattatuck Museum. They traveled by bus and they traveled by car to spend an afternoon at this extraordinary facility in the heart of downtown Waterbury, Connecticut. In addition, a number of past Salmagundians were represented on the walls of the museum’s other galleries.

“Dancing in the Moonlight, Nocturnes by Charles Yoder” remains on view at the Mattatuck Museum through Sunday, March 2nd.

The Mattatuck Museum
144 West Main Street, Waterbury, CT  06702
(203) 753-0381 – www.mattatuckmuseum.org

To view full size images click on first thumbnail and then use keyboard or rollover arrows to navigate.

Nov 2: Alex Katlan’s Latest Endeavor Chronicles the Hartford Salmagundians

SCNY Hartford SalmagundiansThe Hartford Salmagundians: A Connecticut Art Society Painting Exhibition Records 1929-1953 is the latest work from Alexander W. Katlan pertaining to the Salmagundi Club and its members. A book launching / signing event is scheduled at Salmagundi on Tuesday, November 12th at 7:00 PM.

This is the first book chronicling the Hartford Salmagundians art society formed in 1929, a satellite of the historic New York Salmagundi Club. Throughout their existence, the Hartford Salmagundians’ shows were exhibited at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.

This publication includes a preface by Claudia Seymour, past president Salmagundi Club (2007-2013), a discussion of the Revival of the American Realist Tradition, and an introduction to the Hartford Salmagundians by the author, a brief discussion of the Salmagundi Club of Louisville, Ky., Salmagundi Club of Sacremento, Ca., Salmagundi Club of St. Louis, Mo. and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. The volume further contains a listing of exhibition catalogues and committee membership of the Hartford Salmagundians, a list of the artist members of the group, a selected list of N.Y.C. Salmagundi artists exhibiting in Connecticut, a directory of the Painting Exhibition Records of the Hartford Salmagundians, and a final comment by the author. This unknown painting exhibition history has been chronicled and indexed making available the artists, actual titles of the paintings, dates when these artworks were exhibited, and prices when available. A list of artists exhibiting in the Hartford Salmagundian exhibitions are: Edward N. Allen, Harry Russell Ballinger, George Elmer Browne, Winfield Scott Clime, Harry Farlow, William Bradford Green, Eugene Higgins, Henrik Hillbom, Albertus E. Jones, Walter O.R. Korder, Stanford Low, James Godwin Mcmanus, Carl Ringius, Paul Saling, Frederick Lester Sexton, H. Hilliard Smith and Guy Wiggins.

Sep 9, 2013: Gallery Renovation

Gallery facing west.

Gallery facing west.

(By Mitch Kahn with additional photos by Cat Cooper)

It’s full speed ahead on the 2013 Gallery Renovation Project and replacement of the club’s aging heating plant. To protect parts of the club that are not included but are in the path of tools and materials going in and out, a plywood tunnel has been built from the front entrance through the main foyer and hallway to the upper gallery. Even the front stoop has been sheathed in plywood. Old windows and other details hidden during an earlier gallery renovation to maximize exhibition space are temporarily exposed.

Thanks to an additional grant from the Manton Foundation, our ancient and costly to operate and maintain oil fired high pressure steam furnace and hot water boiler will finally be replaced with a state-of-the-art gas fired low pressure recirculating hot water system headquartered in a newly constructed boiler room beneath the lower gallery. Work includes new plumbing and radiators throughout the 1854 house. The old furnace and oil tank will be removed, yielding a new storage room adjacent to the kitchen. This major capital improvement and switch to natural gas will result in significant annual savings on fuel, maintenance and repairs while the replacement of plumbing will dramatically lower the risk of leaks, which have become an all too common occurrence in recent years.

Climate in the upper and lower galleries (the 1917 extension) will be handled by a completely separate gas and electric forced air system with it’s mechanicals mounted on the roof. Ductwork in the upper gallery will be fully concealed while the lower gallery and bar will be serviced by a single duct running along one edge of the ceiling. This will free up a considerable amount of floor space formerly occupied by large radiators and eliminate the loud, inefficient and unsightly casement air conditioners currently mounted in windows and walls on both levels (see photos).

It is hoped that the successful and timely completion of these initial improvements will lead to funding for additional items on our wish list, of which the most elusive (and expensive) is, of course, an elevator.

Many more photos and details to be added in the coming weeks and months.