Thursday, September 5, 2013

Artists and People

"Mustard in a Vineyard," by Lucien Labaudt, Plate 1 from Artists and People

There is an easily-overlooked title in our collection called, humbly enough, Artists and People. Because the work documents the local art scene, and is not sufficiently indexed in our catalog, we would like to highlight it here.

Yvonne Greer Thiel’s 1959 publication discusses the life and works of approximately thirty local artists and was (as she summarizes on her book jacket) “written for the general public in the hope that people everywhere would better understand artists and their problems. It tells the true-life stories of numerous artists of many nationalities and different backgrounds who came eventually to the San Francisco Bay area to work and make their homes. Some achieved wide fame, others became known locally. The author is a native of the area, who gathered all of her data first-hand.”

The book title itself, Artists and People, is indicative of the author’s desire to present artists as normal, hard-working people and to dispel the myth of the Artist as eccentric or ‘nut.’ In both her writing and in leadership of the Art Lovers Club of Metropolitan Oakland (1930-1982), an organization that promoted local art events, schools and museums, and provided no-interest loans for the purchase of artwork, Thiel aimed to bring together artists and the general public for their mutual benefit.

Today, the book’s lengthy introduction is primarily useful as a snapshot of midcentury thinking about artists and as documentation of the author’s now-antiquated opinions. Within it she passionately explains the artists’ plight, suggests ways to improve their lot (such as taking part-time work making jewelry, Christmas cards and store displays) and informs the artists of what the general public wants to see in their artistic purchases, for example: “If we buy a picture for our walls we want something that our entire families and friends can enjoy. If we buy a portrait we do not wish the eyes to look like two knot-holes in a white-washed fence. It must look like a human…” Clearly both artists and people have a lot to learn about one another and Thiel's goal is to facilitate that happening.

The true value of the book, however, is in the short biographies of Bay Area artists, many offering local details not widely-documented elsewhere. For example, the entry for Sargent Johnson mentions his attendance at the A.W. Best School on California Street, his teaching at a Hunter’s Point housing project called Junior City, and his artworks at the California School for the Blind (the latter has its own interesting story), as well as better-known information such as his enrollment at the California School of Fine Arts and his sculptural works in Aquatic Park.

Artists and People by Yvonne Greer Thiel (Philosophical Library, 1959). - also available online through the Hathi Trust.

Below is a listing of the artists covered by this book. The Art, Music and Recreation Department maintains an Artists Vertical File containing ephemera and local news articles on the artists listed in bold.

Antonio Sotomayor
George Post
Jose Moya del Pino
Theodore Polos
Peter Blos
Sargent Johnson

Tom E. Lewis
Lucien Labaudt
Dong Kingman
Otis Oldfield

Emilie Sievert Weinberg
Raymond Puccinelli (listed as Raimondo Puccinelli)
Zygmund Sazevich
Charles Surendorf
Brents Carlton
Victor Arnautoff
Jacques Schnier
Ruth Cravath
Dorothy Puccinelli Cravath
Alexander Nepote
Hamilton Wolf
Mine’ Okubo

Eugene Ivanoff
John Mottram
Ray Boynton
Two Young Artists
Robert Watson
Misha Dolnikoff
Ray Strong

No comments: