Thursday, 22 February 2018

EbookCoverWelcome to the George Quaintance blog. Your hosts, John Waybright and Ken Furtado, are the authors of QUAINTANCE: The Short Life of an American Art Pioneer, the only complete, authoritative biography of Quaintance ever written. Our book fills a cultural, historical and academic void for this seminal 20th century artist. It is packed with photos and available as an ebook at Smashwords, for the low price of $12.99. We are excited to have exclusive access to hundreds of never-published photographs from Quaintance’s personal scrapbooks and family archives. Sadly, John passed away in May 2013, before seeing the book published. We hope you will use this site as a platform to exchange ideas, information and images related to this under-valued artist, as well as to learn more about him. Please send your email to


without-restraint-book-jacketIn the late 1930s, Quaintance was busily designing women's hairstyles and department store windows. At that time he also drew a series of faces that appeared on soap wrappers, novel dust jackets and as a series of lithographs. One of his employers was Robert of Fifth Avenue, located at 675 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Different versions exist of these lithographs. In this article we'll consider Reverie and Illusion. Each shows a pair of disembodied male and female faces. The faces in Illusion are so androgynous that many viewers assume it is a lesbian couple. That would have been extraordinary for the time, since these lithographs were openly offered for sale in New York department stores. In both lithographs, the faces are complemented by flowers: water lilies in Illusion and petunias or hibiscus flowers in Reverie.

lithograph-illusion-reverieOne version of the lithographs, not shown here, clearly shows the vertical Quaintance signature. It is printed on ivory paper in sepia ink. The printer is not indicated. A second version states the title of each work, a 1938 copyright date, the dimensions (24x24 inches) and "by the House of Shaw." I only have a poor black and white snapshot of the pair, framed, hanging on a wall. They appear to be unsigned.


lithos1bThe third variation, also in deep sepia, bears the inscription "Copyright 1938 by William A. Reynolds Jr., New York" in the lower right corner of each. These prints also measure 24x24 inches. For a long time a seller was offering these on eBay. They do not display any signature.


lithograph-illusion-reverieThe most stunning variation of these lithographs exists as hand-colored prints, with pigment applied directly on the lithograph. These were sent to me by separate readers of this blog. Each carries a vertical signature, in blue, which suggests that they were produced from the first style described above. I have never actually seen one of these, but they must be quite rare.

This article was updated on June 3, 2017.


#3 Laurent 2012-01-09 11:44
Charles,i've seen pictures of several masks attributed to Quaintance.
If you can post a photo, maybe readers could identify if this mask is really the artist?
#2 CHARLES VERRASTRO 2012-01-03 17:58
This particular motif of somewhat disembodied faces kissing and appearing to mirror each other to the point of blending together seems to be a particularly notable Surrealist motif. One striking example is from the now obscure Italian artist Giulio Aristide Sartorio (1860-1932) in his Green Abyss (a rif on an earlier Surrealist's Orpheus painting). The image of the hovering lover leaning in to a tight kiss is frequent in GQ's art, as on the dustjacket to 'Without Restraint". BTW, the inference these two lovers could be lesbians may not be far off as that theme plays out in the novel just mentioned. However, from GQ's standpoint the more feminine face could easily belong to the more androgynously beautiful face of a gay male pairing. I possess a plaster wall mask with two such conjoined faces I believe to be by GQ, as a similar one is known.
#1 CHARLES VERRASTRO 2012-01-03 15:31
You will remember I have been pursuing possible artistic influences on GQ among the early Surrealists. This theme of a somewhat disembodied pair of kissing faces in a mirror-like configuration reminded me of a Surrealist motif. My latest find is the obscure Italian Surrealist Giulio Aristide Sartorio (1860-1932). Compare his Green Abyss (after an earlier Surrealist) to the GQ's bookjacket art for Without Restraint and these lithos. BTW, the interpretation of Lesbianism may not be far off if the themes in that book are considered. For GQ, of course, the (more) feminine face of the pair could well seen as an androgenously beautiful man.

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