Tuesday, 21 November 2017

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 kfurtado@georgequaintance.com.

 

twokissesThese two items are from George Quaintance's scrapbooks. The image on the left appears to be a page from Coronet magazine, which began publishing in 1936. The image on the right appears to be a newspaper clipping. There is no explanatory information for either image, although Robert of Fifth Avenue was a department store that employed Quaintance in the 1930s.

So are we to assume that these two sculptures, both approximately life-sized and both titled The Kiss, are by Quaintance? For many years, I believed they were (even knowing that George might paste any image he liked into his scrapbooks).

youth.cupYou are looking at a very early work by George Quaintance that was probably painted before the artist left his native Virginia to attend art school in 1920. It was discovered earlier this year. The story follows.

George's mother, Ella Belle, remained emotionally and geographically close to her sister, Nannie Finter, throughout her life, even naming her daughter Nannie. Young Nannie died in 1920, and George's father died in 1945, so when George's mother died, years later, much of her estate passed to her sister. Her belongings included nearly every painting young George produced before he left home for art school, carefully preserved by his doting mother. Those paintings ended up in the Finter home — some in the attic or closets. Today they are carefully maintained by Nannie Finter's grand-daughter.

decoladyWhat becomes of an artist's legacy when there is no exhibition history, no clear estate, and no body of written work or other documentation to authenticate it? In the case of George Quaintance, it disturbs me to see so many paintings and drawings that are represented as his. It also disturbs me to see unsubstantiated claims presented as fact, such as the assertion that Quaintance and the female pin-up artist Quintana were the same person. To that I can add other inaccuracies: a recent auction in which the original canvas, Reverie, was given the title Apollo; and another auction in which a portrait of 1940s Los Angeles socialite, Mrs. Milton Stevens, was sold as being a portrait of Rita Hayworth (this was after I emailed the owner a titled photograph of the work taken directly from one of Quaintance's personal scrapbooks).

YPcoversThe lost works I reported about on Dec. 14, 2013 were only the tip of the iceberg of lost art by Quaintance: those canvases Quaintance considered to be part of his "Male Physique" period. Essentially, they were the paintings he mass-reproduced as chromes and as 8x10 black and white photographs and marketed in magazines. But Quaintance painted a lot more than those 54 canvases — such as the Bugle Boy depicted in the first part of this article.

What became of the original art for the 11 covers he designed for Your Physique magazine, when he was the Art Editor? Each of those issues states on the contents page that the cover is "From a painting by George Quaintance." When I interviewed Joe Weider, the magazine's publisher, at his Woodland Hills, Calif. office in 2003, I asked him about those covers. His high-ceilinged fortress was crammed with art, much of it in the form of portraits and paintings of strong men who had appeared in his magazines over the years. But nothing by Quaintance. After thinking for a while, Joe muttered something about robberies that had taken place long ago, or the possibility that the paintings were archived in warehouses in Montreal, Canada, where his publishing empire was born. He offered to check with his brother, but that inquiry turned up nothing.

matadorposesHere are four final examples in the oddities category. The lissome "Matador" may be the oddest of all. The photograph that was made available to me is of poor quality. It was taken from a scrapbook in the Quaintance family, titled "Self & Family." It does not look like the work of Quaintance at all, but he loved melodramatic posturing (see b&w snapshots of young George), so perhaps it's an early self-portrait.

GQtrayWhen an artist is dead, who is left to say "yes, this is one of his works" or "no, he did not do this"? As we have seen in the case of Mrs. Milton Stevens, an unscrupulous seller can misrepresent an artist's work in order to sell it for a higher price. Motives aside, anyone can claim, absent a definitive canon, that this or that work was created by a certain artist. In a later article we'll look at some works that have been represented on the Internet as being Quaintance pieces that are not. But for now we'll look at some odd works that actually are by Quaintance. Part 2 considers items that are not drawings or paintings in the traditional sense; part 3 will give you a look at some other unknown works that you'd never suspect were by Quaintance. A thank-you to the Finter-Salvino archive for much of this material, which has been carefully maintained and preserved by descendants of Quaintance's family.