Friday Flashback #259

Newcomers may have heard that Westport was once an “artists’ colony.”

Oldtimers remember the Famous Artists School on Wilton Road (just north of Bartaco — click here).

For a while, magazine ads and matchbook covers all over the world invited aspiring artists to learn from Famous Artists School masters.

They did not exactly “teach.” They lent their names to the enterprise. But they were quite an accomplished (and very male) bunch.

Anthony Dohanos sent along a great photo. His father — Stevan Dohanos, the famed Saturday Evening Post and US postage stamp illustrator — sits prominently on a rock at the front left, wearing plaid pants.

Norman Rockwell puffs his trademark pipe in the row behind, near the right.

Sitting in the front row on the right is Rod Serling. He was, I guess, part of the auxiliary Famous Writers’ School. (There was also a Famous Photographers’ School).

How many of these men (and 2 women) can you identify? Click “Comments” below — and add any memories you have of the years when the Famous Schools made Westport famous.

23 responses to “Friday Flashback #259

  1. I am almost certain that the great photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt is there, as well. It looks like it could be him sitting behind Anthony Dohanos. I could be wrong but the small part of him that is exposed looks like him and the camera in his hand seems to suggest this, as well.

  2. Jane Eason-Purdue

    Isn’t that Norman Rockwell in the center, with bow tie and pipe?

  3. There was also a “Famous Artists School.’ I had an uncle, John Holda, , who studied there.

    • Peter Gambaccini

      This is about the Famous Artists School. Dan told us that. That’s three for three. I know it’s a hot day, but …

  4. I think that may be Whitney Darrow, Jr, just to the right of Steven Dohanos. I have a book of New Yorker cartoons published in the late 70s in which I was able to have several local New Yorker cartoonists do personalized drawings on the blank pages, Darrow being one.

  5. Peter Gambaccini

    Rockwell and Serling are the only ones I recognize. The bald guy with glasses in the second row looks like John Barth, but i doubt it is. Then again, I would have doubted Rockwell would come to Westport for this picture. For those who don’t remember any of this, I’ll just saw that the advertising in magazines for these Famous schools was ubiquitous. With the ad budget they ran up, I hope they got a lot of “students.”

  6. Charlotte Thomas Ciardi

    I believe that he man in the cowboy hat (upper left) is Harold von Schmidt. When I was in high school my boyfriend’s father, George Ward (a Lieutenant with the Westport Police Department at the time) said he used to model for him when he was younger and thinner. (His words not mine).

  7. The “youngster” Bernie Fuchs!

  8. Elizabeth Yoder

    I’ll go out on a limb here. Something makes me want to say that the man in back to the right, with arms crossed, wearing glasses, is Jules Pfeiffer. I may be totally wrong.

  9. Is that Max Shulman, back row on the left?

  10. Joyce Garskof Losen

    I only knew one artist who worked there—Michael Mitchell. He said that some of the lesser known artists did a bit more than lend their names. They provided a bit of commentary on students’ submissions although a lot of it was “ boilerplate” available on some kind of automatic printing device

  11. Dan got it right when he wrote “They did not exactly ‘teach’. They lent their names to an enterprise.” I think my father suspected that when they asked him to join the original group and he declined.

  12. Looks like Al Capp seated to Rockwell’s left.

  13. Susie Swanson Milllette, Staples '58

    Such fond memories. I tried to put Paul Hartley’s name to one of the faces, but alas, time had taken it’s toll (on me). Could Anthony help identify? One of his Dad’s favorite subjects was Charles Meat Market and staff. Also fishing, perhaps at Cartbridge in Weston or Valley Forge. Always so charming.

  14. I believe the gentleman sitting next to Mr. Dohanos is sportswriter Red Smith.

  15. Thanks, Dan. Great photo, and fascinating reminder of Connecticut’s past not only as the home of many famous artists but also as the wellspring of American marketing hucksterism (as in “there’s a sucker born every minute,” a saying long attributed to Bridgeport’s PT Barnum.)

    Can’t help with further ID’s but can say that the school’s vast archives were donated in 2014 to the Norman Rockwell Museum. Would that the collection could have stayed in 06880! From the NY Times:

    “…though those artists did little actual teaching or critiquing of student work, they helped develop the curriculum and left behind a trove of their own work and correspondence.

    “Those archives — drawings, paintings, studies, doodles, photographs — sat for many years in an un-air-conditioned warehouse in Danbury, Conn. But they were recently donated to the Norman Rockwell Museum here, and the museum has begun a multiyear project to catalog the materials, which stand as a remarkable testament to a time in American culture, long gone, when a career in art still held broad populist appeal.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/arts/design/famous-artists-school-archives-go-to-norman-rockwell-museum.html?ref=arts&_r=0

  16. I worked at both places and attended a couple their crazy summer parties at Mahackano. Ward, Mariette was a very good friend, we were at Staples together and performed together.

  17. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    Sally Palmer,Brad French, My dad used to see young Mariette on train to NYC-‘the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen’ “-). My mom read Mariette’s auto-biog,’she recognized
    many familiar Weston names we’d grown up with’.:-)

  18. Gayle Furgurson Wellborn

    Thanks for sharing, Dan. I had no idea these great artists were associated with Famous Artists. My dad, Wayne Blickenstaff, worked at Famous Artists when I was young. He ended up working for them from home for a while after they ran into financial issues. I believe students would mail in their artwork, and he would review, critique and provide examples through his own painting, and send the work and feedback back to the students. I have fond memories of watching him paint.

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