Tag Archives: Howard Munce

60 Roseville Road: Another Historic Arts Home For Sale

Hot on the heels of 157 Easton Road — the former home of concert violinist Leopold Godowsky Jr. and his wife Frankie Gershwin (George and Ira’s younger sister) — another Westport property with a wonderful arts pedigree is on the market.

60 Roseville Road is listed on a state database of homes owned by famed children’s book authors and illustrators. From 1946 until his death 30 years later, Hardie Gramatky lived — and worked — there.

His name still resonates. In 2006, Andrew Wyeth called him one of America’s 20 greatest watercolorists. Decades after he wrote and illustrated Little Tootit remains a beloved classic.

The other day, Linda Gramatky Smith — the artist’s daughter — and her husband Ken sat in the light-filled home. They’ve lived there since 1993. Now they’re moving to New Jersey, to be closer to their daughter. They hope they can sell it to someone who cherishes its creative bones.

60 Roseville Road

60 Roseville Road

The house has had only one other owner. Joe Chapin — a famed New York art director — built it as a weekend place. When he died, his wife Henrietta moved to Imperial Avenue (where she lived with Rose O’Neill, creator of the Kewpies comic characters).

The Roseville Road house was rented out. In the mid-1940s, tenants wanted to buy but could not afford the asking price. So they refused to let potential purchasers inside.

Gramatky peered into the windows. He loved it — and bought it for $22,000.

Hardie Gramatky, Dorothea Cooke and their daughter Linda, during their early days in Westport.

Hardie Gramatky, Dorothea Cooke and their daughter Linda, during their early days in Westport.

Moving day was set for December 26, 1946. A huge snowstorm roared in a few days earlier. The tenants — still enraged at not being able to buy — turned off the heat, and opened the windows.

Realtor Muriel Baldwin drove by, and saw what was happening. “She saved the house,” Linda says gratefully 70 years later.

Gramatky quickly became part of Westport’s lively arts community. With Stevan Dohanos, he started a watercolor group. Howard Munce, Ward Brackett and others met monthly to chat, critique each other’s work, and socialize.

Gramatky created a “Little Toot” poster for the Westport Red Cross. He drew caricatures at the Yankee Doodle Fair, was a frequent elementary school classroom guest, and played in the popular fundraising “artists vs. writers” basketball games.

Gramatky’s wife, Dorothea Cooke, was a noted artist herself. She drew covers for magazines like Jack and Jill, and lived in the home until her death in 2001.

“They adopted the community. And the community adopted them,” Linda says.

Hardie Gramatky: "Compo Beach Figures"

“Compo Beach Figures,” by Hardie Gramatky

His home inspired his work. Gramatky could see Long Island Sound from an upstairs window, and painted that scene. Another work shows a boy and his beagle walking down Roseville Road — then just a country lane.

He painted the 1867 house across the street — owned for years by the Fonetlieu family — from many angles. Linda hung some of those works in her living room, next to windows with a view of that home.

The Gramatky house was a neighborhood gathering place. Kids played in the big yard, and sledded in winter. If they wandered into his studio, the artist let them paint. (Dorothea baked cookies for them.)

When Gramatky was dying of cancer, he spent much of his time in the warm sun porch.

Fellow illustrator Munce said in his eulogy, “Some artists go to France for inspiration. Hardie just looked out his windows, and painted those scenes.”

"Green's Farms Station," by Hardie Gramatky.

“Green’s Farms Station,” by Hardie Gramatky.

Linda looks around the house that she and Ken are selling. It has a long, rich history, and holds memories.

“It’s such a livable home,” she says. “I hope someone buys it who understands what it means, and wants to preserve it.”

Westport artist Hardie Gramatky donated this "Little Toot" book cover to the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection.

Hardie Gramatky donated this “Little Toot” book cover to the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection.

2016 Art Show Roots Reach Waaaaay Back

As signs go, the ones advertising this weekend’s art show may not be the most artistic:

Art show sign

So Westporters may be forgiven for not realizing that for several reasons, this year’s event is special.

For one, it’s dedicated to Howard Munce and his wife Gerry, a longtime WWC member and community volunteer.

When Howard died recently at 100, his place as one of Westport’s foremost artists was secure.

Howard’s roots here date back to the Great Depression. At that time, Westport supposedly had the largest per capita population of unemployed professional artists in the country.

Many were married to Woman’s Club members. To help, the WWC held art shows in Bedford House, the 2nd floor of the downtown YMCA.

Howard was no starving artist. He went on to great fame. But he showed his appreciation for the Woman’s Club by participating in art shows through the 1980s, long after the organization moved to its 44 Imperial Avenue home.

In 2007 — when the WWC celebrated its centennial — Howard designed the logo.

Gerry and Howard Munce. This weekend's Westport Woman's Club art show is dedicated to them.

Gerry and Howard Munce. This weekend’s Westport Woman’s Club art show is dedicated to them.

Howard and Gerry were friends with another civic-minded local family, the Burroughses. Bernie (an artist) and his wife Esta (of Remarkable Book Shop fame) raised 2 artist sons, Miggs and Trace.

This weekend’s art show — curated by Miggs — will be held in the Woman’s Club’s new Bedford Hall. It’s a few steps — and many years — away from the Y’s old “Bedford House.”

The Westport Woman’s Club art show venue has changed, since the Depression.

Howard Munce — for the first time since then — won’t be there this year.

But the show itself hasn’t changed much. It’s still fun, and still an important fundraiser.

And Howard and Gerry will be there for sure, in Westport arts colony spirit.

Mina De Haas: Artist In Residence

If you listen to longtime residents — or read “06880” — you probably think Westport has lost its artistic mojo. With Howard Munce gone — and apart from Miggs Burroughs — when was the last time you heard of a home studio?

Happily, there’s at least one left.

The other day I visited Mina de Haas in her small, 2nd-floor apartment. There — in the shadow of I-95 — she creates acrylic paintings, decoupage and digital collages. She’s not our only in-home artist — but she sure seems a throwback.

A 1979 Weston High School graduate (and direct descendant of the famous Dutch landscape-paining Koekkoek family) who studied fashion merchandising at the University of Bridgeport, Mina worked as a graphic artist for advertising firms and a pharmaceutical company before joining a Norwalk market research company.

When she's not painting, Mina de Haas attends car shows.

When she’s not painting, Mina de Haas attends car shows.

But this story is about her studio.

Heavily influenced by Dali, Picasso, Warhol and — especially Hieronymus Bosch — Mina wants her art to make people feel a bit uncomfortable.

“Anyone can look at a pretty picture of a sailboat,” she says. “I want people to look at my work and wonder ‘What’s going on there?’ And make their own interpretation of what my artwork means to them personally.”

She points to a 3D work called “Stripper Barbie.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: the famous doll in a cage with a stripper pole. Crumpled bills lie on the floor.

She is an expert at taking existing paintings, photos and other images, and manipulating them in new ways — for example, in her interpretation of Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.”

Mina de Haas' homage to Hieronymus Bosch.

Mina de Haas’ homage to Hieronymus Bosch.

A favorite subject is cars. She looks at their lines and angles in fresh ways, placing familiar vehicles in intriguing and innovative contexts.

One of Mina’s favorite paintings is “Seine River Bleeds.” Done right after November’s Paris attacks, the famed river is bright red. The lights of the Eiffel Tower look like the souls of the murdered victims.

"Seine River Bleeds"

“Seine River Bleeds,” by Mina de Haas.

Mina de Haas is not well known. She exhibited in a small local gallery, and will soon show several pieces at a UB alumni art show.

She hopes to get into a Westport Arts Center emerging artists exhibit. She’d love to sell through restaurants and retail stores here.

Mina does not think there is a real “artistic community” in Westport — at least, not one she feels part of it.

But she’s undeterred.

She does what she loves. In her 2nd floor apartment studio, she creates art.

Just as Westport artists have done, for well over a century.

(To see more of Mina de Haas’ work, click here.)

Another digital collage, by Mina de Haas.

Another digital collage, by Mina de Haas.

Remembering Howard Munce

Howard Munce — a much-admired artist, indefatigable Westport volunteer, World War II veteran, good friend and beloved human being — died yesterday. He turned 100 in November, and enjoyed a townwide celebration in his honor at the Westport Historical Society.

A few days before that event, “06880” wrote:

Mark your calendars, Westport. On Friday, Howard Munce turns 100.

Howard Munce at work.

Howard Munce at work.

In a town long known for its great artists, illustrators and painters, he’s a towering figure. Howard’s resume — advertising director, graphic designer, sculptor, cartoonist, book author, teacher — ranks him with the most prominent creative folks in our history.

He served his country in World War II, seeing action as a Marine platoon sergeant at Guadalcanal.

He’s served his town too. Howard has been an honorary board member of the Westport Arts Center. For over 25 years, he volunteered as graphics director for the Westport Library.

Whenever he was asked to help — donating dozens of paintings and illustrations to the Permanent Art Collection; curating exhibits for the Westport Historical Society; mentoring young artists — he always said “of course.”

Howard Munce epitomizes 2 of our community’s proudest traits: our arts heritage, and our spirit of giving back.

He’s been a proud Westporter since 1935. He came here to live with family friends, while commuting to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. One of his first jobs was modeling for famed artist Harold von Schmidt.

Westport has been an important part of Howard’s life ever since. And he’s been an even more important part of ours.

(Birthday card/Denise Woods. Photo on right/Lawrence Untermeyer)

(Birthday card/Denise Woods. Photo on right/Lawrence Untermeyer)

Previewing the party a few months earlier, I wrote:

Munce’s resume is beyond impressive. Trained at Pratt Institute, he was a Young & Rubicam art director beginning in the late 1940s — after World War II, when he saw action as a Marine platoon sergeant at Guadalcanal.

Munce is professor emeritus at Paier College of Art; honorary president of the Society of Illustrators in New York City, and an honorary board member of the Westport Arts Center. For over 25 years, he volunteered as graphics director for the Westport Library, and — with Fisher — co-curated the black-and-white drawings by Westport artists in its McManus Room.

Howard Munce, in his 90s. (Photo/Kristen Rasich Fox)

Howard Munce, in his 90s. (Photo/Kristen Rasich Fox)

But those are facts. Far more important is Munce’s humanity.

Whenever he is asked to help — donating dozens of paintings and illustrations to the Permanent Art Collection; curating exhibits for the WHS; mentoring young artists — he always says “of course.” With a sparkle in his eye, a smile on his face, and a handshake as firm as a 20-year-old’s.

Until a couple of years ago, he clambered up ladders to make sure every exhibit he oversaw was properly hung.

At 99, Howard Munce no longer climbs ladders. Then again, he doesn’t have to.

He long ago reached the top.

BONUS FACT: In 2008, Howard Munce was grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade. Here’s his speech: 

For an interesting story on Howard Munce’s World War II experiences in New Zealand, click here. For a 2013 tribute to Howard from the magazine Five O’Clock, click here

Happy 100th, Howard Munce!

Mark your calendars, Westport. On Friday, Howard Munce turns 100.

Howard Munce at work.

Howard Munce at work.

In a town long known for its great artists, illustrators and painters, he’s a towering figure. Howard’s resume — advertising director, graphic designer, sculptor, cartoonist, book author, teacher — ranks him with the most prominent creative folks in our history.

He served his country in World War II, seeing action as a Marine platoon sergeant at Guadalcanal.

He’s served his town too. Howard has been an honorary board member of the Westport Arts Center. For over 25 years, he volunteered as graphics director for the Westport Library.

Whenever he was asked to help — donating dozens of paintings and illustrations to the Permanent Art Collection; curating exhibits for the Westport Historical Society; mentoring young artists — he always said “of course.”

Howard Munce epitomizes 2 of our community’s proudest traits: our arts heritage, and our spirit of giving back.

He’s been a proud Westporter since 1935. He came here to live with family friends, while commuting to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. One of his first jobs was modeling for famed artist Harold von Schmidt.

Westport has been an important part of Howard’s life ever since. And he’s been an even more important part of ours.

What do you give a man who has seen and done everything? How about a townwide ton of birthday wishes?

(Birthday card/Denise Woods. Photo on right/Lawrence Untermeyer)

(Birthday card/Denise Woods. Photo on right/Lawrence Untermeyer)

Just click “Comments” below. Howard does not get on the computer much, but his daughter and home health care aide look forward to reading them to him.

Here’s my contribution:

Howard, happy hundred! Thank you for all you have done, for all of us. You have made Westport a far better place, and my life is far richer for knowing you. May your momentous day be as bright as your ever-present smile!

What’s yours?

 

 

Howard Munce Turns 100!

Westport’s famous artists — and Famous Artists School — have come and gone.

The “Mad Men” era — the real 1950s and ’60s ad agency scene, and the TV show celebrating it — are both just memories.

But Howard Munce endures.

Howard Munce, in his 90s. (Photo/Kristen Rasich Fox)

Howard Munce, in his 90s. (Photo/Kristen Rasich Fox)

In a town long known for its great artists, illustrators and painters, he’s a towering figure. Advertising director, graphic designer, sculptor, cartoonist, book author, teacher — and, above all, longtime and beloved civic volunteer — Munce turns 100 on November 27.

The Westport Historical Society — one of the many organizations he’s served so well for so long — has the perfect gift: his own show.

“Howard Munce at 100: A Centennial Celebration” opened June 29. A gala reception is set for this Sunday (July 12, 4-6 p.m.).

Howard Munce at work.

Howard Munce at work.

It’s hard to capture a century of life — and 8 decades of professional work and life in Westport — in the walls of one building. But the WHS tries.

The exhibit is curated by Leonard Everett Fisher, Munce’s longtime friend. In his 90s himself, he’s the perfect choice to organize the show.

There are 2 parts. The Sheffer Gallery showcases Munce’s paintings, drawings, illustrations and sculptures.

The Mollie Donovan Gallery chronicles his Westport connections as a young artist (he first came here in 1935); his military service, when he sent illustrated letters to his Westport artist friend Stevan Dohanos; Munce’s Pulitzer Prize nomination for his essay on the folly of war; his role in a legendary ad campaign for Rheingold beer, and his community involvement.

The exhibit includes documentary films, interviews, photographs by Laurence Untermeyer, and a lenticular photo of Munce by Miggs Burroughs.

It’s dedicated to Munce’s wife Gerry. She died in November, but her memory is vivid to all who knew and loved her.

Howard Munce has worn many hats. (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry's)

Howard Munce has worn many hats. (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry’s)

Munce’s resume is beyond impressive. Trained at Pratt Institute, he was a Young & Rubicam art director beginning in the late 1940s — after World War II, when he saw action as a Marine platoon sergeant at Guadalcanal.

Munce is professor emeritus at Paier College of Art; honorary president of the Society of Illustrators in New York City, and an honorary board member of the Westport Arts Center. For over 25 years, he volunteered as graphics director for the Westport Library, and — with Fisher — co-curated the black-and-white drawings by Westport artists in its McManus Room.

But those are facts. Far more important is Munce’s humanity.

Whenever he is asked to help — donating dozens of paintings and illustrations to the Permanent Art Collection; curating exhibits for the WHS; mentoring young artists — he always says “of course.” With a sparkle in his eye, a smile on his face, and a handshake as firm as a 20-year-old’s.

Until a couple of years ago, he clambered up ladders to make sure every exhibit he oversaw was properly hung.

At 99, Howard Munce no longer climbs ladders. Then again, he doesn’t have to.

He long ago reached the top.

BONUS FACT: In 2008, Howard Munce was grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade. Here’s his speech: 

 

Howard Munce’s 5 O’Clock Connection

In his 97 years, Howard Munce — talented illustrator/writer/painter/sculptor/ cartoonist/teacher, longtime Westport volunteer, awesomely good guy — has been profiled by nearly every publication that covers those things.

Including, now, 5 O’Clock.

If you don’t know — and I sure didn’t — that’s the online magazine put out by Harry’s, a trendy quality-craftsman men’s razor company.

So, um, no offense, but what would they want with a 97-year-old, white-haired guy — no matter how prolific and beloved?

Howard Munce (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry's)

Howard Munce (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry’s)

Turns out Howard’s granddaughter Rebecca Brewster works for Harry’s. One day in their Union Square office, she was talking about Howard and his ad agency days. Perhaps sensing a connection to Mad Men, they wanted to meet him.

Soon, a writer and photographer traveled to Westport.

The result is a breezy, loving look at a local icon, covering his service as a Marine in World War II, his time in New York as a neighbor of Norman Rockwell, and his work with agencies like Young & Rubicam.

It’s beautifully illustrated too.

How nice to find on this webzine — filled with articles profiling a hipster San Francisco bread maker, and advice on properly winterizing your beard — a loving portrait of this graceful man, old enough to be some readers’ great-grandfather.

Howard Munce's well-used studio. (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry's)

Howard Munce’s well-used studio. (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry’s)

(To read the full story, click here.)

Mollie Donovan’s Art Auction

When Mollie Donovan died a year ago, Westport mourned. A vibrant, creative and very bright woman was gone. On a more practical — and selfish — level, we worried that her many areas of expertise — arranging Westport Historical Society exhibits, for example, or hanging paintings for the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection — would be lost forever too.

Mollie Donovan

Though Mollie was irreplaceable, she continues to give back to her favorite activities. The donations made in her name are one example. An event this Saturday (April 21, 7 p.m., Westport Playhouse Barn) is another.

The “Mollie Gala Art Auction” features 100 high-quality pieces. They come from local and regional artists — and as far as Barcelona. Westporters Leonard Fisher, Hardie Gramatky and Howard Munce are represented; so is Modesto Cuixart, who in 1959 was selected over Picasso as best painter at the São Paolo Bienal.

The auction is a fundraiser for the Westport Historical Society, one of Mollie’s many beloved organizations. There will be beautiful art, with silent and live bidding; music from a string quartet and pianist, and plenty of food and wine.

It’s a typical Mollie Donovan event: classy, artistic, and all for a good cause.

A year after she left us, she’s still helping her hometown out.

(Tickets are $60 until Friday, April 20; $65 at the door. Click here to purchase.)

Some of the art on sale at this Saturday's "Mollie Gala." Enjoying the scene is Kristan Peters-Hamlin, chairwoman of the event. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Seymour Schachter Illustrates Success

Seymour Schachter’s parents were from the old country. They told him he’d never make a living doing art.

Seymour Schachter, in his Westport studio.

Seymour loved to draw and paint.  At 8 he won a national art contest — for adults.  Yet when it was time for college, in 1978, and his parents said he could go to art school only if he paid for it himself, he ended up at Boston University’s school of business.

But he showed his artwork to the dean, who made a deal with his art school counterpart.  They waived all business electives, so Seymour could take art courses.

After graduation he landed a high-paying job selling eyeglass frames around the world.  It was a dream job — “for anyone else,” he says.  Driving to an important meeting in France, all he wanted to do was paint the countryside.

He quit cold turkey — and got a job in a Hackensack mall art supply store.  But he was so successful — doubling sales in 1 month — that he caught the eye of the chain store’s president.

Through a series of similarly fortuitous meetings, legendary creative director Hazel  Spector asked him for a storyboard.  He had no idea what a storyboard was — but he stayed up all night, and created a great one.

That led to more offers.  One company requested 25 panels; they’d pay $40.   Hey, it’s money, Seymour figured.  He tried not to act surprised when he received $1,000 — $40 for each panel.

Continuity hired him as head artist.  His 11 years there “were better than any art school,” he says.  His work was critiqued by the best in the business.

Seymour Schachter, with a few of his product labels and designs. More line the shelves behind him.

Seymour’s ability to switch styles — from cartoons to superheroes to photo realism — proved invaluable.  In 1995 he formed his own company, and never looked back.  He crafted a career as an illustrator for Fortune 500 companies.  He’s drawn national ads, and designed some of the most popular product labels in the world.

Subway, Pepsi, Fruity Pebbles, Tropicana, Arm & Hammer, Sierra Mist,  Ragu, Skippy, Newman’s Own, Goldfish — all are Seymour Schachter clients, and Seymour’s artistic creations.

So was Joe Camel.

In 1984 — just 24 years old — his team drew the already-infamous cartoon character on cigarette tins and matchbox covers.

But Seymour felt conflicted.  He called the American Cancer Society, and offering his services at a lower-than-usual rate.  They asked him to draw posters.

“It was my way of balancing my conscience,” he says.

When his father died of a brain tumor, Seymour gave up doing cigarette ads altogether.

Eighteen years ago, Seymour and his wife Jamie began house-hunting.  She worked in Milford, so they searched for someplace between there and New York City.  Several friends suggested the “beautiful little artists’ community” of  Westport.

They knew nothing about it.  But they fell in love with the “nice beach, nice people and nice houses,” and bought a place off Cross Highway.

To his surprise, Seymour learned that the area teemed with promotional advertising companies like MCA, Ryan Partnership and Catapult —  huge firms with national accounts.

“We stumbled into an artists’ colony,” he says.  He’s been busy ever since.

Seymour Schachter is a successor to earlier generations of Westport illustrators — men like Harold von Schmidt, Steven Dohanos, Hardie Gramatky, Bernie Fuchs and Howard Munce.  For a century — starting in 1902 — they drew ads, book and magazine covers, product cans and boxes, putting this town on the international art map.

Impressed with Westport's DARE program, Seymour Schachter created this model -- and cardboard cutout. It sports a Westport Police badge.

They even spawned a noted correspondence course, Famous Artists School, located where Save the Children is now.

In the last 20 years, computers and the internet have taken work away from illustrators.  The world is changing in many ways, and commercial art has not been spared.

But, Seymour says, “for the few of us who can draw Flintstone characters standing around a Christmas tree, there’s still a lot of work.  And this part of Connecticut is still the place to get work.

“I hope to remain an illustrator as long as I live.”

Sketch Class

Long-time residents, artists of all ages and realtors — even those who got their licenses yesterday afternoon — are fond of referring to Westport’s reputation as an “artists’ colony.”

But what does that mean?  What actually happened in an “artists’ colony”?

For one thing, illustrators shared stories, ideas — and drinks — on the train home from New York, where they worked day jobs in advertising, PR, publishing and magazines.

For another, there were some wild parties, involving artists, artists’ hangers-on, alcohol, swimming pools and whatnot.  I’ve heard plenty of stories, from plenty of sources.

But living in an artists’ colony was serious work too. There were regular “sketch classes” — not classes, really, but gatherings of artists and artist-wannabes, who gathered to draw or paint from live models.

These gatherings took place in studios, basements, or anywhere else large enough for a model stand, easels and chairs, lights, and random props.

After 30 minutes of drawing, the models took breaks.  That’s when the artists walked around, critiqued each other’s work, and schmoozed.

Remington Schuyler — a Boy’s Life magazine illustrator – held a sketch class in his Westport home.

John Steuart Curry's famous -- and controversial -- John Brown mural, for the Kansas statehouse.

In 1932, weekly sketch classes met at Edward C. Nash’s home (now Nash’s Corner).  Among the regular attendees:  John Steuart Curry, Robert Lambdin and Rose O’Neill.  (She created the Kewpie doll.)

Bob Baxter and Ann Toulmin-Rothe held a sketch class in the mill building on  Richmondville Avenue.

Robert Fawcett — one of the 10 Famous Artists’ founding members — ran classes in the company building on Wilton Road (now Save the Children).

But sketch classes have not gone the way of Famous Artists School.  (I know, it still exists — but it’s a shell of its former self, and long gone from Westport.)

Howard Munce — the 95-year-old, sharp-as-an-illustrator’s-pen living legend of Westport’s artists’ colony days — still attends a sketch class at Elizabeth Gaynor’s house in Southport.  It’s a cross-section of old Westport artists, others from the area, and younger folks with whom the veterans happily share their knowledge and humor.

Howard Munce (Photo by Kristen Rasich Fox)

Now, the Westport Historical Society honors all that with “The Sketch  Class:  A Westport Tradition.”  The exhibit chronicles the history and significance of Westport’s sketch classes , and features a great group of artists of all ages.

It opens on Sunday (Jan. 30), and runs through April 30.  It kicks off with a free, open reception this Sunday, 3-5 p.m.

The exhibit is curated by Howard Munce himself.  So in addition to learning about sketch classes, if you go to Sunday’s reception you’ll learn all about Westport’s “artists’ colony” past — from a man who was there then, and still creates art today.

(For more information on the Westport Historical Society’s “Sketch Class” exhibit, click here or call 203-222-1424.)