Tag Archives: Stevan Dohanos

Friday Flashback #96

Yesterday was the first day of summer.

Today is the last day of school.

Soon, we’ll see scenes like this at Compo Beach.

Well, sort of.

Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used our beach as the inspiration for this painting.

I’m not sure if the Good Humor man was ever allowed to hang out where he did.

But the raft is totally legit.

Back in the 1950s and early ’60s, several of them were anchored off shore.

Kids did actually what the models are doing in Dohanos’ work. And a lot more.

Which is probably why there are no more rafts in the waters off Compo Beach today.

Westport’s History, In 100 Objects

The Westport Historical Society has a history of mounting fascinating exhibits.

Subjects have ranged from Saugatuck and famous artists to rock ‘n’ roll and our town 50 years from now.

But while the Sheffer Gallery in the back pulses with life, the front of 223-year-old Wheeler House on Avery Place has been oddly shut.

Now the WHS has opened its Victorian front door to visitors. And — just inside — a long-neglected display case offers an intriguing look into Westport’s past.

“The History of Westport in 100 Objects” opens tomorrow (Monday, April 16). Every 2 weeks for the next year, the items will change. They’ll start with the original settlers in 1637, and work up to today.

Kewpie dolls will be on display later this year. In 1909, Westport illustrator Rose O’Neill created the characters.

Artifacts include books, land deeds, farming tools, clothing, toys, a railroad tie — anything that helped make this town what it is.

Each display will include a “mystery object” (though not necessarily from the era depicted). Visitors can guess its identity. One — drawn from all correct answers — will win an item from the gift shop.

A passport/online check-in will help children record their visits. After coming enough times, they’ll get scrip for gift store purchases.

An 1882 shipping book includes the noted Westport name “Wakeman.”

As each case changes, its items will be archived in a digital exhibit on the WHS website.

The Historical Society has plenty of objects. But they’d love more. If you have an item that might work for the exhibit, email 100Objects@westporthistory.org.

(“The History of Westport in 100 Objects” opens tomorrow — Monday, April 16 — with a 4 p.m. reception focused on 5th through 8th graders.)

Another artifact: part of Westport artist Stevan Dohanos’ 1950s watercolor of our Memorial Day parade.

Friday Flashback #83

As work proceeds on David Waldman’s latest project — converting the former Save the Children headquarters on Wilton Road into a retail/residential complex — it’s a good time to revisit Stevan Dohanos’ 1965 painting of the site.

Back then, it was home to Famous Artists School. Dohanos was one of those (very) famous artists who helped stay-at-home artists around the world discover their inner illustrator.

This painting — courtesy of Dohanos’ son Anthony — is a bit stylized. The house on Gorham Island is moved south, and Bedford Elementary School (now Town Hall) slides very close to Main Street.

But it provides a very realistic view of the days when Westport was the center of the illustration world. Even without Famous Artists, we were a town filled with — and honored by — famous artists.

Friday Flashback #69

Stevan Dohanos is best known for his 123 Saturday Evening Post covers.

But the Westport illustrator was also a noted US stamp artist. He designed several dozen — the number varies, according to who’s counting — honoring a wide range of subjects, including American presidents, NATO and the statehoods of Alaska and Hawaii.

Dohanos also created Christmas stamps. In 1989, Westport served as that year’s official “first day of issue” post office.

Dohanos’ other holiday stamps ranged from the classical, like this 1969 scene …

… to the playful, like this in 1970…

… to the religious, in 1975:

Of course, Dohanos drew holiday scenes for the Saturday Evening Post too. This cover — from December 13, 1947 — is called “Rural Post Office at Christmas.” (The sign says “Georgetown.”)

As chair of the Stamp Advisory Committee, Dohanos oversaw the art design of more than 300 stamps. He was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and served under 7 presidents.

Stevan Dohanos died on July 4, 1994, at his Westport home. He was 87 years old.

(Hat tip: Paul Ehrismann)

Happy Thanksgiving, From “06880” To All

Stevan Dohanos’ “Thanksgiving” painting drew its inspiration from the red gingerbread house at 55 Long Lots Road.

It’s still standing. And Thanksgiving is still one of Westport’s most cherished holidays.

 

The Little Red Gingerbread On Long Lots Road

It’s one of the most recognizable houses in Westport: the red “gingerbread” house at 55 Long Lots Road, just east of Hall-Brooke.

For the first time in 60 years, it’s on the market.

As befits a home built more than 150 years ago, it’s got a back story.

Plus a bit of mystery.

According to Tad Shull — a current co-owner and musician/writer in New York, who spent his childhood there — it was constructed as a caretaker’s cottage or gatehouse, elsewhere on Long Lots.

It was moved to its present site in the 1870s by William Burr, who inherited it from his father. Additions were built in the 1920s and ’60s. From the street, it still looks much like the original.

55 Long Lots Road. The entrance to Hall-Brooke is on the left.

It may (or may not) have served as a 1-room schoolhouse. But it has a definite connection to education: Burr Farms School opened in 1958 a few yards away. (It was demolished in the 1980s; all that remains are athletic fields.)

The most intriguing tale is this: Shull’s parents bought the house in 1957 from Elaine Barrie — the 4th (and last) wife of John Barrymore.

Shull had heard that the actor used the house as a “love nest.” It’s uncertain whether Barrymore lived there; Barrie bought it after he died in 1942.

Shull also heard rumors that Barrymore had an affair there with a married woman,  Blanche Oelrichs, who published poetry under the name Michael Strange. Shull found a book of her poems — with her handwritten annotations — on his mother’s bookshelf last fall.

More lore: Stevan Dohanos’ famous “Thanksgiving” painting may have used the red Long Lots house as its model/inspiration. (“06880” posted that possibility last year; click here, then scroll down for several comments confirming it.)

Stevan Dohanos’ “Thanksgiving” painting. Recognize this house?

And, Shull adds, he heard from Tony Slez — who once owned a gas station at the foot of Long Lots, where Westport Wash & Wax now stands — that his Polish relatives worked as onion pickers on the road.

Shull says that as a youngster he was teased for living “next door to a mental institution.”

But he calls his boyhood “a paradise. There were plenty of kids around. We had a pond with frogs. It was a great place.”

His family hopes that whoever buys the house will preserve it. And — even if only part of its history is true — the red gingerbread that everyone passes on Long Lots has quite a past.

Stevan Dohanos’ Firehouse Comes Home

Pat Kery thinks of the Saugatuck firehouse as “her” firehouse.

The art appraiser once had an office at Bridge Square. She still lives nearby.

So when she found a Stevan Dohanos print for sale called “Hose Co. 4” — which looked a lot like the Saugatuck firehouse, Engine Company 4 — she was excited.

The Saugatuck firehouse.

Actually, more than excited. She helped bring it home to Westport.

Kery consults for WestPAC — Westport’s Public Art Collection. She’s also a longtime Dohanos aficionado. Researching her 1982 book, “Great Magazine Covers of the World,” she learned a lot about the local illustrator. He drew 123 covers for the Saturday Evening Post — as well as the incredible mural that has hung since 1953 in the Coleytown Elementary School office.

Dohanos’ 1950 firehouse lithograph shows firemen shooting the breeze with a mailman, as they wait for the next call.

Stevan Dohanos’ “Hose Co. 4.”

“His genius was capturing the ordinary things in life — in particular some of the small details we might miss in our fast-paced lives,” Kery says.

“Hose Co. 4” shows bedposts in the 2nd-floor windows, laundry drying on a clothesline, and an alert Dalmatian for companionship.

“From a stylistic standpoint, the artist brilliantly echoes circles and squares — the firehouse, the trees, the dog — to visually tie in elements in the print,” she explains.

Stevan Dohanos at work.

Recently, Kery learned the print — signed by the artist in the lower right, one of an edition of 250, and in pristine condition — was being sold by a dealer in the Midwest. She called, and learned he’d visited Dohanos in Westport shortly before his death.

The seller offered an excellent price — and framed it. Sam  Gault generously provided funds for its purchase. Now it joins 3 other Dohanos Saturday Evening Post covers, and various illustrations — in the WestPAC collection.

It’s a treasure trove of art, including a Picasso and other world-renowned works.

But the real value of WestPAC is the chance to bring something like Stevan Dohanos’ firehouse “home.”

BONUS STEVAN DOHANOS PHOTO BELOW: 

This circa 1950 print — donated by Kery — is from a photograph at the Norman Rockwell Museum’s Famous Artists School Archives.

It shows Dohanos hanging out with Westport firefighters, in front of the original fire headquarters. It was on Church Lane downtown, next to the YMCA Bedford Building (left).

When fire headquarters moved to the Post Road, where it is today (next to Terrain),  the old firehouse was incorporated into the YMCA. Its 1st floor became the Y’s new fitness center, while the 2nd floor was converted into a weight room and cardio studio.

Today, both the Bedford Building and old firehouse have been refashioned into  Bedford Square.

PS: Check out the dalmatian at Dohanos’ feet!

Stevan Dohanos’ Thanksgiving

Decades ago, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos painted this Thanksgiving scene:

stevan-dohanos-thanksgiving-art

He often used Westport places — and people — as models.

Does anyone know the back story to this one?

But whether you’re a Westport native who remembers Dohanos personally, or you are celebrating your 1st Thanksgiving here: Enjoy the holiday.

We’re thankful you’re here!

Friday Flashback #14

Today is Veterans Day. Westporters — those who served our country, and those who simply wished to honor them — gathered in the Town Hall auditorium, for an 11 a.m. 11/11 ceremony.

Back in the day — the World Wars I and  II, Korean and Vietnam Wars day — Town Hall was located on the Post Road. It was a small, handsome building next to what was then the Fine Arts Theater.

town-hall-original-2

Today the old Town Hall is next door to Restoration Hardware — and it’s where you’ll find the Rothbard Ale + Larder restaurant.

There’s another reason it’s appropriate to run this photo today. Stevan Dohanos’ December 1943 Saturday Evening Post cover showed our town’s Honor Roll. It celebrated all our citizens serving in the armed forces that year — quite a while after the above photo was taken.

This was the 1st of Dohanos’ 136 covers for the magazine.

stevan-dohanos-veterans-cover

Today the Honor Roll is part of Veterans Green, opposite the current Town Hall on Myrtle Avenue.

Of course, there are many more names now than when Dohanos made Westport’s Town Hall famous, nationwide.

Legendary Painting Restored; Prints On Sale Now

In the fall of 1946, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos invited 5 students from the 40-member Staples High School band — led by John Ohanian — to be models. Dohanos was creating a Saturday Evening Post cover, and needed musicians.

The quintet — Ed Capasse, Bob Nash, Evelyn Bennett, Steve Sefsik and Robert Barker — came to his studio. He paid them $30 each — over $400 today — to sit still for 30 minutes, as if playing their brass instruments. The cover ran on October 19, 1946.

Ed Capasse was in the upper left of StevanDohanos' painting. He went on to become a noted Westport lawyer. Here's his yearbook photo and writeup.

Ed Capasse was in the upper left of Stevan Dohanos’ painting. He went on to become a noted Westport lawyer. Here’s his yearbook photo and writeup.

In 2001, Staples Players director David Roth selected “The Music Man” as a mainstage production. His promotional poster was a takeoff on Dohanos’ iconic painting. Cast members Jonathan Adler, Trey Skinner, Samantha Marpe, Steven Fuertes and Hayden Moskowitz modeled.

Staples Players' 2001 poster.

Staples Players’ 2001 poster.

This year, “The Music Man” returns. So does the poster. This time Julien Zeman, Tucker Ewing, Maggie Foley, Nick Rossi and Colin McKechnie sat for a photo. (You can see Jacob Leaf — who plays Harold Hill — in the sousaphone reflection.)

...and the 2016 version.

…and the 2016 version.

Now – in honor of the upcoming performances of “The Music Man” — Dohanos’ painting is back in a position of honor.

In 1946, the artist donated the original to the Westport schools. For decades it hung in the Staples band room. Later it could be seen in the principal’s office, then outside the first selectman’s office in Town Hall.

Now a treasured masterpiece of the Westport Public Art Collections Committee, in 2014 the organization raised funds to have the painting conserved and returned to full brilliance.

Westport illustrator Stevan Dohanos' 1946 Saturday Evening Post cover.

Westport illustrator Stevan Dohanos’ 1946 Saturday Evening Post cover.

Yesterday, it was unveiled and hung in its new position of honor: the Staples auditorium lobby. On hand were Players co-directors Roth and Kerry Long; First Selectman Marpe (whose daughter posed for the 2001 poster), and principal James D’Amico.

“Music Man” audiences this weekend and next will enjoy the restored painting (along with the other posters). So will theatergoers for years to come.

“The Music Man” posters in the Staples lobby.

But now anyone can enjoy the painting in their own home. Recently, Art Collections Committee members found a trove of prints that Ann Sheffer made for a fundraiser in the late 1980s.

They’re on sale again, as a fundraiser for 3 worthy organizations: Friends of Westport Public Art Collections, Collections, Staples Music Parents Association and the Westport Historical Society.

Sales take place at “Music Man” performances this weekend and next, as well as online. Just click here to own a piece of Westport (and musical) history.

(“The Music Man” performances are Friday and Saturday, November 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday, November 13 and Saturday, November 19. Click here for tickets. They’re also available 30 minutes prior to the performance in the Staples High School lobby, as available.)

——————————-

Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!