Lot 580: American School, early 20th c
December 3, 2016
New Orleans, LA, USALive Auction
Description: American School, early 20th c., "Dressed for the Theatre", oil on canvas, unsigned, 36 in. x 24 in., framed. Note: In the intriguing painting offered here, a fashionably-dressed woman is dramatically posed in front of a red wall covered with a trio of playbills, each partially visible in the background. Her vibrant costume, including a spectacularly plumed hat, are indicative of theatre culture in New York City in the 1930s. One playbill perhaps references the 1936 film "The Marriage of Corbal," a British historical drama set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, while the another hints at the rise of African American theater and playwrights during the Harlem Renaissance. The playbill on the far right gives references to James Weldon Johnson. Songwriter, poet, novelist, journalist, critic, and autobiographer, Johnson, much like his contemporary W.E.B. Du Bois, was a man who bridged several historical and literary trends. Born in 1871 during the optimism of the Reconstruction period, in Jacksonville, Florida, Johnson possessed an eclectic set of talents. Over the course of his sixty-seven years, Johnson was the first African American admitted to the Florida bar since the end of Reconstruction; the co-composer in 1900 (with his brother John Rosamond) of 'Lift Every Voice and Sing,' the song that would later become known as the Black American National Anthem; field secretary in the NAACP; journalist; publisher; diplomat; educator; translator; librettist; anthologist; and English professor; in addition to being a well-known poet and novelist and one of the prime movers and shakers of the Harlem Renaissance. James and his brother, John, wrote more than 200 songs for the Broadway musical stage. Ref.: Beavers, Herman. James Weldon Johnsons Life and Career. Modern American Poetry. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/johnson/life.htm. Accessed Oct. 23, 2016.