Wednesday, June 1, 2011

To be, or not to be [a Newman]

In this week's thrift-share post I included a little teaser about an item that I found. Some of you figured out the artist and others are holding on to the edge of their seats. Since I don't want to keep you in suspense, I am writing this post although I have not yet heard back on its authenticity.

I'll start by telling you about that day. It was a Friday. I had designated the day as a thrift day where I would venture to some of my usual thrifts, thrifts that I had not been to in weeks. The day was starting out slow. I left home a bit late. I did not find many things at the first set of spots, then I get there, to the thrift that would give me a sleepless night and a tummy ache.

I was doing my usual walk around. I walked past a Siesta figurine by Pottery Craft. I debated whether or not I should pick it up but I was not convinced about the price. I walked behind the counter (they let you do so) and looked at some of the items in the back. Hm... a couple of interesting things but nothing that was begging to come home with me. I walked back around the counter and looked for interesting jewelry pieces. Nothing. Then, out of the corner of my eye, hiding behind some glassware, I saw a neat pattern. The colors are nice, the graphics are cool. Let me pick it up for further inspection.

It was a United States Capitol Historical Society Sleeve. I opened it up and there were several prints and papers of different art pieces. Since I like pretty pictures I decide to start looking through them.

The first ones were three of these flower prints that were printed in England. They are the kind of prints that seem to come from books. They also weren't in the best shape with several creases and wrinkles. 

Then there was this print by Richard J. Anuszkiewicz which also seems to have come from a book. By no means am I a print or paper expert.

I started imagining the person who donated this as someone similar to myself. I too have stacks of images that I have cut out of books. I do so because I like them and I envision myself reusing them for something in the future. So my imagination drives me to keep looking through the images.

There are a couple of prints from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. They are of Still Life: Lemons, Oranges and a Rose by Francisco de Zurbaran. I think to myself that whoever donated this loved going to art museums. They would go to the gift shop to buy prints of the works in exhibit. I chuckle because I do this too!

And it continues... There is a print of The Doubs a Cussey by M. Gremillon.

There is a sheet with a picture of a sunset at Monterey...

There is also a lithograph of Blossoms by Mary Lou Goertzen which is also quite nice.

... and then there is a striking photographic print...

via pbase

Just look at that contrast between the piano lid and the blank wall. Look at the placement of the man on the bottom left, who just happens to be Igor Stravinsky. I gaze at this image and am captivated. I debate about bringing these images home. They all seem to be paper reproductions despite the fact that the photograph is on weighted paper, seems to be signed in pencil, and is stamped on the back! I think to myself, What will I do with MORE images? So after much introspective debate I put them back. (but per usual, I made a note of the striking photograph to research once I got home) May I add that I really need to get an iphone, or at least a plan with web browsing!

So I continue the rest of my thrifting day, I go to a couple more of the usual spots and run some errands in between. By the time I get home, all the stores are closed. It was a long thrifting day. I realize that I took much longer this time around than I usually do. I guess I was not in the skimming mode that day.

Once at home, I start to prepare some dinner and while the food is cooking I decide to look up the information I wrote down about the photograph. Commence tummy ache. Oh boy, Arnold Newman seems to be a really notable photographer. The Igor Stravinksy photograph is one of his most popular ones. Countless racing thoughts ensue...

          What have I done? There is no way the one that I found is real... Or is it? It did seem to be    
          signed in pencil (au recto) at the bottom... but the signature looked like it could have been 
          printed as well... but it was stamped on the back (au verso) with his name and the copyright...
          but what are the odds of it being with that odd stack of prints...WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?

In a panic I look up the store's hours. They are open on Saturday. I start trying to convince myself that it will be there when I go on Saturday.  
          After all, the price was marked down meaning it was there last week. I was also at the thrift in 
          the afternoon so there were only a few hours left before closing.

So along came the restless night. I told the boy that I left something behind that could potentially be one of the coolest things I've found. He says, "You were being cheap weren't you..." Sigh... I kind of was. I ask him to be nice because I was stressed out enough as it was, I told him to just send me some good vibrations. Which he did. :)

I pulled out all of the stops the following morning. I went to bed early to ensure I would be up really early. I put aside an artist portfolio to put it in once I had it. I also took along my Saint Barbara medallion that I inherited from my dad after his passing. It was like having him there with me. I ended up arriving early to the store and stood outside reading The Alchemist.

Once the doors opened I rushed to United States sleeve, it's still there. I'm not convinced the photograph is still in there too. I look through the prints and it's still there! Awesome! My tummy can relax. I ended up walking out with a couple more things that I had missed the previous day.

When the boy got home from work, I showed it to him. I went through the process of flipping through the prints explaining and reasoning with him why I initially thought it was not real. I knew he would agree and he was skeptical about it at first. The photographic paper is an older type that we are not used to so that was a cause for doubt. It was also hard to tell if it was actually hand signed because of how the pencil mark looks on the photo paper. The thing that keeps us hoping is the hand stamp on the back. The size of the print is also concordant with 'real' ones. I've searched for images of the stamp and the signature but they are not to be found. His work is heavily copyrighted and I assume it is not publicized for fear of forgery hence I have not included pictures of those either.

Whether the photograph is real or not, I must say that it has been great to dream. It also made for a fun albeit stressful thrifting adventure! 

If you are interested in looking at more of Arnold Newman's photographs you can do so here. They are quite stunning. I especially love the one of Marilyn Monroe, the only photo of hers that I've seen with true depth. 

Mr. Newman himself via Glinnbridge

         "As my own approach took form, it became evident that a good portrait had first to be a good 


  1. wow....That's really cool. I can't wait to hear if it is or not. Even if it isn't what a fun story! The composition on Igor is truly beautiful.

  2. Oooh, how fun. I hope the photo is real, but regardless the image is striking and a great find. It is funny how we find something, then obsess that we didn't get it. Thats how I always know...when I get home and still think about an item left behind. Good luck :-)
    Cheers ~ Lara

  3. Wow. Great story. I hope it is real, but regardless, your post has shared these beautiful images with all your readers! Keep us posted!

  4. Question, how are you getting it authenticated?

  5. Whatever the outcome, I agree - what a great story! Really enjoy reading posts like this. And certainly hope that the photo is real!

  6. Thanks everyone, still keeping my fingers crossed!

    @SixBalloons- I'm actually trying to get it authenticated through the Arnold Newman Archive. On their website they stated that they can authenticate items. I don't know if they have a record of all of the prints ever done since they state that they may be able to help with provenance. In any case, I am going to get a second opinion locally but am holding off on that at least until next week.

  7. Lovely thrifting story - fingers crossed that it gets authenticated. Fortunate that your good eye for strong, retro graphics drew you to that envelope.

  8. Hi - thanks for the comment on my blog. I've been lurking on yours for a while and had bookmarked this page to read properly when I had a chance.
    What an exciting find! I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  9. @custardino- Oh yes, Thank goodness for the retro graphics!

    @los property vintage- I'm still crossing my fingers, haven't heard back yet from a couple of sources. Oh the horror and suspense!

    On another good note, the boy has fully embraced and validated my junkin' because of the Newman despite having found several 'steals' before :) It's nice except when he slows down and actually takes a look at our apartment. I think it has finally reached its saturation point!