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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

"A Serious Artist!"

Thursday, April 27, 2006



This week's narrative is from the 8th issue of Illustration, excerpted with the permission of Dan Zimmer. The text is © David Saunders:

In 1927 the city passed an ordinance to control the black market in the slums, and shops were required to paint the names of the owner and the business on their store windows. The sign companies were swamped with the demand from this windfall. To avoid delays and to minimize the cost for this mandated task, shop owners were happy to hire local talent, so a young neighborhood artist had his first commercial art employment. “I was right there! I could paint lettered signs so I did them by myself. I was 14 years old, but I was their man!”
On weekends the young artist walked five miles up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the admission was free and everything looked great. One day, he noticed a young woman studiously painting a copy of an Old Master, and he asked her how he might also qualify for that privilege. She kindly led him to the director of the Copyist Program and without presenting a portfolio or any proof as an art student, Ernest Chiriacka was generously outfitted with an easel, paints, and canvas and set before a masterwork of his own choice. The only stipulation was that he confine himself to his small rug to keep the area clean. “He told me not to move. I had to remain there and I was not to touch anything. It was great. A city kid like me painting at the Metropolitan Museum! I was a serious artist after that!”

*Just a reminder that all this week's images can be found at full size in my Ernest Chiriaka Flickr set.

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