Friday, May 23, 2014

Ilonka Karasz New Yorker Covers

How is it possible that someone with 186 published New Yorker covers* is not a household name?

lonka Karasz (1896-1981) was an insanely talented artist/designer/illustrator who, in addition to magazine and book covers designed pottery, textiles, furniture, silver and decorative maps. Earlier this year, at the Bard Graduate Center, Karasz scholar Ashley Callahan presented the work of Ilonka and her equally talented sister Mariska. The creative siblings came to the U.S. from Hungary in the 1910s. They settled in Greenwich Village where they became active participants in the avant garde of fashion, art and design.

Thanks to Callahan’s extensive research, each sister has had her own exhibit at the Georgia Museum of Art and there is a book to accompany each; Enchanting Modern: Ilonka Karasz and Modern Threads: Fashion and Art by Mariska Karasz. You can see 106 Karasz covers at

Whichever cover you find yourself on this weekend, picnicking in the park, sunning on tar beach, or stuck in traffic, I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend.

*Next most-published-New-Yorker-cover woman is Gretchen Dow Simpson with 58 covers, followed by Edna Eicke with 51, and Mary Petty with 38. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bob Newman Benefit Auction

Roberto Parada: Christopher Walken
Anita Kunz: Madonna 

The Friends of Bob Newman community is presenting an online benefit auction featuring artwork from a collection of top illustrators and photographers. This auction will raise funds to help defray medical bills and living expenses after Bob's serious accident last year.

This is an extraordinary opportunity to own original and limited-edition artwork by such stars as Philip Burke, Henrik Drescher, Jorge Colombo, Tom Bachtell, Robert Risko, Stephen Kroninger, Victor Juhasz, the list just keeps on going. Yes, it’s a who’s who of editorial illustration.

And it’s for Bob Newman, tireless promoter and enabler of great visual journalism.

Steve Brodner: Portrait of Bob Newman 

The Tumblr site is seriously off the hook. Go there to see all the artwork. Then go to the auction site to bid/buy.

There will also be a benefit party/gathering on May 29th at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. RSVP by May 23 here.

Dale Stephanos: B.B. King 

Hanoch Piven: Bruce Springsteen

How many portraits of The Boss can you find in the auction?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First Aid Bandana

Vintage work clothes, pleated taffeta ruffles, camp blankets, peasant blouses and lots of indigo. The Vintage Fashion and Textile Show in Sturbridge is a serious affair. Photography is strictly verboten, but I got a dispensation at Sarajo (formerly of Soho, currently of Maine) to photograph this WWI-era “BANDAGE FOR FIRST AID IN ACCIDENT” scarf/sling.

Infographic on a textile. Does it get any better than this?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Brimfield Day

Once again, I made the pilgrimage to Brimfield, this time for the opening day. The vibe was good, as both dealers and buyers seemed to make out quite well. (previous Brimfield posts here, here, and here.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nana's Dress Goes to FIT

The spectacular beaded flapper dress here has recently been accepted into the study collection of The Museum at FIT. It bears no designer label, nor was it worn by a boldface name, but since it belonged to my Nana Tillie, we’re very excited by the news.

My grandmother was born in 1902. She was one of five sisters and grew up in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania, where her family ran a kosher delicatessen. We have no photo of her wearing the striking black Art Deco-style dress, but we know she wore it in February 1925 to a cousin’s wedding in New York City. We do, however, have a photo of her taken only two months earlier at her own wedding, also in a flapper-style dress.

In trying to pinpoint the year of the dress, I lucked out and found a ridiculously detailed recap in a local Brooklyn newspaper about the wedding she attended.

“A neighborhood romance culminated last night in Miss Alberta Diana Spitz, daughter of …” 

The article details addresses, attendants, fabrics (white satin with flowing rosepoint lace, hand embroidered with pearls), and the floral composition of the bouquet and canopy (orange blossoms and orchids). Not bad advertising, come to think of it, for the bride’s father who was a florist. 

 “As Rabbi Wellerstein pronounced the couple man and wife two beautiful white carrier pigeons were released from the canopy and flew about the auditorium as a token of good luck.” And here I thought credit for that went to modern-day party planners. (The full newspaper clipping is at the end of the post.)

Nana Tillie in her wedding dress.

Back to the dress. Thanks to the exquisite care my mother (Tillie’s daughter) takes of everything in her charge, it has remained in superb condition for these many years. That is especially remarkable considering the weight of the beading on the lightweight silk.

Nana’s wedding dress, though the same vintage, did not fare as well and sits as a heap of rusted beads and evaporated chiffon. But remember, this is fact not fiction, so do not in any way take the fate of this garment as a symbol of her life or her marriage of more than 60 years. She was always sweet and loving, and well loved in return. When she died at age 102, Nana Tillie had produced, from her three daughters, a tally of about 50 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

Luckily, she never got bored of going to weddings.

Here’s my mom looking smashing in the dress. She wore it to a costume party in the late 1980s.


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