THS member David Boysel is the artist-in-residence at the Paramount Theatre (Oakland). His official role is that of an artist and curator of the theatre — helping restore the Paramount to it’s original glory. We’ll be featuring stories from David’s work on our blog in the coming weeks on Fridays.
Here is the start of Tale 1: Hunt for the Missing Artwork.
I have been working on identifying and replacing the Paramount’s missing artwork for a couple of years now, and have made a study of the original paintings, prints and bronzes, to better understand what they actually looked like. What I discovered may change your pre-disposed ideas about Art Deco period art, what it really was in the Bay Area in 1931. We might like to think of paintings by DeLempicka, or Benton, or maybe Kline, all classics of Deco style painting, but the Paramount’s collection had none of those.
We are very fortunate to have many period interior photographs, and although the paintings were not photographed, they were on the walls when the Lounges and Foyers were photographed. Nearly all of the artists whose art graced the walls had professional careers, and have a good auction record, so it is very possible to have a very clear idea of how the paintings, prints and bronzes really looked.
The FIRST photo is in the Orchestra Foyer, photographed in 1932. This is the huge sofa between Aisles 4 and 5. The large painting is simply titled “Mountain,” by American Impressionist artist Chauncey Foster Ryder (1868-1949). The 1934 Paramount inventory lists five paintings by Ryder, more representation than any other single artist in the collection. The subject of this painting is almost certainly Squaw Mountain, NY, which Ryder painted from many angles one Summer. We see a simple gilded frame, possibly with detail at the corners.
The SECOND photo shows the large painting over the sofa between aisles 3 and 4, from the Grand Lobby, again photographed in 1932. Several photos in our collection show this painting, but none very clearly. It is another Painting by Ryder, this one “Milford Plain”, outside Milford, CT. The flat, simple profile of the gilded frame is notable. Just barely visible through the Mezzanine Lounge doorway, at the top of the photo, is the painting untitled landscape of rolling hills, also by Ryder. It has been replaced by a Giclee, “Across the Valley”, also by Ryder, and quite similar in subject and style.
The THIRD photo shows the same Orchestra Foyer sofa as before, but with the painting switched out. The photo is a concert in the Grand Lobby, Nov, 2, 1957. This painting was originally located across from aisle 4, over the sofa, and was moved after 1944.
The distinct composition and square format make this positively the untitled work by Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) This may be the only Paramount painting that included figures. Cornwell was primarily an illustrator, and this may have been one of only three paintings in the collection which would make one think “Art Deco”. The frame is distinct, apparently black with simple gilt edge moulding, the only such frame in the collection.
The FOURTH photo shows the Lower Lounge, to the left of the mirrors on the House Left side. The painting here is “After the Storm”, a seascape by Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940), photographed in 1932. Waugh painted the sea for practically all of his long career, in a rather formal, realistic manner. Several paintings in the collection depicted the shore, by various artists. In the extreme foreground is one of the four French bronzes. She stood on one of two long vanished banquettes in the center of the lounge. I have not yet identified this bronze.
The FIFTH photo is also the Lower Lounge, this time to the right of the mirror, just at the bottom of the stairs. The Painting is “Late Afternoon” by Guy Carleton Wiggins (1883-1962). The subject is Mount Wilbur, in Glacier Park, MT, where Wiggins painted for several Summers. Four paintings in the Paramount collection were by Wiggins. Notice again a relatively simple, gilded frame.
…More next week with part 2…