DON FREEMAN: A CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
& other AMERICAN MASTERS
Don Freeman (1908-1978) – we are celebrating this painter, printmaker, author and illustrator of numerous children’s books on the 100th anniversary of his birth with a retrospective of his numerous and varied achievements.
M. Lee Stone Fine Prints, Inc. is fortunate to bring to collectors a varied group of Freeman’s works. This catalogue feature prints, preliminary studies for many prints, drawings, watercolors and paintings spanning a remarkable career in New York and California.
Freeman’s story begins when he received a trumpet for his 10th birthday and ten years later this became his “ticket” to New York. Freeman arrived in 1928 and began playing pick-up dates with small bands to support himself, he began to study painting with John Sloan and drawing with Harry Wickey and Charles Locke at the Art Students League. For Freeman it was the realization of a long held dream, New York City, and he “fell for each section of the city separately and collectively, personally and objectively”. Freeman continued his studies at the ASL on and off over the next nine years where he was very much influenced by Sloan’s affinity for the common man and his plight.
Money was always a problem for Freeman but his love of theater brought him many friends backstage and he soon began submitting drawings of Broadway productions and the theater people to the New York Herald Tribune’s music and drama editors. After numerous submissions the editor finally realized Freeman’s artistic potential in October 1928, when the first of almost fifteen years of Freeman drawings appeared in the theater section.
By 1931, when Freeman and Lydia Cooley, an artist he met in a San Diego art class, were married, Freeman was experimenting with various forms of printmaking. However it was lithography that was seen as an extension of his drawings and this proved the most successful medium. But these were Depression years, the years of economic chaos, unemployment, evictions and breadlines. There was no market for Freeman prints, and little money for printing what would sell to collectors. Two Federal art programs, in 1934 the PWAP and the FAP/WPA in 1936, made possible the printing of seventeen lithographs. Among them some are of Freeman’s finest subjects such as “Show Time”, “Dress Up Day”, “NRA Parade” and “Automat Aristocrat” as well as many others.
While many of his contemporaries fell in love with the city’s architecture and construction sites it was the human drama of New York that fascinated Freeman. His lithographs and paintings are teeming with people, each in full action. He became a master of the crowd scene from his teachings by Sloan. Freeman commented that “John Sloan taught me to handle crowds so that they a have a unity. The crowd is one person. It is a living, organic mass and as such in making a picture it should be made to work as one figure”.
Freeman had a special fondness for the theater and Broadway. For Freeman it was a stage within the larger stage of the city itself. Freeman’s theater prints are second to none in capturing the glamour and energy of New York’s Broadway…in the dressing room, backstage on the aisle, and out front under the marquee in that world of furs, top hats and taxis. These images are captured in “Striking The Set”, “Quick Change Under The Stage”, “Three To Make Ready” and others in the catalog. Albert Reese paid tribute to Freeman in this regard, calling him “the foremost interpreter of theatrical life in the country.” In 1976 New York’s Mayor Beame honored Freeman with a citation of tribute to his unreserved love of the city as depicted in his art. He was called the Daumier of New York City.
Don Freeman never left his apartment without a sketchbook in his pocket. He was constantly drawing the scenes he encountered uptown and downtown, the rich and the poor. He captured the scope of human emotions from pathos, folly, joy, and the frustrations of everyday life.
Eager to share the drawings that filled his sketchbooks, Freeman, with the help of his wife developed a unique quarterly in September 1936. NEWSSTAND Magazine, One Man’s View of Manhattan, or, “All the News that Fits to Prints”. Early on the magazine consisted of twelve to fourteen off-set or zinc lithographs, often with lively titles and commentary set between colorful paper covers and delivered to subscribers for 50 cents a copy. This chronicle of city life was faithfully recorded in NEWSSTAND. This endeavor came to a halt when Freeman was inducted into the army in 1943 but reappeared for a short run in the 1950s when Freeman relocated to California.
After his service in the Army the Freeman’s moved back to California where Don continued his ubiquitous drawings in San Francisco and in Hollywood but he had found another way of expressing his great talent, children’s books. He collaborated with Lydia on their first children’s book, Chuggy and the Blue Caboose in 1951 and following that Freeman wrote and illustrated over 35 more children’s books. Many of these books have become children’s classics. Don Freeman died in New York while visiting his editor for another children’s book. His legacy as an important American artist, illustrator and writer will continue for generations to come. To learn more about Freeman's children's book go to www.Donfreeman.info.
Don Freeman’s prints and paintings are in numerous major art museums and private collections across the country including the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney, Philadelphia Museum, Library of Congress, National Museum of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Amon Carter Museum, Achenbach Collection, Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara Museum of Art as well as in numerous university museums.
Also featured will be numerous other important American artists as well as some rarely seen works. Among the artists are Albright, P. Bacon, Bell, Biggers, Calapai, Catlett, Dehn, Drewes, Friedlander, Gropper, Landacre, Landeck, Lozowick, McVicker, B. Shahn, Henrietta Shore, Spruance, Turzak, Charles White, Hale Woodruff, William Zorach and many more.
This catalog, with over 120 images, is available for $5
For information contact:
M. Lee Stone Fine Prints, Inc.
2101 Forest Ave. Suite 130
San Jose, CA 95070