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TOBACCO ROAD Mid 20th Century Realism 1940 Drawing from the Novel WPA Literary 2

1939

About the Item

TOBACCO ROAD Mid 20th Century Realism 1940 Drawing from the Novel WPA Literary 2 10 1/2 x 6 (sight), Signed David Fredenthal lower right. Framed by Lowy. Offered here is one of several original drawings by WPA artist David Fredenthal that were first published in the 1940 illustrated edition of the novel TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell. Background on the Drawing Erskine Caldwell remarked, on seeing the work of David Fredenthal, 26-year-old painter: "That boy could draw my Tobacco Road people." A casual comment, it was enormously productive. The young painter was just finishing a two-year Guggenhcim Fellowship, preceded by a year's study in Paris, two one-man shows at New York's Downtown Gallery, and a fellowship at the Cranbrook Academy near Detroit. He was out in Colorado Springs when he heard what Caldwell had said about him. Fredenthal hadn't read Tobacco Road. He had not even seen the play - now breaking all records in its seventh year on Broadway. But he swapped a portrait for a second-hand Ford and headed East. In New York he learned that Dnell, Sloan & Pearce were bringing out a deluxe edition of Tobacco Road. But he had no entrée to the publishers, and Caldwell, to his disappointment, was out of town. So he drove on to Georgia to have a look at the Tobacco Road people. He found Dr. I. C. Caldwell, the author's father, in Wrens, Ga., going on his ministerial rounds among people like the Lesters. Fredenthal got a room from a couple who ran a 1-pump filling station—and stayed two months. He is a direct and unaffected person, not a prober into social problems. He asked no questions - just looked. At night he stopped at the town's bar, sat at a corner table, and drew what he had seen that day: sick people, unable to mend because of lack of nourishment; an old palsied woman picking peas to get money for the medicine the doctor ordered: families housed five in a room - plus a cur dog or two; families at table; men skinning down a pig; women gathering fire woods; some just settin', or making away with a jug of corn. These drawings he sent back to Caldwell. Caldwell turned them over to the publishers, who sent for the artist and ordered 40-odd pen and ink drawings and six in color to illustrate the text. When the publishers said some of the finished drawings were too raw—contained too many buttocks—Caldwell said: "Give the kid a free hand. He's seen it. He knows what he's drawing." The publication of the new edition of Tobacco Road. on Nov. 8 is a moment of triumph for young Fredenthal. He grabbed the ball and ran off ahead of a field of Bentons and Woods and many bcttcr-known artist-illustrators. Now he likes to illustrate books. Books about elemental people. He can draw from vivid memories: sailors on the Great Lakes, freighters, men on the Ford Plant assembly line, denizens of flop houses where he lived when distributing Christmas cards for $4 a week. He can draw his fellow C.C.C. workers in the first gang to go out in '33 - laying lines, building roads and state parks, fighting fire. Like most artists, Fredenthal is a hopelessly bad businessman and always broke. "Anyway", he says, "there's a regular pay check to be had from the army - if it has to come to that “ - Maude Riley CUE - The Weekly Magazine of New York Life (vol. 9 #46, Nov. 1940) David Fredenthal (1914 - 1958) was one ot America's most respected watercolor artists. He was famous tor his bold, intensely vigorous and complex paintings and drawings that expressed his deep feeling for excitement with life and living. He was a brilliant natural draftsman with a special gift for catching anything, physically and emotionally on the spot, and he never went anywhere without three or four loaded pens and a sketchbook in his pocket. As part of the WPA project he executed a number of murals including Five large panels in fresco under the Federal Art Project in the Brodhead Naval Armory, Detroit, MI, 1937. The Sports Pavilion on the Heinz Building of the New York World's Fair 1939. Some of his fresco and mural techniques were inspired by his friendship with Diego Rivera who had admired and encouraged him in the early1930's. After he won a traveling scholarship to Europe from The Museum of Modern Art at age 19, he was the recipient of two Guggenheim grants in Painting. He had his first solo exhibition at the Downtown Gallery in New York in 1937 atage 23 and many others after that including the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1947. Because of Fredenthal's prodigious drawing gifts, he was chosen by Erskine Caldwell to illustrate his novel “Tobacco Road” in 1940. He was a War Artist Correspondent for both the State Department (the European and Asian fronts) and Life magazine from 1943 to 1946 and his work was featured in Life Magazine regularly during the war and after until the end of his life. Also featured in Life in 1956 were drawings that Fredenthal had vividly recorded on his sketch pad, of the entire filming of the movie, “The Pride and the Passion,” starring Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, and Frank Sinatra, along the treacherous mountain passes of Spain. Though he was fiercely committed to an art that expressed deeply human social values and issues and was quite hostile to abstraction, he was friendly with a number of abstract artists such as David Smith, Ad Reinhardt, Philip Guston, Paul Feeley, and Herman Cherry and was very admired and respected by them as one of art history's great draftsmen.
  • Attributed to:
    David Fredenthal (1914-1958, American)
  • Creation Year:
    1939
  • Dimensions:
    Height: 21 in (53.34 cm)Width: 16 in (40.64 cm)Depth: 2 in (5.08 cm)
  • Medium:
  • Movement & Style:
  • Period:
  • Condition:
  • Gallery Location:
    New York, NY
  • Reference Number:
    1stDibs: LU115629761692
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