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Aline Fruhauf: The Face of Music II

Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery
January 15, 2002
May 14, 2002

Introduction

New York-born Aline Fruhauf (1907–1978) had a more subtle approach to caricature than the pointed sarcasm one typically associates with the genre. Her interest was sparked in high school, when she became aware of the drawings of Hollywood actors appearing in movie magazines as the vogue for celebrity caricature was gaining momentum in the 1920s.1 In particular she was attracted to the work of Ralph Barton (1891–1931), whose humorous drawings were published in Vanity Fair and Judge, among others. In the habit of sending fan mail, she sent Barton an admiring letter and soon became a regular visitor to his Manhattan apartment. Barton introduced the young Fruhauf to the elegant illustrations of the Bloomsbury caricaturist Max Beerbohm (1872–1956), which also made a lasting impression. Through Barton’s influence she began to realize that “caricature was not only a respectable form of art but also a valuable way of documenting human beings,” as she recalled in her posthumously published memoirs, Making Faces.2

Her first attempts were portraits of movie stars painted on shirt boards which she sent to their subjects in exchange for autographed photos, and classroom doodles of her impressions of theatrical performances. Her first caricature appeared in the New York World in 1926 while she was still a student at the Parsons School of Design. With this leap to professional status, Fruhauf began peddling her drawings of the theater world to the New York dailies and landed a regular column in The Morning Telegraph a year later. That same year she began a seven-year stint caricaturing musicians for the pages of Musical America when its regular contributor resigned. Fruhauf, who always made sketches from life, soon realized that concert audiences were not receptive to her “scratching sessions” as she called them, and began attending press conferences and arranging private sittings. One of the perks of her job was that some subjects would play for her. Such was the case with Maurice Ravel, whom she described as “the most congenial celebrity I have ever drawn.” George Gershwin was another composer who played while she sketched him. In 1928 the artist was assigned to capture his likeness on the occasion of his premiere of An American in Paris with the New York Philharmonic.

Growing dissatisfied with the stultifying approach to drawing known as “Dynamic Symmetry” [sic] taught at Parsons, Fruhauf enrolled in 1930 in the Art Students League studying under Boardman Robinson (life drawing), Kenneth Hayes Miller (painting), and Charles Locke (lithography). This prepared her for the transition from the caricatures she had been publishing in the newspapers, when the demand for them ended after the fall of the stock market, to exhibiting and selling her work in galleries. She was approached by a dealer of old prints who asked her to do a series on legal figures inspired by the nineteenth-century British prototypes by satirists known as Ape and Spy. These drawings were transformed into prints using a new offset process called photo-gelatin. One of her most successful prints from this series was of the Supreme Court justices, The Nine Old Men (1936), which became popular in Washington and sold for many years at an antiques shop in Georgetown.

During the 1930s Fruhauf was publishing regularly in theater and art magazines. A series of caricatures on artists and art dealers appeared in Creative Art in 1933. She also joined the graphics division of the Federally funded Works Progress Administration (WPA), which further honed her lithographic skills. More importantly, the WPA experience enabled her to meet and mingle with many of the emerging New York artists whom she caricatured in a new series of lithographs entitled Artists at Work, exhibited at the ACA Gallery in 1938. Her subjects included Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Max Weber, and Raphael Soyer, among others. The artists were followed with a series on New York fashion designers. Fruhauf often incorporated elements of their profession or showed her subjects at work to add depth to the caricature portrait. As we see in this exhibition, she was adept at depicting a group of occupationally related subjects, a formula which became a leitmotif of her career.

Fruhauf, who by then had two young daughters, moved to Bethesda when her husband was posted to the Naval Medical Center in 1944. Soon afterwards she contacted one of her lithography classmates from New York, Prentiss Taylor, who had moved to the area and was a prominent figure in the local art scene. He arranged an exhibition of her caricatures at the main branch of the D.C. Public Library and rekindled her interest in lithography. In 1950 Fruhauf exhibited a series on artists of Washington which included Taylor and the late Jacob Kainen, then Curator of Graphic Arts at the Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology. Six years later she was approached by the music critic for the Washington Star to do a series devoted to music in Washington. He had been impressed with the lithographs of Ravel, Stravinsky, Gershwin, and Rachmaninoff which Fruhauf drew in 1954 based on caricatures published earlier in Musical America and the Musical Courier.

While the artist series had been executed in oil, Fruhauf decided to use encaustic, a technique dating back to the ancient Egyptian mummy portraits from Faiyum, for the musicians. To achieve similar effects, a mixture of pigment, beeswax and turpentine was heated and brushed on a masonite base prepared with gesso. When partially dry the “paint” had to be fused to the surface using an infra-red light. Fruhauf gave a fascinating account of her trials with the medium in Making Faces, and mentioned that the harp of Sylvia Meyer, who played with the National Symphony, was painted in pure gold and burnished, “renaissance-style, with a wedge-shaped piece of polished agate.” One of the advantages of the waxy encaustic was that she could scratch through its surface with a fingernail to create white outlines and accents. The 24 paintings of conductors, composers, critics and musicians were exhibited at the Dupont Theatre Art Gallery in November 1957 as The Face of Music in Washington. At the opening, Prentiss Taylor and another friend sent her a bouquet of flowers made out of wax. The show was so popular that it was extended for several months and traveled to the Baltimore Museum of Art a year later.

Aline Fruhauf remained a dedicated caricaturist, often revisiting some of her favorite subjects in different media, such as Maurice Ravel, George Gershwin, Martha Graham, Igor Stravinsky and Alice Longworth. Later in her career she focused on lithography and woodcut; and the “Peggy Bacon of Washington,” as one critic called her, was honored with solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian in 1966 and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1977.

The encaustic portraits were donated by the artist’s husband, Erwin Vollmer, in 1982 and hung for many years in the hallway of the Library’s administrative offices.

LuLen Walker
Art Collection Coordinator

 

Notes

  1. For a thorough discussion of this phenomenon, see Wendy Wick Reaves with Pie Friendly, Celebrity Caricature in America (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, in association with Yale University Press: New Haven and London, 1998), especially Chapter 8 and the description of Fruhauf’s career on page 191.
  2. Aline Fruhauf, Making Faces, ed. Erwin Vollmer (Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press, 1987).

Milton Berliner
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Milton Berliner (1907-1993) was a music critic and political reporter for The Washington Daily News. Berliner graduated from Harvard and Columbia University School of Journalism. He was an avid fencer and tennis player, as indicated by the props in Fruhauf’s depiction.

Elmira Bier
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Elmira Bier (1896-1976) spent forty-nine years working at the Phillips Collection, including as the personal secretary to Duncan Phillips. She served as Director of Music at the gallery, overseeing the weekly concert series that began in the 1930s and opened to the public in 1941.

Paul Smith Callaway
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Paul Smith Callaway (1909-1995) was organist and choir master of the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (“Washington National Cathedral”) (1939-42 and 1946-77); first music director of the Washington Opera Society; conductor of the Cathedral Choral Society which he organized in 1942. Callaway taught at St. Alban’s School, the National Cathedral’s school for boys.

Robert Evett
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Robert Evett (1922-1975) was a composer, and book and music critic for the New Republic magazine. Evett’s music was performed at the National Gallery of Art by pianist Harry McClure, who was also caricatured by Aline Fruhauf for this series.

Paul Hume
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Paul Hume (1915-2001) was music critic for The Washington Post (1947-82); taught music history at Georgetown University (1950-77); was a visiting professor of music at Yale University (1978-83); was host to programs on WGMS-FM; and was a noted author and musician. In his farewell article for the Post, Hume spoke of “the privilege . . . of writing about what is for me the most beautiful of the arts in a newspaper that has cared about the growth of the arts in a city whose public has been responsive, friendly and helpfully corrective.” (November 27, 2001; B01) Hume is widely remembered for his review of a 1950 vocal performance by Margaret Truman that provoked an angry handwritten reply from her father, the President. Georgetown University’s Special Collections preserves the Paul Hume Papers.

Harry McClure
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Emerson Meyers
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Emerson Meyers (1910-1990) was a composer and pianist who performed with the National Symphony Orchestra and the National Gallery Orchestra; professor emeritus of Catholic University of America; and early composer of electronic music. Meyers won a Fulbright scholarship to study music in Belgium in 1955-56 and directed the Watergate Pops concerts in 1957.

Sylvia Meyer
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Sylvia Meyer (b. 1907) was a nationally known harpist for the National Symphony Orchestra from 1933 to 1968, and the first woman to perform with the NSO. She performed at the National Gallery of Art about the same time Fruhauf painted her for this series.

Howard Mitchell
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Howard Mitchell (1911-1988) was director and conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra from 1949-70. Howard Mitchell is remembered for expanding the number and variety of the orchestra’s output of recordings, including three series widely used in school classrooms.

Robert Parris
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Robert Parris (1924-1999) was a composer, pianist, and professor at George Washington University. Born in Philadelphia, Robert Parris attended the University of Pennsylvania and Juilliard School of Music. He worked with Aaron Copland and Jacques Ibert at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, and with Arthur Honegger in Paris on a Fulbright grant in 1952. His Concerto for Tympani and Orchestra was performed by the National Symphony Orchestra under Howard Mitchell in 1958.

Theodore Schaefer
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Deane Shure
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Deane Shure (1885-1962) was a composer of choral works, instrumental and vocal instructor. Shure received his undergraduate degree at Oberlin and his doctoral degree in music at The American University (1952). He was a correspondent for Musical America and Music Courier, and published more than a hundred musical compositions. Beginning in 1921 he served as choir director at Mount Vernon Methodist Church.

LaSalle Spier
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

George Steiner
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Violinist George Steiner was associate concert master of the National Symphony Orchestra; concert master of the National Gallery Orchestra; and chair of the music department at George Washington University, where he is now Professor Emeritus in Residence. He was born in Baltimore where he graduated from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and Johns Hopkins University.

Day Thorpe
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Day Thorpe (1914-1982) was educated at Yale University. He founded a weekly newspaper in Montgomery County in 1939, and during the Second World War worked in the office of Censorship. For twenty-two years he worked as the music and literary critic for The Washington Evening Star. He co-founded the old Opera Society of Washington, and was a board member of Washington Cathedral Choral Society. (Thorpe asked Aline Fruhauf to do this series on Washington musicians.)

Pierson Underwood
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

Pierson Underwood (b. 1896?), former board chairman of WGMS radio station, grew up in Evanston, Illinois and studied at Yale, Harvard, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, and the Art Students League. One of the original members of the staff of Time, Inc., he was also a free-lance writer for magazines such as The Bookman, and contributed to music textbooks. At the time this portrait was painted, Underwood was a prominent member of The League of Washington Composers and president of The Greater Washington Music Council.

The Reverend Russell Woollen
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1957
Encaustic on masonite
14 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

The Reverend Russell Woollen (1923-1994) was a pianist, organist, harpsichordist, and composer; staff keyboard artist for the National Symphony Orchestra; and professor at The Catholic University of America (1948-62) and Howard University (1969-74). A native of Hartford, Connecticut, the Reverend Woollen studied music with Nicholas Nabakov and Walter Piston. His works include Toccata for Orchestra, first played by the National Symphony Orchestra in 1957, Quartet for Flute and Strings, recorded by Transition Records, Inc., as well as several published masses and organ pieces. The Reverend Woollen had recently returned from a four month concert and lecture tour in Central and South America when Aline Fruhauf made this caricature.

An original manuscript by Woollen is on display in Lauinger Library’s nearby Leon Robbin Gallery.

Georgetown House
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1959
Lithograph
17 5/8 x 13 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

One of the first paintings Fruhauf made after moving to the Washington area was of a house she admired in Georgetown that reminded her of the quirky drawings of Charles Addams in the New Yorker. She was so taken with it that she made this lithograph from the painting twelve years later.

Alice Longworth
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1971
Woodcut
10 x 4 inches

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

Known as “the other Washington Monument,” popular socialite Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980) was the daughter of president Theodore Roosevelt, and wife of Ohio Congressman and Speaker of the House Nicholas Longworth. Mrs. Longworth had posed for Aline Fruhauf in 1949 for her series on Washington Artists. Although she was neither an artist nor a museum director, Longworth was included in the series at the suggestion of Franz Bader, manager of the Whyte Gallery and organizer of the exhibition. For the sitting, the artist was invited to lunch at Longworth’s home and make sketches, but Fruhauf was never satisfied with the results.

“I worked on the caricature up to the very last minute, filling wastebaskets full of drawings that didn't look anything like Alice Longworth. The details of the room, however, were catalogue perfect and I did an excellent job on her legs and feet.” (210) Twenty-one years later, Fruhauf glimpsed Longworth walking away from her house on Massachusetts Avenue to a waiting car, which inspired this woodcut:

“Her back view was just as unmistakably hers and was decidedly worth drawing. Eventually I made a pen-and-ink drawing of it and later a woodcut. A print of the woodcut was included in the annual exhibition of the Society of Washington Printmakers in December 1971. It came to her attention, and I was told that she was gleefully autographing prints of it around town.” (242-43)

Quotes are from Making Faces, ed. Erwin Vollmer (Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press, 1987).

Self-Portrait
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1966
Woodcut
3 1/2 x 3 inches

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

Deems Taylor
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1960
Woodcut
7 x 5 inches

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

Composer Joseph Deems Taylor (1885-1966) had more of his pieces performed by the Metropolitan Opera than any other contemporary composer of operas. He was also a music critic and author; and a commentator in the film Fantasia (1941). Fruhauf’s boss on Musical America, Taylor had posed twice for the artist: once in 1936 when he came to see her exhibition of New York designers, and again in 1943 at the dedication of the George Gershwin papers at the Library of Congress. In 1960 she translated her caricature into a woodcut. She recalled that Taylor’s appearance had not changed much since she knew him in the 30s. She described the image as “a leprechaun in a mackintosh, but the print gave him the decided air of a gentleman from Japan, or at least Titipu.” Nevertheless, she sent Taylor a proof of the print, stamped with the han (her signature chop mark). In his thank-you letter Taylor wrote that “It’s one of the cutest caricatures I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m very glad you ‘got around’ to doing it.” (237-38)

Quotes are from Making Faces, ed. Erwin Vollmer (Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press, 1987).

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

Aaron’s Rod
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1962
Woodcut
10 x 3 inches

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

Life Drawing Class
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1931
Lithograph
7 x 10 inches

Gift of Erwin Vollmer

This is a rare lithograph made while Fruhauf was studying at the Art Students League. It is possible that the figure sketching at the second to the left is a self-portrait.

George Gershwin
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1954
Photolithograph
13 x 8 3/8 inches

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

Fruhauf first met George Gershwin on the occasion of his premiere of An American in Paris in December 1928, which she covered for Musical America. However, when she got to his apartment for the sitting, his appearance presented an unforeseen problem:

“He was slender, athletic-looking, with a dark rosy complexion and a very easy, unassuming manner. For some reason I couldn’t fathom, he didn’t look anything like his photographs. I soon realized, however, that his hair, instead of being smooth, stuck straight up, inches high, into the air. I told him he looked different from what I expected. ‘I know,’ he said ‘it’s my hair; I just washed it.’ ” (110-11)

The image she eventually published, entitled Mr. Gershwin Sets the Pace, showed him darting across the stage for his curtain call at Carnegie Hall.

Quotes are from Making Faces, ed. Erwin Vollmer (Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press, 1987).

Sergei Rachmaninoff
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1954
Photolithograph
8 x 7 inches

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

“When Rachmaninoff opened the door for me at his apartment, he was so tall his head barely cleared the doorway. Very solemnly, he ushered me into a dark living room with heavy draperies, dark furniture, and innumerable framed photographs. He sat at the piano, fixed his somber gaze on a photograph of a little girl, and lifted his hands before playing; then came a thunderous cataract of sound. Something by Rachmaninoff, I pinched myself. He didn’t say much. It was a short sitting.” (104)

Quotes are from Making Faces, ed. Erwin Vollmer (Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press, 1987).

Maurice Ravel
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1954
Photolithograph
12 3/4 x 8 1/8 inches

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

Fruhauf drew Ravel at a press conference at New York’s St. Moritz hotel. She described him as:

“a little man with an angular, ruddy face, black brows, small alert eyes, and a casque of beautifully waved white hair. His cheek bones were high, his nose was good-sized and bony, his mouth was small and noncommittal, and he had large, well-shaped ears without lobes. …He was good natured about posing and had no apparent personal vanity. …He told the press he was scared to death of American cooking, especially of the fruit salads served at banquets, but thought our red bananas were first rate.” (105)

Quotes are from Making Faces, ed. Erwin Vollmer (Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press, 1987).

Igor Stravinsky
Fruhauf, Aline, 1907-1978
1954
Photolithograph
10 5/8 x 7 inches

Gift of Roderick S. Quiroz

Aline Fruhauf had two encounters with Stravinsky, both at press conferences. The first meeting in New York resulted in a brush drawing published in Musical America in 1934. The second occasion was when he came to Washington to conduct his first opera, Le Rossignol, in 1960. This photolithograph was based on the earlier, published drawing. Fruhauf vividly recalled her first impression of Stravinsky:

“He was a small man with broad shoulders, a slim waist, and a propulsive profile. At first his long, ovoid head suggested an Aztec carving; then it became a blanched almond. At the first meeting, Stravinsky’s hair was beautifully groomed, I was sure, with a pair of military brushes. He was well turned out in gray flannels, a chocolate-brown cardigan, a dray striped shirt with a white collar, and a brown foulard tie with copper dots. And his image was punctuated by a large onyx ring on his right hand, pointed black shoes, and a cigarette in a long, black holder.” (227)

Quotes are from Making Faces, ed. Erwin Vollmer (Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press, 1987).