Thursday, August 28, 2014
As I have recounted here in an earlier post on this blog, Ralph Fasanella's 1972 painting "Dress Shop" (above) holds a special place of importance to me. Earlier this year I had a startling find that has enhanced our understanding of this great work.
In 1972, Ralph Fasanella became famous when New York Magazine featured him on its cover. I always wondered about the painting at his feet, which looked like a study for "Dress Shop," which I purchased for the Fenimore Art Museum in 1983. Although I first saw this cover image in 1981, I was never able to locate the little painting that looked so much like our large one.
Earlier this year I received an email from Tom Laemmel in Seattle informing me that he was the owner. He had inherited it from his parents, who had heard about Fasanella in 1972 and went to his first major exhibition that same year. Actually, Laemmel's mother sent his father to the exhibition with orders to buy one of the paintings. Laemmel picked the small study for "Dress Shop" because it would fit in their apartment.
Laemmel wanted to sell the work, and so of course I bought it for the museum. It shows how Fasanella was thinking about the dress shop where his mother worked in the 1920s. The most interesting aspect about the work is that there is no trace of politics anywhere. Later, when he got into the larger work, Fasanella included quite a few social and political references in the windows of the shop to indicate the workers' awareness of the world around them.
It's always interesting and telling to see what an artist realizes over time, and how great works evolve. Now we have tangible evidence of the making of this masterpiece.