Thursday, August 28, 2014

Great Find! A Study for Fasanella's "Dress Shop"

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.


  1. Imagine a City...

    Imagine a city where every home had on it's front lawn a piece of sculpture or an art installation.

    Imagine a city where each and every business invited artists to exhibit their work to the company's patrons.

    Imagine a city where instead of gifting clothing, electronics, chocolate, or cash, a work of art was given, and appreciated.

    Imagine a city where each and every home housed and preserved an art collection. Where insecurities over self-interests were dispensed with, and collections reflected those varied tastes.

    Imagine a city where glass, pottery, painting, photography. fibers, basketry, and even graffiti were embraced. Where the artists themselves were looked upon as a treasured resource. No matter their perspective.

    Imagine a city where any construction project involved multiple artists, in its' execution.

    Imagine a city which preserved its' creative heritage and embraced it.

    Imagine a city which understood, that capturing a slice of life had merit. But to alter a communities perspective to embrace all thought and belief, strengthened it, not weakened it.

    Imagine a city which led the World in cultural munificence which would then reap the reward of becoming a global mecca.

    Imagine a city which could step outside of what others were doing could walk the path of its' own making.

    Imagine a city where meetings to enact such change, needn't take place. Rather a spontaneous change came from its' citizenry itself.

    Imagine a city which artists flocked to; enabling them to create without fear of censorship or derision.

    Imagine a city not dependent upon their museums or art schools for their lead in any discussions of artistic merit, but rather the career artists themselves.

    I have imagined this city since childhood, as have most of my colleagues. Instead we've swum through muck, hoping such change would miraculously happen without distracting us from our labors. Or moved to the closest metropolis which appeared poised to take the plunge.

    Cleveland, like most cities, while not a blank canvas; is one, where the image it sports has faded beyond restoration. The time to paint over it has come. Shiny new unaesthetic buildings, are simply masking the rot.

    Marc Breed, Fine Artist

    "In the distant future, when America is a mere shadow of itself, who historically, shall be remembered? In sports, an argument can be made for Ruth, Chamberlain, Gretzky, Ali, et al. In Art, there is but one name, Breed."

    -Smithsonian Magazine

  2. Finally had a brief biography dedicated to a web-page:

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  4. Hello, my family is in possession of a few Fasanella originals since him and my grandfather were friends. Are you looking to expand your collection at the museum or elsewhere?

  5. Hi John. Feel free to email me at Thanks.


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