It has been a busy week for Rockwell Center Fellow S. Jaleen Grove. Yesterday she was in St. Louis, Missouri, to present a talk on innovative artist Robert Weaver; this Saturday, October 1, she will be in New York City to attend the opening of the exhibition Oscar Cahén: Canada’s Groundbreaking Illustrator, which she co-curated with Illustration House; and on Sunday, October 2, she returns to Norman Rockwell Museum to present the provocatively titled lecture “Sex, Booze, and All That Jazz: The Humorous Illustrations of Russell Patterson.”
Sunday’s illustrated lecture looks at the career of Russell Patterson (1893-1977), an influential artist, whose art deco style illustrations helped promote the idea of the 1920s and 1930s fashion style known as the flapper. According to Grove, the Patterson Girl, like the earlier Gibson Girl, “paradoxically symbolized both the excess and the containment of female sexuality in popular culture” during the Jazz Age. The artist’s girlie drawings were symptomatic of shifts in courtship, class behaviors, and commercial culture, and his work helped to redefine modern beauty standards and gender performance.
“Patterson’s illustrations were a response to a new norm, “ notes Ms. Grove. “Illustrators were faced with models’ unprecedented sexual and business autonomy. The tension between the sexes in his work is reflective of the displacement of illustrated print media by the camera and the very models he had helped promote. The increasing tawdriness of his depictions of women may be seen as an attempt to hang on to power by showing what the camera could not, as well as a misogynist mocking of the very sexuality his illustrations celebrate.”
Nevertheless, the artist’s work was widely imitated and famous in his day. “Patterson’s masterful black and white line drawings expressed the rebellious spirit of the Jazz Age so outrageously that they still charm—and raise eyebrows—today.” Apart from illustration, the artist was also successful creating interior design for such department stores as Marshall Field; costumes and set designs for Broadway shows and Hollywood movies; clothing designs for department stores and the Women’s Army Corps; in addition to designing hotel lobbies and restaurant interiors.
Admission to Sunday’s lecture costs $16, $12 for Museum members. Tea and refreshments will be served. To pre-register, please contact the Museum at 413.298.4100, ext. 221.
S. Jaleen Grove is a Ph.D. candidate at Stony Brook University, and the recipient of the 2011 Rockwell Center Dissertation Fellowship for a doctoral candidate pursuing research or projects in or relating to the subject field of American illustration art and visual studies. Visit her website: http://jaleengrove.blogspot.com
(special thanks to S. Jaleen Grove, Carrie Coleman, and Walt Reed, for supporting material used in this blog post)