Mid 20th Century Misery

SUBHEAD: An update by Stevan Dohanos of Norman Rockwell's nostalgic illustrations for the 1950's.

By Cory Doctorow on 11 September 2015 for Boing Boing -

Image above: Detail of Stevan Dohanos painting "Backup Collision" taking place in what seems to be Levittown, Long Island. From original article. See also (https://americangallery.wordpress.com/category/dohanos-stevan/).

Dohanos was a prolific American painter and illustrator with over 125 Saturday Evening Post covers to his credit.

The mid-century commercial painters had all sorts of weird quirks. Consider Art Frahm, who specialized in women carrying celery whose underwear elastics had failed catastrophically, resulting in knickers around their ankles.

Image above: Detail of Stevan Dohanos painting "Food Fair, Philadelphia" show the "abundance" of packaged food in post WW2 America. From original article.

But Donahos's speciality was, in its own way, weirder. In an era known for its grinning families and cheerful scenes, Donahos often painted discontents.

Sometimes it was just in the slumped set of a boy's shoulders as his father sat him down for a heart-to-heart in the chicken coop; more often, it was in the indefinable angst on the faces of his subjects.

Looking at Donahos's work, I could easily believe that it was simulacra: a contemporary painter creating a fake body of work for an imaginary mid-century commercial artist who snuck desperate signs of anomie into his work, crying for help from behind his easel.

But no, Donahos was the real thing, painting -- and selling -- works that showed the hidden anxiety of the Father Knows Best set.

Stevan Dohanos (1907 – 1994)

Detail of Stevan Dohanos painting "After Dinner Dishes" illustrates a woman's frustration at the end of a long day anywhere in America. From original article.


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