Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pearl Blauvelt

Superficially, this entry doesn't appear to be directly related to magazines but, in fact, it is. Since this blog is my personal and exclusive forum, cut me a little slack, read on and you'll see what I mean.

Thanks to the interests of my "significant other" Katherine Mitchell, we just attended the annual "2009 Outsider Art Fair" in NYC and purchased three drawings from the Maxwell Projects Gallery by someone who I had never heard of before, a women named Pearl Blauvelt. Mrs. Blauvelt (1893-1987) was a reclusive reprobate who lived in northern Pennsylvania. After she was placed in a nursing home, a box full of 800 of her drawings was found in her home. The uniquely untrained and primitive style attracted attention from the outsider art community and some of these drawings are now in the permanent collection of MOMA in Manhattan (a nice little review and additional information and images can be found at

So how does all this relate to magazines? Pearl Blauvelt spent a good portion of her later life drawing images of what she saw- among them catalog pages, store shelves, common objects around her home and landscape images from her travels- essentially her own visual magazine. The word "magazine" means a storehouse and Blauvelt's work is a quintessential example of its use. Her work is a magazine of her life, serenpiditously discovered and appreciated long after it was done.

Here are the blauvelt drawings we purchased followed by other wonder illustrative examples from my collection. Pardon me for this little regression into sentimentality and philosophy, but this blog is my magazine.

Many other magazine "illustrators" are quite famous for capturing images of American life. Winslow Homer, Frederick Remington and Norman Rockwell first come to mind. While these are through a more traditional eye, the concept is quite the same, capturing for posterity images of life and popular culture otherwise undocumented.

I found this at a paper show some years ago. It is a completely unrecorded image by Winslow Homer in a virtually unknown periodical. It does not appear in any Homer bibliography, publicly reproduced here for the first time.
addendum: the image below led me to Professor David Frederick Tatham of Syracuse Unversity (presently teaching in England), the foremost authority on the works of Winslow Homer. He kindly informed me that this illustration was first published in a book. I reproduce his e-mail here:
The image is indeed Homer's work but it had previously been published as a book illustration. The book is: Vieux Moustache [pseudonym for Clarence Gordon], That Good Old Time or, Our Fresh and Salt Tutors, published by Hurd & Houghton in (as I recall 1867 or 1868). It went through several printings, one as late as 1870. I would be more definite about the details if I were in Syracuse but I'm in London this semester. You'll find a little discussion of the illustrations in my book Winslow Homer and the Illustrated Book (Syracuse University Press). I had known of the reuse of the illustration in the Young Sportsman. Very interesting.
My sincere thanks to Professor Tatham: as I said, knowledge is the key to collecting magazines.

To return to the "amateur" theme of this entry, I fell in love with this magazine the minute I saw it. It is a little periodical of children's stories, probably the only surviving copy. I will let the hand-written note inside the front cover speak for itself.

"this little magazine was started, as you can see, in October 1910 by Beatrice Beck, daughter of James M. Beck, old friend of my father (Wm M. Gilbert) & attorney general of the U.S., later ambassador to the court of St. James.

The magazine "folded" after a month as Beatrice & her friends found out they couldn't run a magazine & do their homework too- "

Harriet Gilbert Bucklee

White Plains, N.Y.

addendum: After reading this entry, my "S.O" Katherine became interested in this magzine and its young publisher Beatrice Beck. With a few hours of research online (The New York Times being the best overall source) a most interesting and convuluted story emerged. The young Ms. Beck, daughter of the Ambassador, was presented before the court of Saint James in 1922. She was married twice and had four children (two by each husband), and hobnobbed in all the best social circles in New York society. Her second, more long-lasting marriage was to Colonel Snowden Fahnestock (whose first wife committed suicide after their divorce). In later life she wrote a memoir of her life entitled "Look Back With Joy. Reminiscinces of the Twenties Through the Sixties", available through Her daughter, Lee Fahnestock, is a prominent and well-respected literary translator. Ms. Beck Fahnestock died in 1980, seventy years of fruitful life after her brief, yet productive, foray into magazine publishing.
Fortunately, her "silver spoon" status as a child enabled the publication of her little children's magazine and made this cute little upshot from a purchase of a piece of ephemera possible. We wonder if her family knows about it and perhaps we can contact them. We'll keep you posted!


Anonymous said...

Steve - Pearl Blauvelt's work fits right into your collection. Have you alerted the Winslow Homer museum about your enchanting find?

Anonymous said...

I happened upon your blog, and am pleased to see that Pearl's work is being collected by people such as yourself. It was my husband and I who discovered her work in 2001.

d. corrigan