Tuesday, 18 June 2013

WARRING WITH TROLLS, part 4


"To live is to war with trolls." --Ibsen 

Talented illustrator Austin Briggs painted a NY Giants baseball game for the April 22, 1950 cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

This is not that painting:


Briggs' cover included  an African American woman in the crowd.  When he delivered the painting to The Post,  the editors ordered him to remove her.  Infuriated, Briggs refused.  He broke the painting in half over his knee and stormed out.

As reported in the Westport blog 06880, Briggs' model for the woman was Fanny Drain, a long time employee of the Briggs family.   Briggs' son recalled:
When the Giants were playing she and my father-- whose studio was at home-- would follow the radio broadcasts avidly and vocally; her pride and pleasure in being included in the cover painting were deep.
The Post quickly found another illustrator, Steven Dohanos, to repaint Briggs' cover, replacing the African American woman with a white male (the one with a handkerchief on his head).  That is the final version you see above.

The Post loved the result so much, they even released the all white version as a jigsaw puzzle for wholesome families to play.


Briggs' gesture of defiance was expensive for his family, but once the cover was destroyed, there was no going back.  Briggs never regretted his decision.

It is difficult to imagine such an impetuous act of conscience occurring today.  If he was painting today, Briggs would no longer be able to break his picture over his knee because the digital art would've been emailed to the magazine, with multiple copies on his hard drive at home.  The Saturday Evening Post would not have to ask Briggs to paint out the African American woman; they would Photoshop a white complexion on her without the artist's permission in 30 seconds. 

The wonderful efficiencies of Photoshop help eliminate some of the nasty moral choices that once confronted an artist.  We live in a much more efficient world today.  But in the words of Epicetus, "It is difficulties that show what men are."