Above the Mantelpiece: Mass-Market Masterpieces"
by Wayne Hemingway, 2000
If you have lived
through the middle of the 20th century, you, no doubt, have seen many of
the paintings featured in "Just Above the Mantelpiece." They
are the pictures of big-eyed children, sad puppies and kitties, horses
running across beaches, or half-naked tropical beauties painted on black
velvet, all bought to add a little culture to drab suburban homes. Most
of these prints were created by people who felt making a quick buck was
better than suffering in the name of “Art.” To them, making artwork accessible
and inexpensive was a higher goal than being remembered in art history
books. Rather than having to buy these works at high-end galleries, people
would only have to go as far as their local discount store. In the decades
that followed, these paintings have been seen as everything from tacky
reminders of consumer culture to pillars of kitsch and camp. This modern
view doesn’t please author Wayne Hemingway. As he says in the introduction,
“I have see (mass-market art) celebrated in a post-modernist ironic way
and I have been saddened by its inclusion in kitsch iconography. Let’s
not celebrate it for these reasons. Value deserves to be restored to a
genre derided by certain members of the art elite and respect should be
given to artist whose work broadened the horizons of collecting to reach
the working class, making this art form available to a wider public than
ever before.” So, rather than this book being a derisive look at the genre,
Hemingway presents these works in loving way without being blind to the
irony that surrounds them. In fact, he includes some removable pictures
in the book that are all set for framing. Without much effort you can have
a house full of these masterpieces.
Below is a gallery of
some of the paintings in "Just Above the Mantelpiece."
Margaret Keane "Very Softly" (1963)
Lee "We Can Twist"
J.H. Lynch "Nymph" (1975)
Dallas Simpson "Little Wayne and Bedraggled Dog"
Vladimir Tretchikoff "Miss Wong"
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