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Just Above the Mantelpiece"Just 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 "Honeybear"

Lee "We Can Twist"

J.H. Lynch "Nymph" (1975)

Dallas Simpson "Little Wayne and Bedraggled Dog" (1967)

Vladimir Tretchikoff "Miss Wong"


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