Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The 1600 Anniversary

1600 posts~
Who'da Thought It?

So, today I'm going to talk about PBN.
For those of you not in the PBN 'community' (and unbelievably,there IS one), 
I'm referring to PAINT BY NUMBERS

Several years ago in a weak moment I purchased a set of canvas boards printed in iconic PBN images.  Then I took the paint cups and moved all the numbers around so they didn't correspond to where they should be.  In other words I was painting large areas with paint that should have just been used as highlights.  A sea was magenta, clouds were yellows.  It was lots of fun, but I ran out of steam before I finished the 
 gondolas and canals, probably because I knew it wasn't going anywhere.  BUT what did happen is I became infatuated with the damn paintings!  So this is sort of all the stuff I never bothered to find out while I was playing with it!  I LOVE the contemporary manipulations you'll find towards the bottom.   


Paint by Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950s, at the Nat'l Museum of American History.  To announce the opening of the exhibition, a banner with a paint-by-number line-art image was installed and painted near the Museum's Mall entrance. The image, determined by a survey of visitors' preferences in pictures, will be painted daily until completed-about one week.  
National Museum of American History  from April 6, 2001 through January 7, 2002.

1962 living room decorated with clowns

Max S. Klein
 Back in 1951, the Palmer Paint Co. in Detroit made the world think they could paint their own masterpieces simply by matching paint color to a corresponding number.  They continue to make PBN sets and you can find them at the online link above, though I didn't find it worked very well. The making of the fad is attributed to Max S. Klein, owner of Palmer Paint and to artist Dan Robbins, who conceived the idea and created many of the initial paintings. Palmer Paint began distributing paint-by-number kits under the Craft Master label in 1951. By 1954, Palmer had sold some twelve million kits. Popular subjects ranged from landscapes, seascapes, and pets to Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. Paint-kit box tops proclaimed, "Every man a Rembrandt!"
Dan RobbinsDan Robbins proposed that Palmer's first paint-by-number kit be an abstract painting rendered in the cubist style pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. It later proved that adult consumers attracted to the by-the-numbers concept disdained abstract compositions, preferring the narrative realism of Fishermen, Mt. Matterhorn, Latin Figures, and The Bullfighter.

Andy Warhol. Do It Yourself Flowers). 1962. Crayon on paper. Lent by the Sonnabend Gallery.

A "real-time data translator" machine converted Mariner 4 digital image data into numbers printed on strips of paper. Too anxious to wait for the official processed image, employees from the Voyager Telecommunications Section attached these strips side by side to a display panel and hand colored the numbers like a paint-by-numbers picture. The completed image was framed and presented to JPL director, William Pickering. Mariner 4 was launched on November 28, 1964 

By the end of the 1950s, paint by number was taking on a new life as a metaphor. It became a symbol of mechanical performance and mass culture. It was invoked to describe the kind of politics and merchandising ruled by opinion polls and market surveys. Pop art adopted paint by number in the early 1960s as part of its commentary on popular culture. By the early 1990s the paint-by-number phenomenon had come full circle, as the paintings themselves again became collectible. Today, paint by number continues to be decorative, ironic-and even artistic.

Paint by Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950s revisits the hobby from the vantage point of the artists and entrepreneurs who created the popular paint kits, the cultural critics who reviled them, and the hobbyists who happily completed them and hung them in their homes. Although many critics saw "number painting" as a symbol of the mindless conformity gripping 1950s America, paint by number had a peculiarly American virtue. It invited people who had never before held a paintbrush to enter a world of art and creativity.
AND some people that did know what they were doing:
martin mul
Martin Mull

Home, Sweet Hom

David Stark 9
David Stark

Don Baum



Sept. 58 Mad Magazine

Last Supper kit, probably the most parodied 
Including this Speegle.

Take-offs from PBN, and oddities:
shrinky sinks, mosaics, puffy paint to get 3-D pictures,pencil and stained glass!  Oh my.

Recently displayed Don Baum work.  He developed a 'sandwich' technique where he used multiple PBNs, both completed and in progress.

In 1992 Paul Bridgewater's Bridgewater/Lustberg Gallery in New York City exhibited the paint-by-number collection of screenwriter Michael O'Donoghue, whose enthusiasm for the hobby inspired a new interest in collecting and exhibiting the paintings.
After O'Donoghue's passing in 1994 the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History exhibited many key pieces from O'Donoghue's collection, now owned by Trey Speegle, along with works from other collectors in 2001. Since then, the vintage kits and paintings have experienced a resurgence through yard sales and eBay auctions.
Here is an interview with Speegle showing the collection

And another showing the bckdrops he did for a Stella McCartney show

A closer look at the Speegle backdrop
In 2008, a private collector in Massachusetts assembled over 6,000 paint by number works dating back to the 1950s from eBay and other American collectors to create the Paint By Number Museum, the world's largest online archive of paint by number works.
In 2011, The Museum of Modern Art in New York accepted four early designs of Paint by Number by Max Klein for its Department of Architecture and Design, donated by Jacquelyn Schiffman.
In May 2011, the original inventors of paint by numbers, Dan Robbins and Palmer Paint Products, Inc., together developed and brought to market a new 60th anniversary paint by number set.[3] This collectors set was created in memory of the survivors and those who had lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and depicts the Twin Towers standing in spirit across the Manhatan skyline. A portion of the proceeds of this set is being donated to the charitable organization Voices of September 11th.
Paint by number has been used as a metaphor for decision-making based on opinion polls. Russian migr artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid adapted that idea to devise a new way of painting "by numbers." Beginning in 1993 they conducted telephone surveys to discover Americans' taste in art. They then used the survey data as the basis for two paintings: America's Most Wanted and America's Most Unwanted. These embodiments of popular taste have a standardized look familiar to anyone who has contemplated paint by number.  This was an internet fad a few years ago.
According to Komar and Melamid's survey, Americans prefer representational art, landscapes with lakes, portraits of historical figures, wild animals, children, and the color blue. 

The artists obligingly packed all of that into one canvas. The companion piece, America's Most Unwanted, is a small geometric abstract composition.

Richard Hess's portrait of President Lyndon Johnson as an incomplete paint-by-number work was created for the June 1967 issue of Esquire magazine. Although it was bumped from the cover at the last minute, the layout later won numerous graphics awards for Hess and Esquire art director Samuel N. Antupit, and was even exhibited at the Louvre in Paris.
BridgewatersIn 1978 artist Paul Bridgewater created five abstract paint-by-number kits, which could be displayed in their unfinished form as sculptures or completed for display as paintings. Each kit came rolled in a plastic tube with an instruction sheet, premixed paints, and two brushes made from the artist's own hair. Bridgewater's kits evoked the do-it-yourself appeal of their predecessors. This kit was purchased by Andy Warhol.
The idea came to Bridgewater during a tour of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, during which a docent dismissed the museum's contemporary art collection as "simplistic." Drawing on childhood memory, Bridgewater set out to make "a great work of art that even a seven-year-old could do. "He had been given paint-by-number kits by his mother, who favored landscapes, especially covered bridges.
40 YearsIn 1992 Paul Bridgewater's Bridgewater/Lustberg Gallery in New York City exhibited the paint-by-number collection of screenwriter Michael O'Donoghue, whose enthusiasm for the hobby inspired a new interest in collecting and exhibiting the paintings.
And for now, we just can't forget the hobbiest.  Here is a lady who takes a PBN on her vacations with her to ward off nasty weather blues-  in progress and finished:



And to bring us up to date, here is a downloadable ballot that Huffington Post put up the other day to keep track of your Oscar choices, done by Speegle:

A bit more reading if that's what you're looking for

Museum of Velvet Paintings
online coloring of images.  (Only for PC as far as I can tell)
contemporary takes using PBN  (Don Baum 'sandwich' paintings)
Official Bad Art Museum, Seattle.  See the in-home PBN Salon

Whew.  Hope you come back for the 1700 celebration too.   S


Margaret said...

Congratulations on 1600 posts! I've been celebrating 1000 posts and 10 years as a blogger (Feb. 8) but you have me beaten! ;-) That said, in the past three weeks I've logged in a post just about every day, so maybe I'll catch up sooner than not.

Used to do PBN as a kid -- the closest I ever got to detailed representational work; my parents loved my pieces because I blurred the lines a wee bit...framed them and hung them for years; now in storage; my kids can burn 'em! LOL!

All the best for 1600 more posts!

Sandy said...

My mother in law has a pride of place PBN mediterranean scene done by her late husband. It is not good. but don't tell her that. Now she is in a home, and there isn't much room for anything, but it is still pride of place. Maybe 'before her time' in collecting?

When I am there, I look at the worhty of second position print onto board of The Marriage of Tobias and Sara by Jan H Steen. There is always someone moving around in it doing something different.
She has had it for ages and only just at Christmas found out the artist and subject matter via a quick Google. So we got her the Book of Tobit on her Kindle so she'd have something interesting to read! No really, she was always doing art history courses and art appreciation of different countries at the uni there in York til she fell in the summer.
Sandy in the UK
Well done for 1600.

Margaret Cooter said...

Great post - it filled in some of the missing background, and Don Baum is definitely one of those highlight colours...
I never got enough PBN as a kid, but discovered patchwork in my early 20s, and then needlepoint kits. I still long to do "a kit" now and then, for the simple satisfactions of having all the materials to hand, filling in all the spaces, and knowing when something is truly finished.

Mary Beth Frezon said...

That was a totally amazing amount of information. I remember doing PBN as a kid but I had no idea what was going on in and around that universe!

And grats on 1600!