Reginald Mars at the Oak Park Public Library
In 1963, the Village of Oak Park commissioned Reginald Mars (1901 - 1973) to depict 10 seasonal recreational activities to adorn a newly built fieldhouse. They went into storage twenty years later, and now have been cleaned and put on temporary display in the library.
This scene, appearing in the Chicago Tribune last week, caught my attention. First, because it reminded me that if you want to see lots of attractive, half-dressed young women, just go to a public swimming pool in the morning when they bring their young children to play.
Second, because it was obviously done by a talented, experienced illustrator who could draw figures and design with them too.
Unfortunately, these surfaces got pretty dirty in their public location, and the cleaning left them feeling as thin and faded as a fresco from the 14th Century.
But the drawing and basic design has survived -- to effectively depict happy, prosperous, suburban American life in the early 1960's (back when I might have been a kid in the pool)
Though you might notice one thing that's missing: ethnic diversity -- which would have been a sensitive issue back in the 50's- especially regarding public swimming pools. (in Cincinnati, where I grew up, they were segregated )
Here's my favorite -- I think the artist may have spent some time in the Buckingham Japanese print gallery at the Art Institute.
As often happens with the work of professional illustrators, these pieces look better in reproduction than they do in the original.
I'm sure that every village has a storeroom containing dark,old, forgotten paintings.
Some art lover must have stumbled upon these and correctly guessed how good they once looked.