AV made the topsy-turvy world of Tarrence Corbin’s paintings even more dizzying when we inadvertently ran “Uccello’s Ubiquitous Journey: Bebop and Jelly Jam” (above) upside down in the August/September 1999 issue. As the first magazine to give the artist national exposure, we regret the error.
I opened to the Table of Contents page of the February/March 1999 issue of American Visions and saw your reproduction of the oil painting identified on page 24 as “Man With a Brush,” 1840, by Frederick C. Flemister. I have to tell you, I watched it being painted, and not in 1840. The correct date is 1940. At the time Flemister and I were seniors at Atlanta University Laboratory High School (AULHS), where Hale Woodruff taught art.
Flemister and another talented artist, Robert Neal, were dropouts from public school. They dug through the city dumps for old window shades that they could frame and paint on, and they had a roomful of nearly empty paint cans, also from the city dumps. My father, the principal of AULHS, promised Flemister and Neal that they could earn their high school diplomas on their own terms, so when they entered my chemistry class, their first question was, “Why chemistry? We’re artists!”
Our chemistry professor, Dr. William H. Brown, made them a promise. He said, “Even if you could afford to buy [a high-priced artist’s paint in a tube], I promise you, you wouldn’t know what was in it.” Brown listed buffers and fillers, ingredients that over time would cause the colors to fade and discolor. Brown then named artists, like Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), who made their own paint–brilliant colors that have never faded.
That year, when Flemister and Neal reported their findings to the class, they had learned more chemistry than any of us. This also explains the Renaissance man manner of the portrait on page 24, more a likeness of Neal than of Flemister.
William Robinson Maplewood, NJ
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