Sunday, June 12, 2011


"Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made." ~Mel Brooks
Matinee Septembre
One of my favorite works, painted in 1912 by Paul Émile Chabas 'September Morn' won a gold medal at Salon de Paris but received very little public acclaim, that is until a print appeared in the US and became the center of a court trial in Chicago. What made the painting famous was all the attention it received when the moral censors of the time attempted to have it declared indecent and in violation of the municipal code, which banned the exhibit of "any lewd picture or other thing whatever of an immoral or scandalous nature."In hindsight it would seem the do-gooders choose the wrong painting to declare immoral, but, was it really their choice?

A print of September Morn went on display in the front window of Fred Jackson's art store in Chicago and drew the attention of the Chicago police department. While there are several different accounts of the story including a later repeat in New York, it was 'how' the painting first drew the attention that is the key. It seems at the time Fred Jackson's young son would stop by the store with his friends on their way home from school, the art business was slow and seeing the small group of boys looking at the various works inside the store gave Fred an idea. He moved a copy of September Morn to the front window and then gave his son and his friends each a penny to stand on the sidewalk and look at the painting. Next, it seems Fred Jackson made a few phone calls (one undoubtedly to the local newspaper) to complain that there were school children being exposed to indecent paintings at a Wabash Street art store. The police responded to the complaint and sent a detective who ordered the print removed from the window, which Fred refused to do, as a small crowd gathered in front of the store to see what the commotion was all about.

The story of the lewd artwork on display of course made the paper and soon there were people showing up from all over the city to see the offending print, sales skyrocketed and the rest as they say, is history. Of course today times have changed quite drastically from the way things were near the turn of the Century, getting the attention of the press these days isn't easy to say the least and becoming the center of controversy, well, fact is I have entertained the idea. 
Poster Girls
I think all art is about control - the encounter between control and the uncontrollable. - Richard Avedon

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