Friday, March 10, 2017

Art Is My Father

Arthur Singer  ( 1917-1990 ), Self Portrait
circa 1944
During World War ll , in The 
"Ghost Army "

Yes, I write about the visual arts, but Art is my father.  He was also known as Arthur - or if you were really close, Artie.  My dad - Arthur B. Singer knew he wanted to be an artist from his childhood on- and in that capacity he was nurtured by the culture at home on Audubon Avenue in New York City, and also by his friends including some well known artists, and the greatest names in Jazz.

Arthur Singer in his late teens
New York City

Arthur's mom, Tessie Singer
circa 1935

Arthur's mom was Tessie Singer, and for years she made expensive doll's clothes on contract to F.A.O.Schwartz.  Arthur developed a sense of the patience and vision that one would need for the creative life.  For someone like him to fall in love with drawing animals, it was a relief to take the subway ride out to the Bronx Zoo and spend the day sketching.

Arthur Singer, ink and wash
late 1930's

Arthur made drawings like these while he was still a teenager and he caught the attention of curators both at the Zoo, and at The American Museum of Natural History.  My father was a collector at heart, and he began to amass a book and record collection, as well as filing cabinets filled with pictures cut from magazines featuring every kind of bird and animal known by the early 1930's.

Arthur Singer's portrait of Cab Calloway
mid 1930's

As a teenager, Arthur was a nifty handball player and he also closely followed the careers of his friends in the Jazz world including Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington.  Artie also like to dance!
Along the way, Arthur made portraits of Cab and Duke out of the names of the songs they had recorded.

Going off to college meant that he had to take the "A" Train down from Washington Heights to The Cooper Union down on eighth street which at the time was one of the only free universities in the nation.  Arthur was enthralled by the talent of the artists he met at college and also deeply engaged in finding his own voice in the visual arts.  For a while he was captivated by cave paintings ( from pre-historic times ).  While in college, he found the double elephant portfolios of birds by John James Audubon - and that changed the course of his study from then on.

At an exhibition of his paintings,
Arthur while in the Army, paints a portrait of Alfred Drake of 
"Tars and Spars"

After graduation, Arthur spent some time in the Army in Europe with the unit known as "The Ghost Army".  "The Ghost Army" waged a war of deception with camouflage and theatrics, and among those who served this branch of the Army were artists like Ellsworth Kelly and Bill Blass and the photographer Art Kane.  Who knew that these young guys would go on to have major careers and help shape our culture?

Arthur Singer finds a mass audience for his wildlife 
art seen here at the start of his career in 1955

Frank Blair introduces Arthur Singer 
on the set of NBC's Today Show, 1961
with his new book "Birds of the World"

These are just a few short notes from the beginning of our new book titled: "Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master", which will be published later this year by RIT Press, here in Rochester, New York.  I am looking forward to sharing with you more about our book, and the marvelous life my father had during an illustrious career.

"Birds of North America"
If you like bird watching you may know my father's Golden Guide
which I helped revise in 1979