Friday, September 23, 2016

Salmagundi Club of New York

I've mentioned the Salmagundi Club of New York occasionally on this blog, and thought I would add a bit about the Club and its history as the fall exhibition season is about to start. The Club began as a sketch group in Johnathan Scott Hartley's studio in the early 1870s, then morphed into an artists' social and professional organization that has survived into our own day.

In its very early incarnation, the Club was a male-only group that met and sketched in Hartley's  and at others' studios, sometimes cooking and occasionally even engaging in boxing matches among themselves. The image at left was published in 1878 in commemoration of just such an event. In those early days the group was all male, mostly young, and eager to succeed.

After quite a number of years and a couple of moves, the Club settled into a brownstone on lower Fifth Avenue in 1917 and it's been there ever since. Early in its history, the Club was well-known for its annual "Black and White Show," which was limited to monochromatic pieces in keeping with the work of most members, who were illustrators. According to Alexander Katlan, who wrote a history of the club (linked below), "The early exhibitions were called “Black and White," in reference to the important annual show that the young club held on drawings, graphics and grisaille oils. From 1878 to 1887, the club gained a national and even international reputation for these annual exhibitions, which were open to all artists, passing before a jury of club members.” Today the Black and White remains a highlight of the Club's exhibition year, along with another special show, the Thumb-Box Exhibition, which is limited to only small works--paintings not larger than 16x20 (frame and all), and sculptures under 12 inches in any direction. Both shows are generally well-attended and quite successful. In addition, there is an active exhibition calendar that includes juried shows of member and non-member works plus exhibitions by other art groups. 

Salmagundi has been a haven for artists and art-lovers for nearly a century and a half and has
always been known for an atmosphere of conviviality. The Club still maintains a bar and restaurant for members, the billiard room, a quiet and elegant parlor, and a comprehensive art library, and at one time it also offered overnight lodging. NC. Wyeth once stayed over at the Club while delivering artwork to a New York publisher (he lived in Bucks County Pennsylvania) and noted in a letter home that he didn't think that he would stay there again because it was too convivial, especially the bar.

While members are mainly residents of the New York City area, Salmagundi members live throughout the country as well as in Canada and more distant places. Membership is extended to sponsored artists through a jury process. I have been a member for about five years and always look forward to a visit when I get to Manhattan. It's not a trip to the Apple without a visit to the Club and dinner in the restaurant.

Currently, members of the club are both working professionals and dedicated amateurs whose mediums include oil, acrylic, pastel, graphic art, sculpture, photography and more. During its lifetime the Club has included many eminent members. The list includes Thomas Moran, Childe Hassam, Charles Dana Gibson, Emil Carlsen, N.C.Wyeth, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White (although he was an architect), Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, and J.C. Leyendecker. (Katlan's book is excerpted on the Salmagundi website; anyone interested should follow the link above.)


In keeping with the world's advancing technology the Club now hold two auctions yearly that are streamed live online and take place in person at the Club. There are actually six auction events take place, spring and fall, over a three week series. Art in the auction is by Salmagundi members everywhere, and bidding is worldwide. This fall the auction nights are Oct. 7, Oct. 16, and Oct. 21 carried as they happen, including live, online bidding, by LiveAuctioneers.

"Passing the Light," oil, 20x16
My own entry, "Passing the Light," will be part of the auction, although which session has yet to be determined. The pre-auction show begins on Monday September 26 and continues through the auction period in October.

Bidding live online sounds technically difficult but it's actually quite common these days and very easy. The Club takes online and live bids simultaneously and you can follow the auction action live online by logging into LiveAuctioneers. Of course, browsing the site earlier allows determination of lot numbers so you can be on the lookout for just the piece you want. The world of art sales continues to change, probably for the better. When I have a lot number I'll post it along with a link to the site.
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Salmagundi Club of New York
Salmagundi Club History (excerpt)
Salmagundi Fall Auction Preview 2016 



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