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    Description

    Stevan Dohanos (American, 1907-1994)
    Menemsha, Massachusetts, Post Office, Saturday Evening Post cover, August 26, 1950
    Oil on canvas
    39 x 30 inches (99.1 x 76.2 cm)
    Signed lower left: Stevan Dohanos

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Old Sculpin Gallery, Edgartown, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974;
    Mr. and Mrs. William Seward, Menemsha, Massachusetts, acquired from the above;
    By descent to the present owners.

    The picturesque fishing village Menemsha, Massachusetts on Martha's Vineyard, made famous as the setting for the 1975 movie Jaws, for decades post-War had enticed summer vacationers with its spotless beaches, harbor fishing, and seafood stands. One such regular was the illustrator Stevan Dohanos, who designed over 125 Saturday Evening Post covers during the 1940s and '50s. From his home in Westport, Connecticut, where he co-founded the Famous Artists School, Dohanos frequented Cape Cod, memorializing its idyllic way of life in images of families giddily packing the car for a weekend getaway, locals buying lobsters dockside, and lighthouse attendants cleaning fish.

    In his masterful, cinematic Menemsha, Massachusetts Post Office, the cover of the August 26, 1950 Saturday Evening Post, Dohanos depicts the post office as the bustling hub of the community. Here, a variety of townsfolk gather at this social watering hole, and not only to retrieve mail: an artist displays his painting to admiring tourists, a fisherman and a distinguished old man relax on the porch, and a pretty young lady -- Dohanos' wife -- reads mail while others wait in line at the counter. Signs tacked up at the post office further indicate that this building is far more than a government office, rather the site for boat rentals, baked goods, and laundry services. Dohanos personalizes the scene by including his wife, as well as his neighbor and fellow illustrator Ben Stahl: in exchange for having Stahl paint the seascape on the canvas, Dohanos "put [his] face on the artist [to make him] famous" ("This Week's Cover," local newspaper, n.d.).

    The theme of the U.S. Postal Service as a social connector and community builder resonated with Dohanos more than any other Post artist. In 1939, the Treasury Department commissioned him to paint The Legend of James Edward Hamilton, Mail Carrier, a series of six murals for the West Palm Beach, Florida Post Office. His magazine covers from the 1940s-50s featured a range of postal subjects, from the rural post office at Christmas and mailmen slogging through the rain or snow to deliver packages, to boys in the lobby of a post office studying FBI "Wanted Posters." During the 1960s, Dohanos served as the chairman of the National Stamp Advisory Committee, selecting art for stamps and personally creating forty-six stamps, including one in 1967 commemorating John F. Kennedy. His influence on shaping post office-related art was recognized in 1984 when the Hall of Stamps in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in his honor.

    Given Dohanos' admiration for the institution of the post office, it is only fitting that the beloved postmasters of Menemsha, William C. (Bill) and Barbara Seward (institutions in their own right, who were known to chat with customers for hours and weigh fish on the post office scales), were able to purchase Menemsha, Massachusetts Post Office in 1974. Dohanos wrote to them at the time: "Selling the Menemsha Post Office cover painting was one of the most gratifying experiences in all these years knowing that it now belongs to 'just the right people.' I've had the good luck and pleasure to sell many, many paintings but you both are my favorite art patrons. . . . Needless to say I will always look back on my pleasurable days as a working artist painting on the island and hope I can have a few more years to do so."

    This lot is accompanied by letter of authenticity from the artist dated December 6, 1976, as well as a letter to the original owners from the artist dated November 18, 1974. A contract between the original owners, the artist, and Old Sculpin Gallery dated July 13, 1974 and newspaper clippings detailing Ben Stahl's role in this work also accompany this lot.




    Condition Report*: Unlined canvas; there appears to be frame wear with minor rubbing and a few flakes of loss, most notably at upper right and left corners; light surface grime with a several scattered spots of accretion starting in lower left corner outwards; a faint surface scratch in upper right corner; under UV exam, there appears to be a few spots of inpainting under porch eave along right edge. Framed Dimensions 43 X 34.25 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    16th Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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