Picture Stories: Stepping out in style
  • Picture Stories: Ruth St. Denis, Jacob’s Pillow, MA, 1968
  • Picture Stories: Chubby Checkers at Krass Bros. men’s store, Philadelphia
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    Auction Finds

    Picture Stories: Newspaper photos

    The wonderful photos kept coming. For several weeks, black and white photos with a mix of people, events and celebrations turned up on the auction table. An auction-house staffer told me that a dealer brought them in each week. Most were historical photos, a few were portraits, and all were embedded with stories that I couldn’t wait to release.

    Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of those old photos and the stories behind them in a series called “Picture Stories.”

    British artist Albert Perry, London, United Press International, 3/23/54

    Up-close view of artist Albert Perry and his rejected submission, 1954.

    Up-close view of artist Albert Perry and his rejected submission, 1954.

    “London: Returning for another attempt to get his painting placed in the Royal Academy’s popular summer exhibition,” the caption stated, “Albert Perry holds the portrait aloft while a band of supporters cheer. Even if the likeness of W.E. Shilton (on Perry’s right) doesn’t make the grade this time, the artist can count on the continued support of this block of voters. They are his students.”

    Perry was turned down so often that he described himself as the “world’s most rejected artist.” In an attempt in 1955 to get into the academy’s exhibition, he submitted a self-portrait amid cheers from his supporters.

    Around 1950, he ran as an independent candidate for Parliament from Tooting, a neighborhood in south London, campaigning for cheaper beer and the election of a woman as prime minister.

    Full view of Albert Perry with is portrait and students, 1954.

    Full view of Albert Perry with portrait and students, 1954.

    Perry’s persistence did get him into an academy exhibit, but not the one he savored for so long. In 2012, he was featured in an amusing alternative exhibit titled “Almost Real Art” mounted by a resident at the academy who searched its archives to find “what may have been or could have been.”

    Perry inspired a work called “N.U.T.A.A.R.S & S,” in the form of a sign touting the “National Union of Tortured Artists.” The aim of this union was to “succor the failing, pretentious, idle, compensatory and vain,” according to a review of the exhibit.

    The “signboard for this make-believe school for failing artists is a comical comment on the infamous process of acceptance and rejection that occurs every year at the Summer Exhibition,” the review said. “‘Almost Real Art’ is a fascinating and light-hearted romp through an alternative RA (Royal Academy) history.”

    Back from the Dead, Western Newspaper Union, 1-27-19

    Capt. John Barnes Rugg with his family, 1919.

    Capt. John Barnes Rugg with his family, 1919.

    “After having been mourned as dead for 12 months,” the caption stated, “Captain Rugg of the S.S. ‘Dee’ which was sunk by the German raider ‘Wolf,’ returned to his home and family at Forest gate. This photograph shows Capt. Rugg with his wife and daughter.”

    It seems that Capt. John Barnes Rugg was commanding the British barque Dee carrying a cargo of sugar and 20 men from Mauritius to Bunbury in western Australia when the Wolf captured and sank it in 1917. Rugg was the first British master mariner captured by the Wolf, which had gained a reputation for capturing crews and cargos, and sinking ships.

    Rugg spent the rest of World War I as a prisoner in Germany. The war ended in November 1918. He died in 1938 at age 85.

    One crew member wrote in his diary in 1917 that Rugg was as a “pious white-bearded old fraud who bore the classic sobriquet of ‘Mudguts.’ … An amusing incident here was that the ‘Dee’ on sighting the ‘Wolf’ hoisted a signal ‘Report me all well.’ She was bombed and went down with that signal flying.”

    Police photo, Cleveland, OH, 11/14/32

    Barner Barry.

    Barner Barry at Cleveland jail cell, 1932.

    Cleveland, O, police only started their troubles when they arrested Barner Barry, 37, Negro on a liquior charge,” the caption stated. “There wasn’t a cell-door in the station big enough to permit entrance of Barry, who weighs just 496 pounds. There was nothing to do for it except let him sit on a bench until bail was provided. Photo by Freelance Photographers Guild Inc., NY.

    Famous English General Passes Century Mark, Henry Miller News Picture Service Inc., July 1, 1926

    Gen. Sir George Higginson, 1917.

    Gen. Sir George Higginson, 1926.

    “General Sir George Higginson, England’s oldest military commander, who has lived under five sovereigns, celebrates his 100th birthday anniversary this week,” the caption stated. “He served in the Crimean War, was promoted for service in the field, and retired in 1893. King George and other members of the royal family honor him with his friendship.”

    This was actually a photo taken of Higginson when he was 98 years old.

    He lived in Marlowe on the Thames River, where his birthday was celebrated with the purchase of a park that was given his name. Neighbors raised money to buy the park for their town’s most famous son, who also contributed to the purchase. He was presented the deed.

    Higginson had fought in the British military alongside the Ottoman Empire, France and Sardinia against the Russians in the Crimean War that lasted from 1853-1856. It was a battle over the rights of Christian minorities versus Roman Catholics in the Holy Land located in the Ottoman Empire. He also traveled to the United States during the Civil War. His family had historical connections to Salem, MA.

    He died a few months after the celebration of his 100th birthday.

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