1948-49. Black leather sketchbook measuring 11 x 8 1/2 inches (278 x 213 mm), about 120 leaves. First time offered in commerce: Sketchbook of original ink drawings documenting an ocean voyage and stay in France by Margaret Stark (1915-1988), an Indiana-born artist who had been living in New York. The sketchbook covers the period from September 1948, when she embarked on her voyage, through at least July 1949 while she lived in France.At first, she sketches her fellow passengers on her voyage across the Atlantic. But most of the sketches are from her stay in Paris at an exciting time when the City of Light attracted many expat American artists and writers. The sketchbook features scenes from restaurants, cafes, clubs, and museums. There are also plenty of self-portraits, depictions of street life, and models in various poses. While many sketches appear quickly drawn, others have a more finished quality (see photos). The sketches frequently contain brief descriptions as well as the dates Stark drew the scenes. As might be expected of an American visiting Paris for the first time, there are sketches of the Champs-Élysées, Harry's New York Bar, the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, and the Château de Fontainebleau. There are also sketches from the window of her hotel room (actually, rooms plural, since she seems to have changed hotels after she arrived in Paris). Stark also shows her progress in the French language, writing "frog: une grenouille" on one leaf and the lyrics of "La Mer" by Charles Trenet on another leaf. Eventually, she settles in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud and depicts some scenes of her house. There's a shopping list for a neighbor, Madame Bruyant, as well as sketches of Madame Bruyant, a rather formidable-looking woman. While living in the Paris area, Stark was able to travel a bit. There are sketches of Nice, St. Jean Cap Ferrat, Geneva, Zurich, and Venice.Stark was an accomplished artist who had studied with Hans Hofmann and had a number of solo shows in New York, Boston, Indianapolis, and elsewhere prior to her trip to France. Stark was also part of numerous group shows, such as at the Whitney Museum, New York, 1944-45, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1944-46. The New York Times was enthusiastic about Stark's work, writing in 1944: "The first exhibition of paintings by Margaret Stark at the Perls Gallery brings forward a real talent which finds expression in rhythmic decorative fantasies. There is strong feeling for rhythm in both color and composition. 'The Boat,' 'Chilmark,' 'Flying Fish,' and 'Bird and Snake' are arresting items. This is spirited, fanciful stuff. One looks forward to her next show." (Howard Devree, The New York Times, October 15, 1944. Page Section X Page 8).The Times was again impressed when it reviewed one of Stark's exhibitions in 1946: "Margaret Stark's recent fantasies, at Georgette Passedoit's Gallery, show no falling off in cleverness and humor and a decided gain in maturity of expression. Blending symbolism and suggestion in ever-decorative effects, she is at her best in such examples as 'People and Birds' and 'Intrigue.'" (Howard Devree, The New York Times, May 12, 1946, Section X, page 6).After successful shows in New York, Stark decided to head for Paris, leaving in early September 1948. While there she met George Stave, an American artist. They married in autumn 1949. Among their circle in Paris were Saul Steinberg, the New Yorker cartoonist, and Saul Bellow, the author. Indeed, Bellow praised her work in an announcement for Stark's solo show at Galerie R. Creuze in Paris in October 1949. A photocopy of the announcement is included with the sketchbook. The young married couple returned to the U.S. shortly after the closing of Stark's show at Galerie R. Creuze. Back in New York, Stark taught at Teachers College of Columbia University and at the Museum of Modern Art. And, of course, she continued to paint and exhibited her paintings in galleries and museums around the U.S. and in Paris, Brussels, and Mallorca. She and George Stave divorced in 1954. In 1959 she married the musician Walter Trampler; they divorced in the mid-1960s. (These biographical details appear in an excellent book: Judith Vale Newton and Carol Ann Weiss, Skirting the Issue: Stories of Indiana's Historical Women Artists. Indiana Historical Society Press, 2004). Paintings by Margaret Stark are owned by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Santa Barbara (California) Museum of Art, Zanesville (Ohio) Art Center, Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art, and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.This is the first time this sketchbook has been offered in the market, as it has been owned by the same family for nearly 70 years. An altogether charming group of sketches by a talented young artist documenting her life in Paris in 1948-49. Item #2229
CONDITION: Upper board nearly detached, heavy rubbing to boards and fraying of spine. Some soiling and staining to edges of text block. Internally, pastedowns a bit loose, with some scattered foxing and some leaves folded in two. Poor externally but much better internally. Overall, About Good.