The Iconic Work of Cartoonist & Illustrator CHARLES ADDAMS

Special Exhibition of Works from the Creator of The Addams Family on Display At Saginaw Art Museum Now through January 4th.

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature,   By: Robert E Martin

09th October, 2019     0

Cartoonist and illustrator Charles Addams was a remarkable prolific artist who both embraced and chronicled New York for over 50 years through his impressions of urban life, often referencing concerns and conceits expressed by the citizenry. Largely known as a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, his fame expanded tremendously when the iconic Addams Family series, which was inspired by his work, was adapted to television in 1964.

And now The Saginaw Art Museum is featuring an expansive exhibition of Addams work in their latest exhibition: Charles Addams: Friends and Family, which is currently on display through January 4, 2020.

“This is the first Midwest solo exhibition of the artist’s work and as such one the most important shows of its type in Michigan this season,” according to Saginaw Art Museum executive director Michael Kolleth. “This an outstanding opportunity to see the full breadth of the artist’s career and accomplishment.”

Of the 2500 illustrations Addams made in his career, only 150 were of the iconic Addams Family. Strolling through the galleries, you will not only meet members of the family, but also an assortment of New Yorkers reflective of what made the city so captivating to Addams.  An essential aspect of Addams’ work is the parody of domestic life, the nonchalant way his characters exist with all proper behavior, but possibly with some very ghoulish results.

Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey and his father was a piano-company executive who studied to be an architect. Addams was also distantly related to U.S. Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, despite the different spellings of their last names; and he was also a first cousin twice removed to noted social reformer Jane Addams.

A house on Elm Street, and another on Dudley Avenue into which police once caught him breaking and entering, are said to be the inspiration for the Addams Family mansion in his cartoons. College Hall, the oldest building on the current campus of the University of Pennsylvania, whre Addams studied, was also an inspiration for the mansion.

In 1933, Charles Addams joined the layout department of True Detective magazine, where he had to retouch photos of corpses that appeared in the magazine's stories to remove the blood from them. Addams complained: "A lot of those corpses were more interesting the way they were."

Addams' first drawing for The New Yorker, was  a sketch of a window washer that ran on February 6, 1932, and his cartoons ran regularly in the magazine from 1937, when he drew the first in the series that came to be called The Addams Family, until his death in 1988.

According to Saginaw Art Museum associate curator Tim Faris, “Addams was contributing to The New Yorker for seven years before he started gaining large national recognition; but once he got a sold career foothold he contributed regularly to the magazine until his death, and we feature pieces in this exhibition from every decade.”

“In setting up this exhibition we created a central pathway that is reserved for the works we have related to The Addams Family characters and around the outskirts of the gallery are various sections of his pieces that commented about what we call ‘domestic bliss’ - the humor found in stereotypical married life of the 1950s and’ 60’s,” explains Faris. “Addams commented on a lot of things ranging from growing up, to observations on the well-to-do and affluent, to the moon landing and architecture.  He had quite a range.”

When asked what he feels distinguishes Addams work the most, Faris references his perspective. “I think Addams had a comic’s understanding. If you’re thumbing through a magazine and see a comic you have a 30-second image window to grab the reader’s attention; and I feel Addams was a master of the medium when it came to expressing expressions - he was skillful at getting across what he wanted in a short amount of time. It’s like a spark looking at his image - you immediately get it or you don’t. But I do think he’s one of the most successful cartoonists in 20th Century America, probably second only to Norman Rockwell or Charles Schultz.”

On October 10th for their WNEM TV 5 After Hours event, if you come in costume and bring your family you can see all your favorite Characters from the Addams family during this evening exploring family relations. Doors open at 5 PM.

The Saginaw Art Museum is located at 1126 N. Michigan Ave. Saginaw, MI 48602 and online at The museum is open noon-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission on Saturdays is free thanks to Garber Automotive Group.







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