During the final weeks before graduation day from PMSIA (Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art) now the University of the Arts in 1948, Wilbert Wilkins, Ben Siegel and I found our dream come true “studio home “at Sixteenth and Sansom streets.
The studio was hidden on the top floor of a row of business buildings anchored by a luggage shop on the street floor. Our private entrance to the building was next to the shop with a stairway leading up to each floor landing. Of course, since we wanted to be on top of our world, this palatial studio was a real find and being in our youth we didn’t mind the climb to the fourth floor. We surveyed the suite consisting of four rooms and a lavatory facility. Additionally, the four walls surrounding the stairwell would provide us with gallery space where we could display our paintings. It was wonderful. Suddenly, for some unknown reason, Ben Siegel, who initiated the search for a studio, suddenly withdrew from the partnership. However, after some quick calculating, Wilbert and I decided to go ahead with the studio but at a greater expense to us, via a two way split instead of three for rental costs and expenses, but then we were used living on a shoe string within the monthly stipend we received from Uncle Sam’s GI Bill benefits for veterans. Good old Uncle Sam.
After several weeks of cleaning, sweeping, sweating and applying five gallons of battleship grey paint to all the walls, we were ready to occupy our center city studio and begin producing such art works as had not yet been seen, by the hoi polloi of our fair city.
Well, during the next two years of Bohemian living and painting like starving artists (and that is the truth), we followed the same routine, except for Sundays, when I would return to my family home in New Jersey for a decent meal. Six days a week, however, we would paint and sketch, have breakfast at Needik’s Orange Drinks store, which for our convenience was located right across the street from our studio and have a hot dog or a donut plus an orange drink (with two glasses, one for each of us), then for lunch, we feasted at Horn & Hardart’s Automat, consisting of one order of three or four (5 cent each) vegetables ( for each of us, if we could afford it) and finally for supper back to Needik’s, for a hot dog, which we shared along with a cup of coffee. It is amazing how little food was necessary to keep the body functioning, but then, as they say, great art can be generated from an empty stomach, if you live long enough.
As days and weeks passed we had visitors, friends and would-be friends and other artists who dropped in on us to chat and commiserate on the hardships of life. One day a friend of a friend visited us with a young woman to see our work. The young woman was attractive and interested in art and artists and as we continue talking she accepted our invitation to pose for us, at least long enough that we completed several paintings including the one shown in this blog.
Then, some 40 years later, I was married and widowed; my two daughters were also married and had their own families. My older daughter, Jean, reminded me of the girl in the painting, so I gave it to her and it now hangs in her home in Levittown and time marches on . . .