CHARLES ELLSWORTH RUSSELL, PAINTER

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem held a six-hour program yesterday in honor of Frank Newton and Pee Wee Russell, one unknown and the other under-acknowledged — two of my dearest jazz heroes.  George Avakian, George Wein, Nat Hentoff (via telephone), Loren Schoenberg, Dan Morgenstern, Bill Crow, Morris Hodara, and Hank O’Neal spoke.  Those who couldn’t make it uptown will be happy to learn that the audio portion of the presentations is, I am told, going to be accessible at the JMIH website — check my blogroll.

But while the presenters were presenting, my attention was caught by a painting on an easel at one end of the room.  It clearly looked like one of Pee Wee’s: he took up painting late in life, following his own whimsical genius.  (The winding lines and bright colors are, to me, visual representations of his playing — and perhaps of his patterns of thinking and perceiving.)

Hank O’Neal generously brought his prize Russell painting, and allowed me to photograph it and share it with my readers.

Pee Wee painted it in October 1966, called it BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and gave it as a gift to Eddie Condon.  Here are some details of the painting.  Drink in its energy and colors.

dsc00024

A detail.

dsc00023Another piece of the puzzle.

dsc00026Take me as I am!

dsc00022The Master’s signature.

(The Institute of Jazz Studies, which operates out of Rutgers University, has perhaps thirty-five Russell canvasses, much of his oeuvre.  Worth a trip!)

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2 responses to “CHARLES ELLSWORTH RUSSELL, PAINTER

  1. I knew that Pee Wee, encouraged by his wife Mary, took up painting. But I’ve never before seen his work. It’s great! In the same league as George Wettling’s wonderful paintings. Wettling was a disciple of Stuart Davis, who was a major American modern painter and jazz fan.

  2. I saw Wettling’s work in his old 7th Av. pad, but never Pee Wee’s. This is NOT the work of an amateur – He’s in there with Paul Klee and Joan Miro. GREAT, & thanks from a fan – who had the great luck and honor of playing with him – just once – on a Hackett gig. Thrill….sam p

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