M.S. Rau Antiques, based in New Orleans, will pay tribute to The Saturday Evening Post by hosting a free exhibition from November 6, 2015 to January 5, 2016 at their gallery at 630 Royal Street in the French Quarter. The M.S. Rau exhibition, entitled America, Illustrated: Six Decades of Saturday Evening Post Covers will feature over 40 original works shown alongside their printed Saturday Evening Post covers. Works by beloved Americana artists such as Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish and Clyde Forsythe spanning from the 1900s to the 1950s will be on display in this comprehensive exhibition, which is free and open to the public. Many of the works on display will also be available for purchase.
Spanning six decades, this comprehensive exhibition follows the narrative of the country as told through Post covers, from times of peace and war, to economic hardship and societal change. From J.C. Leyendecker’s portraits of WWI soldiers, to Stevan Dohanos’ 1950s nuclear families, these paintings offer a glimpse into the American story.
Featured in the show will be original works by Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish, Clyde Forsythe, Stevan Dohanos, Edmund Davenport, Robert C. Kauffmann, Paul Stahr, Dick Sargent, John Philip Falter, John Ford Clymer, Amos Sewell and George Hughes.
Standing among the greatest American artists of his age, Rockwell was The Saturday Evening Post‘s most famous and prolific illustrator. For over seven decades, Rockwell captured the attention of millions of Americans with his 323 cover illustrations. Each week, Americans brought his art into the intimate space of their homes, engraining his images into the cultural narrative of the country.
One of Rockwell’s great influences was J.C Leyendecker, who is also well represented in the M.S. Rau exhibition. Leyendecker painted his first cover for the Post in 1899, beginning a 44-year association with the esteemed publication.
R. Couri Hay Creative Public Relations. (2015).*
I reached out to M.S. Rau Antiques owner Bill Rau via email for an atombash.com New Orleans Literature interview.
Dionne Charlet: Bill, thank you so much for your time in answering interview questions. To start off, what is the story behind your family business?
Bill Rau: “My grandfather, Max Rau, came to America with just $12 in his pocket. He was able to save $500 and put $250 in the bank and $250 towards a small antiques store in 1912. He specialized in fine Victorian furniture, glass and decorative ironwork and made a commitment to provide only the finest quality pieces and unsurpassed service at a fair price. That philosophy has helped the business grow one thousand fold since then, and those ideals still ring true today. I was very lucky to grow up at the gallery, where I was able to develop a strong eye and learn every aspect of the business. When Elias, my uncle, retired in December 1995 I became the president.”
DC: How has the store dealt with changes through the years, storms, technology, etc.?
BR: “Our gallery and our staff, as a whole, is remarkably versatile and resourceful and we’ve been able to weather every type of storm, from the economic recession to hurricanes and together we’ve come out the other end as a much stronger business. I think that’s because we actively strive to get ahead of issues and trends. I am a firm believer at staying on the forefront of technology, especially since our customer base is now international. Every year we add and test new technologies to enhance our customer experience.”
DC: I am interested in how the covers came to be featured by M.S. Rau Antiques. What is the story? From where were the pieces obtained?
BR: “I found myself in the position to mount the show when a collector approached me with the opportunity to display a few of his best works. From there, it grew into what is now our America, Illustrated exhibition, which features that original group of works along with some favorites from the M.S. Rau collection. We also have an old favorite back on loan from a client, Willie Gillis: Package from Home, that we are excited to share with the public again.”
DC: Do you have a favorite among the six decades of artists involved in the display?
BR: “It’s hard not to love Norman Rockwell’s work. His humor and attention to detail in every piece makes his paintings very engaging. And, of course, there is Rockwell’s mentor, J.C. Leyendecker. More than any other artist, I think, Leyendecker’s work captures the character of the country at the turn of the twentieth century. It documents, in a way, our evolution from the Belle Époque through the world wars. Less seriously, a specific piece that gave me a laugh is John Philip Falter’s Antique Store Accident, which shows an antique store owner sitting on top of a broken chair on the floor.”
DC: In your opinion, are there any correlations with the photographs of changing times on the covers to the lives of New Orleanians? To your own family, or the family business?
BR: “The great thing about the cover art for The Saturday Evening Post is that, as a whole, these works really tell the American story. People see their own family and children in the 1950s works by Dohanos and Sargent, or even Leyendecker and Rockwell’s holiday covers. I know I see my own daughters in many of the works, which capture a sense of childhood wonder. These artists were so adept at capturing the mood of their time, and yet the paintings resonate just as well today.”
DC: How do you feel such exhibits of historically-relevant artwork is meaningful today?
BR: “It is important to know where you came from to help guide your path of where you are going. This exhibit spans six decades, an entire generation of the American people and how they viewed themselves. Seeing this visual history, it helps us understand people and our society. Not to mention the art historical significance of the exhibition, which is notable. It truly presents an important collection of America’s greatest illustrators.”
DC: Is there a reason that the holiday season was chosen as the display time for the covers?
BR: “It was chosen for a number of reasons. The holiday Post covers are some of the most iconic of all. In fact, it was Leyendecker’s covers that introduced the jolly Santa Claus as we know him today. But overall, many of these Post covers represent traditional ideals like the importance family, which make them perfect for the holiday season. We want entire families to come and enjoy this exhibition.”
DC: What is it about working with antiques that compels you?
BR: “I have a passion for history and love the hunt. We continually look for rarity, quality and craftsmanship, and we choose items are unique and intriguing to build our diverse collection.”
DC: Please tell our readers a little about the antiques typically available in the store, where they tend to originate from, and how the staff of sales associates catalogs them.
BR: “We buy the best objects from all over the world. From rare jewels to fine art to exceptional antique treasures, our gallery showcases the best in class. We specialize in the rare, unique, and beautiful.”
DC: Being a part of the rich tapestry of history of the French Quarter, what do you find you most enjoy when tourists ask you about the city?
BR: “I really love to share with tourists the fact that New Orleans’ French Quarter used to be the central shopping hub in the southern United States. Not many people are aware of the area’s rich history.”
DC: What times/days of the will the shop/exhibit be open?
BR: “The gallery and the exhibit is open Monday – Saturday 9 am – 5:15 pm.”
For more information on M.S. Rau antiques and the free New Orleans store exhibit of The Saturday Evening Post covers and original art, click here.
*[R. Couri Hay Creative Public Relations. (2015). M.S. Rau Antiques Pays Tribute to Six Decades of The Saturday Evening Post’s Iconic Covers with Free Exhibition November 6, 2015 - January 5, 2016. [Press Release] Via email.]