The Gatsby Museum of Art: Introducing our new Feature Collection!

We are very pleased to announce the unveiling of our new Feature Collection in the newly-opened Gatsby Museum of Art.  The six-piece collection celebrates the joys and new beginnings of the 1920s, as well as the life of Jay Gatsby himself, our tragic hero.

"Jeunesse"

Although Gatsby's personal views on the influence of African-Americans during the 1920s are fairly unknown, we believe that the inclusion of this piece helps to provide an ever broader perspective to our feature collection.  The Harlem Renaissance was occurring at the same time of the events in the novel, and the expansion of black influence in America is mentioned several times when referring to blacks as being even more polished and rich than they used to be.  On page 12, Tom mentions his worry about Goddard's "The Rise of the Colored Empires," and on page 69, Nick and Gatsby pass a limousine driven by a white chauffeur with "three modish negros...in haughty rivalry" in the back.  A "pale, well-dressed Negro" is mentioned on page 139, and it is this person that provides the information about the color of Gatsby's car.  As the Harlem Renaissance expanded the influence of black America, whites like Tom became concerned with the future of their rigid social structure.  African-American music and arts were thriving at the time, and black culture had begun to take on a new sort of pride.  Clearly, the characters in the novel see them as rivals.  Therefore, to increase our perspective of this time period, we have chosen to include this image.

Artwork compliments of:

http://www.assumption.edu/users/mcclymer/His130/P-H/Harlem2/jeunesse.jpg




"Mr. Art Deco"

The very popular Art Deco style was one of the artistic trends of the 1920s, and would be expected to reside in a museum commemorative of Gatsby.  Art Deco was a trendy, contemporary style, and therefore would surely be appreciated by Gatsby.  The style was a combination of cubism, constructivism, and futurism, and combined many bright, intense colors to represent the technology of the era and the new speed of life.  It was celebrated for its cool sophistication with geometric objects and streamlined structures, evoking a modern feel.

Artwork compliments of: http://artstyleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/mr-art-deco-2.jpg


"Men in Yachting Costume"

This particular painting was placed in the collection to celebrate the lasting influence of the yachting captain Dan Cody on the life and goals of Jay Gatsby.  After being under Cody's instruction for five years, Gatsby chose to include an iconic picture of Dan Cody in his own personal art collection, and so we chose to include our own version as well.  The novel describes the portrait to depict "a gray, florid man with a hard, empty face--the pioneer debauchee." (100)  Nick also describes on pages 98-99 the undeniable influence of Cody on Gatsby, saying that it was through his experiences with Cody that he chose to change his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby.  Therefore, we credit Cody with changing Gatsby into a goal-oriented man who knew that he wanted the love of his life for himself--and went to the extremes of lavishness and corruption to attempt to achieve it.

Image compliments of: http://www.costumes.org/history/20thcent/1900s/olddissertation/jnojmitchell/1910yachting.JPG


 
El Greco's "View of Toledo"

On page 176, Nick describes an El Greco painting that reminds him of the situation surrounding Gatsby's death.  The painting, shown here, shows a night scene with "a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under an sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon.  In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress.  Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels.  Gravely the men turn in at a house--the wrong house.  But no one knows the woman's name, and no one cares." (176)

Clearly, Nick's dream reminds him of Gatsby's death by representing Gatsby with the drunken, dead woman who no one really seems to care about or know.  He sees the dark landscape with the grotesque houses as being West Egg.

El Greco was a famous Spanish painter of the 1500s, well-known for his expertise in Mannerism.  In this particular painting, the "View from Toledo," the scene inspires thoughts of the grostesque mansions of West Egg on a dark and gloomy night.


Artwork compliments of:
http://www.penwith.co.uk/artofeurope/el_greco_view_of_toledo.jpg


Francis Cugat's "Celestial Eyes"

The cover art for the novel simply must be included in our feature collection, considering its great significance and symbolism.  First, the noseless girl represents both Daisy and Myrtle, who, to Gatsby and Tom, are not always within reach, and therefore become the subject of the men's thoughts and dreams.  Additionally, the eyes are said to represent Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, the God-figure of the novel, who appears to watch over the valley of the ashes from an old billboard, inspiring faith in George Wilson and others.   Eckleburg supposedly had a "noseless face," so the face could also be his.

The lights in multiple colors represent the yellow, corrupt festivities of Coney Island and other New York pastimes frequented by the rich and corrupt.  The yellow images of nude women in the eyes represent additional sin and corruption of the era.  Additonally, you can see a bright green tear below the one eye, representing a dream that will never be found, but must be wept away.  Finally, the sensuous red lips represent Myrtle and Daisy as well.


The artwork for the cover was completed by Francis Cugat.  However, Cugat had the design complete before Fitzgerald had completed the novel, so it is rumored that Fitzgerald actually based the image of Eckleburg after the woman's eyes Cugat depicted in the night sky.

Artwork compliments of: http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/essays/eyes/cugat_10.jpeg






The Gatsby Mansion

This image is intended to represent the huge influence of water on the life of Jay Gatsby. Not only does water separate him from his green-lighted dream in East Egg, but it also separated immigrants from America as they pursued their own American dream as well.  Additionally, Gatsby dies in water, and as his dream fades on the hot August day in New York, cold drinks are all they can seem to consume.  Also, when Gatsby finally sees Daisy for the first time in five years at tea at Nick's house, it's raining.  Therefore, it seems that the water references in the novel indicate despair and a loss of hope in one's dream.  It's the water that separates Gatsby from Daisy, for when they finally meet at tea, the rain stops and the sun comes out.  However, since for most of his time in West Egg, Gatsby lived far from his dream in his large, grotesque mansion, our image representing his home depicting a large, ostentatious home beneath a treacherous storm.  Gatsby attempted to weather the storm, but he simply did not have the means to truly find the sunshine he was looking for.

Image compliments of:
http://i248.photobucket.com/albums/gg176/darthredwolf/WizardsMansion.jpg




Quick References

Art Deco Information: http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/a/artdeco.html

Harlem Renaissance Information: http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1978/2/78.02.03.x.html

El Greco Information: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/E/el_greco.html

Gatsby Cover Art Significance: http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/essays/eyes/eyes.html

By: Michele Rudolph

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