"Tying Flies, Post Cover"   Lot no. 4401

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By Stevan Dohanos (American- 1907-1994)

25 7/8" x 20 1/8"
Oil on Masonite
Signed Lower Left



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Cover for The Saturday Evening Post, March 4, 1950.


The Post wrote the following commentary on the cover artwork: "'Blessed Izaak Walton!' quoth Stevan Dohanos as he glanced into the basement of Fellow Townsman Fred W. Dayton, of Westport, Connecticut. For he had found that rarity, a Post cover paintable right on the spot, without adding or subtracting detail. Dayton, one of those hobbyizing characters who labor for the love of it, concocts casting flies from wild-duck feathers, bucks' tails, women's hats, and so on, and he murmurs dreamily, 'My masterpiece eventually will come from the hides of two fighting cocks.' When Dayton's friends catch bigger fish with his flies than he does, he is morose. Dohanos is a kind of deep-sea fisherman; occasionally he ventures a little way out beyond his depth, drops a line, and sometimes there is a little something on it." (The Saturday Evening Post, March 4, 1950, p. 3)


Remembered for his 125 covers of the Saturday Evening Post between 1942 and 1958, Dohanos also designed over forty stamps for the United States Postal Service, and served as design coordinator for the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee. Originally from Ohio, he also co-founded the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut along with famous illustrators Norman Rockwell and Robert Fawcett, among others.


While Stevan Dohanos is widely seen as one of the most talented American illustrators of his generation, he long considered himself a spiritual child of the Ashcan School of painting. Like Robert Henri, John Sloan and William Glackens before him, Dohanos painted things as he saw them. A keen observer of the world, "the humble, the homely and the drab," Dohanos found beauty in the ordinary, often times very American, things of life. The subject of the present work surely reflects Dohanos' painstaking attention to detail, as he depicts an elderly gentleman in the process of making artificial flies. His eyes fixed on his labor, the man is completely oblivious to our presence and already grins at the thrilling thought of his next fly-fishing adventure. As the artist himself explained: "From cradle to the grave we are surrounded with natural and man-made objects, many of which can serve as a theme for a painting. Almost any subject when treated with care and respect can relate to the human condition in a meaningful and poignant way. This is the intent of many of my pictures." Full of colorful details and surprising props, the present painting's level of minutiae echoes the man's patience as he delicately sews feathers, ribbons and thread together - two activities which both require their participant's full attention and are labors of love.

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 Stevan Dohanos made his mark as a nationally famous cover artist for The Saturday Evening Post and chronicler of Americana, but he began at the bottom.

   He studied nights at the Cleveland School of Art long enough to get a job as an apprentice letterer, and gradually developed a solid studio background. A hard worker, he simultaneously painted and printed woodcuts for national exhibitions.

   In 1936, he painted an assignment for the Treasury Art Project in the Virgin Islands, and later, various mural commissions for federal buildings in Elkins, West Virginia; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands. His pictures are in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Avery Memorial of Hartford, and the New Britain Museum of American Art.

   His illustrations have appeared in almost all of the major magazines; he painted over 100 covers for The Saturday Evening Post. Twice a victim of tuberculosis himself, Dohanos contributed Christmas seal designs to the National Tuberculosis Association, and made many posters and designs for national and local charitable purposes. He designed well over forty stamps for the U.S. Postal Service, and for several years he served on the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee for the Postmaster General and as its Design Coordinator.

    Dohanos was a member of the National Society of Mural Painters, the Artists and Writers club, the Dutch Treat Club. He served as President of the Society of Illustrators from 1961-63, was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1971, and served as Honorary President from 1982 until his death.