Paint by Number: The How-To Craze that Swept the Nation

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Press:Chronicle Books Llc Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2001)
Publication Date:2001-4
ISBN:9781568982823
Author Name:Bird Jr, William Larry
Pages:141
Language:English

Content

What is the fascination of paint by numbers? Is it the intoxicating and compulsive act of filling in small pools of color? Or the easy thrill of creating your own impressionist masterpiece? Or a fond nostalgic yearning for a craze that cut across national boundaries and age groups? Invented in 1951 by Dan Robbins-based on an idea used by Leonardo da Vinci to teach painting-the paint-by-number craze reached its zenith in the 1950s but continues even today as paints and kits are avidly collected, exhibited in galleries, and traded on eBay. 
In Paint By Number, author Larry Bird takes us on an unbelievable journey where art meets kitsch and popular and high cultures collide in a collage of home economics, leisure time fun, and art education, Bird revisits the hobby from the vantage point of the artists and entrepreneurs who created the popular paint kits, the critics who reviled them, and the consumers who enthusiastically filled them in and hung them in their homes.
Paint By Number includes over 200 examples of paint-by-number ephemera and two pull-out paintings ready to be filled-in!

From Publishers Weekly

In the early 1950s, paint-by-number kits became, for watchdogs of America's artistic ambition, a metaphor for the commercialization, mechanization and "dumbing-down" of American culture. 
But consumers paid little attention to such finger wagging; in 1954, more "number" paintings hung in American homes than did original works of art.
Using 185 color and 15 b&w exemplars, William Bird (Better Living: Advertising, Media and the New Vocabulary of Business Leadership) analyzes the phenomenon in Paint by Number: The How-To Craze that Swept the Nation, which accompanies an exhibition he curated for the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (now hanging until December).
Based on a Leonardo da Vinci technique for teaching painting, paint by number survives to this day, now collected, traded online and exhibited in galleries.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Invented in 1949 and reaching its zenith in the mid-Fifties,  when millions of craft kits marketed with the slogan "Every man  a Rembrandt" were sold for around $2.50 each, the  paint-by-number fad spread throughout Eisenhower's burgeoning  America, where garish scenes of covered bridges, dogs, ships,  and cowboys hung over the sofas of new tract homes. 
This entertaining book accompanies an exhibition of 200 examples at the National Museum of American History on view through the end of 2001.
Bird, a Smithsonian curator and author (Better Living, etc.), traces the history of the hobby and its mass appeal to middlebrow aspirations to culture, as well as the art world's derisively dismissive reactions.
He also recounts fascinating examples of the fad's place in American culture, including the Stephens Collection of paint-by-number canvases completed by J.
Edgar Hoover, Nelson Rockefeller, and other administration officials and displayed in the West Wing of the White House.
As a bonus, two blank paintings with color instructions are reproduced inside the foldout covers.
Recommended for American cultural history sections in libraries at all levels.
Russell T.
Clement, Northwestern Univ.
Lib., Evanston, IL Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Tags

Humor & Entertainment,Pop Culture,Art,Arts & Photography,Painting,General


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Comment

 
 

Comment List (Total:9)

  •     Reviewed a forgotten memory. When I bring up the subject the faces light up as somethingthey hadn't thought about for years.
  •     Informative book
  •     Great quality...everything I expected
  •     This is a really neat-o! book.It's a short book, beautifully illustrated with paint-by-number paintings on almost every page (including paintings completed by J. Edgar Hoover, Nelson Rockefeller, Ethel Merman, and others). There are also lots of photos of advertisements, packaging and promotional displays used to sell the kits. The author discusses Max Klein & Dan Robbins, the men who started the paint-by-number "craze", and some of the other artists who worked on the kits. Despite heavy criticism from the art community, the kits were enormously popular in many countries.I used to love doing these kits when I was a kid in the '60's and '70's. It may not be "art" but if nothing else I think people learn a little something about colors, shading and composition while working on these kits.
  •     William Bird Jr's Paint By Number traces the history of a movement which swept across the country and created many a budding novice artist. Chapters provide plenty of color photo examples of a changing industry which recognized an unfulfilled desire in the common man to be an artist. The gorgeous displays and ads for the medium are compelling, even for the non-artist reader.
  •     This is a beautifully-designed, lavishly illustrated, great-looking, smart book - every page a treat - that is part art book, part pop adventure story, part trenchant cultural history and analysis. Without the irony or condescension heretofore prevalent in discussions about the 1950s' remarkably popular and widespread middlebrow hobby of painting by number, William L. Bird, Jr., a curator at the Smithsonian, starts from the beginning and tells all.Leonardo da Vinci seems to have thought of it first, as a way to teach painting. In 1952 (after considerable work in the lab and at the drawing board) mass culture combined with smart American commercialism to sell eager Americans first, the rest of the world later - this surprisingly controversial and intensely pleasurable hobby: paint by number. The paintings and their deeply satisfying means of production were denigrated by cultural critics - and loved by millions of regular folks - and Andy Warhol, too.Students of popular and consumer culture and advertising, those curious about a popular phenomenon that provoked the critics of art and culture to attack relentlessly - or anyone interested in reading about the fun of these paintings and how they came to be - will love this perfect book. The author's mind is flexible and fertile; he takes us on a terrific tour. Clever and funny in places, with a bibliography hundreds of articles and books long. Great book.
  •     Bird does a decent job summarizing this kitschy topic in a succinct manner. In a sense though the length of this book is its worst enemy.
  •     I confess, this book as something of a disappointment, because although the written history of PBN was great, there were far too few illustrations. Considering that PBN really was the 'craze that swept the world', I was hoping to have HUNDREDS (as opposed to a couple of dozen) of original PBNs to enjoy. Not only that, but the examples featured here are already the most well known, so if you're looking for a vintage PBNs 'sourcebook', this isn't the book. In fact, there ISN'T a book. (*I made my own by extensively researching on Google Images and printing out my favorite PBNs, then filing them in plastic slip sheets in a ring binder, thus making my own PBN 'sourcebook')
  •     I love this book as it takes my back to the early sixties when I was in grade school (born in 1995). I loved paint by number kits but my Mom wouldn't buy me one for years ( she drew and painted freehand and was very good as were my two sisters) and when she finally bought me one and I finished it, I was so proud. I love the old ads and reading how paint by numbers got their start and how people still love doing them. I myself have been painting paint by numbers regularly for over 20 years. Thanks for a marvelous and nostalgic book with loads of information especially how to care for old paint by numbers.It is definitely worth the money to buy one of these books!
 

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