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|Thinkers Coffeehouse Mural -detail 2
These images of the Thinkers Coffeehouse mural we admit are not the best. John never photographed the mural sections in the studio and photography inside the narrow coffeeshop -filled with all manner of glass reflections, was an almost imposible task at best. But at least viewers will get an idea of the ambitious scope of the project and the artistry that went into its creation.
Represented in this mural detail are Vivien Leigh, Anna Pavlova, patrons Dr. Mark Levin and his wife Terry, Clark Gable, Earnest Hemingway, Bob Hope, Jack Benny (in drag), Voltaire, Nicolo Machiavelli, Aaron Copland, Beethoven, Count Basie, Paul Robeson, mayor Michael White, pope John 23rd, patron Mike, Luciano Pavarotti, Chuck Diamond, Elizabeth Tailor, Alfalfa, Gandhi, Buckwheat, Spanky, Joe Cobb (from Our Gang), Grouch Marx, Isaac Isimov, Bing Crosby, Rodulph Valentino, a patron as Chauser, and Dexter (Karyl’s black Labrador long story).
Keep in mind that John researched all these personalities before Google and the internet. He was always at the library looking for character details such as -who was left handed, what did Gandhi eat, what was Hemingway's favourite drink, what kind of coffee pope John 23rd drank (it was Puerto Rican coffee), did Elizabeth Tailor really have violet eyes, what tie would look good on mayor Michael White (a man without an artistic iota), or what was Cleveland's most popular newspaper in the 1920's.
One task that took longer to paint than finishing the main figures at the table was selecting and painting the food that was served! Almost every detail had some significance. The arrangement of the figures in the composition depended greatly on the availability of good photographic references. Ultimately personalities with limited reference (like finding only one usable photograph of a personality suitable for a particular pose) were arbitrarily set in the composition. Then these "set figures" were surrounded by "live" personalities such as patrons or models posing for other personalities with a larger photographic reference to choose from.
Under such limitations many personalities did not make it into the final composition; a few were later "edited" (eliminated, reversed, or altered) in the course of the project to suit the interactive flow of the characters. When question about his reasons for including or excluding a personality, John -with a puzzled expression, replied in one of his "Johnisms": -"Well, we sent out invitations; those who made it made it."
See the other images of this mural to continue the commentary.