In the last months of his life, Jim showed his masterpiece, "Kobenhaven," part of his ongoing dialogue with Asger Jorn. "Kobenhaven," with references to Picasso's "Guernica" and Jasper Johns (the lightbulb), was a direct response to Jorn's masterwork, "Stalingrad." (Showing only a detail from "Kobenhavn" here.) Its full name as listed in the show catalog is "The Bombardment of Kobenhaven in 1801 by Vice Admiral Lord Nelson or The Mad Laughter of Courage II (Til: Asger S. Trine)" "Til" means "to" in Danish, and I think the "S." is a typo and should have been "&." Trine is Katrine Nyholm; this is the seventh known picture Jim dedicated to her. This show ran from March 17 through April 16, 1967. Jim committed suicide on May 11 and, four days later, his work was shown at Perakis Gallery with that of Jim McWilliams, Thomas Chimes and Paul Anthony Greenwood. McWilliams remembers Jim's widow as trying to prevent them from including Jim's work, and "finally we just barged into his studio and took it." The show went on....
In 2008, when I first began looking for Jim's artwork, I heard a great story from Dan Miller, his classmate at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Dan went on to teach at the Academy for (I think) more than 50 years, and is the subject of a documentary by John Thornton. Dan said "Jim's death diminished us all," and told me a story: One day Jim came in to school and said he'd heard he'd get more money under the G.I. Bill if he were married. "So he walked down the hall, asking every girl he saw to marry him. One of them said yes. So they were married." And, said Dan, "I assume he got more money." When I told the story to other friends of Jim's, one of the women said, "Jim asked me to marry him, too."--Emily
May 11 will mark 50 years since Jim Brewton's death. We've been reposting some snippets on the Foundation's FaceBook page; here's one:
"Here's a baby photo of Jim Brewton I came across in 2009. I was visiting my stepfather, Mark Schilling, and we were sitting around the kitchen table looking through a small wooden box of old family photos. Mark offered me whatever pictures I wanted. I chose a couple of snapshots of my mother with her brother Nick.
"Suddenly I noticed a narrow little photo of Jim as a baby, beautifully worn as if it had once ridden around in a wallet for some time. What was it doing there in the Schilling boxhold? And how cool that I was able to instantly recognize the baby as Jim."