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Original Issue

Fervor in Milwaukee

Robert Gwathmey's work is primarily of the South, of long, linear figures against flat country, with pine trees, corn, cotton and tobacco and the relation of the people to the soil. His assignment to paint the ardor for baseball in the ecstatic city of Milwaukee came about because the style and mood demonstrated in his paintings (which hang in more than 30 museums) seemed particularly suited to the subject. He is, in a sense, a fine-arts illustrator: a storyteller. The influence of medieval art is seen in his attenuated figures with their limited gestures. He prefers flatness with limited perspective rather than deep space, thus giving his work a composed, almost static quality—quiet, harmonious, introspective.

Gwathmey noted that just about everyone in Milwaukee was a baseball fan, and that even at 5 a.m., waiting in line to buy tickets for that day's game, the general tone of the crowd was one of excited expectation and camaraderie. He was impressed by the fact that much of the crowd was comprised of family units, often including grandparents and grandchildren. In Milwaukee people go to the game in groups, not alone. Moreover, he noted that the baseball team aroused as much local pride as did Milwaukee's traditionally fine food and beer. Baseball has become part of the city's life.

Gwathmey is a Southerner, born in Richmond in 1903, but he has traveled widely and now lives in New York City where he has taught drawing for 15 years. The simplicity and restraint of his art contrast with the man himself. He is gregarious, affirmative, open, with a lively sense of humor and a very positive attitude toward life.


The artist's representation of a great moment in the World Series: Milwaukee's victory in the fifth game

In the cold of the morning ticket lines: expectation and camaraderie

In the warmth of their love of the game: a family stands united