Monday, June 10, 2013

Dohanos’s Barbershop


When this painting by Stevan Dohanos (1907-1994) appeared on the cover of the January 26th, 1946 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, it brought on a flood of letters from readers who saw something wrong with it.

On the first day, 36 letters came in. Over the next three days, 52 more arrived. In all there were 161 letters, and the magazine staff had to answer each one.

Can you guess what the majority of people found wrong with it?
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EDIT: Blog reader Andrew Mann has identified the number one issue: the clock is overlapping the upper corner of the door, preventing it from opening.

Back in 1946, Post reader Ina Peterson wrote a poem about the problem:
"I've heard of the face that stopped the clock,
But I've never known before
Until I viewed it in The Post)
Of a clock that stopped a door."

Art Editor Kenneth Stuart wrote: "In most glass paneled doors the distance from the edge of the door to the panel is the same on the sides as it is on the top. While Mr. Dohanos has not drawn with detailed accuracy the top of the door, his measurements are correct. The misunderstanding doubtless comes from artists taking liberties with photographic reality."

17 comments:

Katherine Thomas said...

The reflection in the mirror is strange. That whole wall is strange. I'm going to check for that book that you mentioned, it looks interesting!

Malleus said...

The bench does not reflect in the mirror; and the floor tiles seem to get larger the farther away to the left of the line of sight they are.

Matt Brackett said...

Yes, the scene is drawn a bit strangely/incorrectly, but I think the joke is that the barber is giving himself a haircut: same outfit, same scissors in the pocket, same profile.

Michael Syrigos said...

If I had to guess, it's the tiles that make it look "weird", they get narrower than shorter, but who cares, I'd go to a barbershop like that!

Andrew said...

It seems to me that that clock would keep the door from opening... The slightly off perspective stuff (like the tiles) didn't strike me right away, but that clock really seems like it's in the wrong place.

Barbara Carr said...

He's holding the comb the wrong way; there's no reflection in the second mirror; the spitoon is disgusting. Giving himself a haircut is kind of funny.

James Gurney said...

A lot of you have caught things that readers in 1946 noticed, but Andrew has identified the number 1 issue: the clock is overlapping the upper corner of the door, preventing it from opening.

Post reader Ina Peterson wrote a poem about it:
"I've heard of the face that stopped the clock,
But I've never known before
Until I viewed it in The Post)
Of a clock that stopped a door."

Art Editor Kenneth Stuart wrote: "In most glass paneled doors the distance from the edge of the door to the panel is the same on the sides as it is on the top. While Mr. Dohanos has not drawn with detailed accuracy the top of the door, his measurements are correct. The misunderstanding doubtless comes from artists taking liberties with photographic reality."

Mitch said...

Seems to me the clock reads 8:05, while its reflection says 5 minutes to 4 (3:55).

Josef Sy said...

There are a lot of things wrong with the picture but I think one that bothers me the most is the fact that we see the far side of the person's face (sitted). In that perspective and his pose, we should not see that side.

paul worley said...

The barbers feet are off the ground out of perspective

larin said...

The clock is also too large for its position--look at how it rises above the crown molding. The bottom edge of the clock is also further from the door edge in the reflection. How funny that the paper would have received so many letters about it, though! (Said someone who has written to news purveyors about grammatical issues--is that irony? ;-) )

nystudios said...

No coat rack in the reflection either.

Rich said...

Still; how can one criticize such a minuscule detail in a work of breathtaking accomplished art and craftmanship?
Those were the times of abundant illustrators with all their drawing skills and their underestimated illustrations...

O.K.: there may be something wrong with those two (mirrored) clocks. But overally the mirrored watch blends quite nicely with that "O" of that POST lettering...and I particularly like the synchonicity of those two (almost mirrored) parted haircuts;-)

Rich said...

p.s: see the features!

Isn't it like the father's getting a haircut by his son?

Smurfswacker said...

All these Post covers were supposed to tell some (usually very mildly) amusing story. I feel "a barber giving himself a haircut" would have been too weird for the SEP, even weirder than the perspective on those tiles. In my opinion the point is that it's late (or early?) and the shop is closed (window blind is drawn) so one barber is giving his fellow barber a haircut. Who watches the watchman? Who cuts the haircutter's hair? You know? Hyuk hyuk hyuk.

While the two men do look similar, the seated one is older and has differently colored hair.

Rich said...

Yes!
Who watches the watchman? Who cuts the haircutter's hair? Who is giving his fellow barber a haircut? Which dentist pulls another dentist's tooth?

Things are abundantly mirrored here in "Dohano's Barbershop":-))

Mitch said...

Please ignore my other comment. When I first looked at the clock's reflection, I was sure I saw a 4 where the 8 should be, and a 7 where the 5 should be. Today I looked at a larger, sharper image and I was obviously wrong. As Gov Perry would say: "Ooops."