Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sketching the 1956 Protests in Montgomery, Alabama

In March of 1956, Harvey Dinnerstein and his friend Burton Silverman traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to sketch the civil rights movement that was happening in the African-American community.

Rev. M.L. King, by Burton Silverman, 1956
The two 28-year-old artists were witnesses to the protest events in which Dr. Martin Luther King rose to national prominence. 

Drawings from the Montgomery Protests by Harvey Dinnerstein and Burton Silverman, 1956
They produced over 90 drawings directly from life, in bus stations, courtrooms, churches and people's homes. 

They were fully aware they were covering pivotal historical events, but they tried to capture universal human emotions, rather than making political statements.  

Drawing by Harvey Dinnerstein
Silverman says, "We were incredibly moved by black gentleness and humanity. And our drawing skill was put to a rigorous test: to convey the dignity and strength of the blacks and get it all down in the rush of ongoing events. This meant trying to remain 'distant' enough to make an effective piece of art without losing contact with the intense feelings being generated at the moment of creation."

Monroe Street Market by Harvey Dinnerstein
They acted both as participants and observers. Silverman drew furiously in the midst of the most intense church rallies, while "swaying and chanting to the marvelous Gospel music."

The drawings were published in newspapers, magazines, and print portfolios. Some were given to museums. In 2004 the Delaware Art Museum presented 38 of the drawings in the exhibition "Glorious Dignity: 45 Drawings of the Montgomery Bus Boycott," followed by a 50th anniversary exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Art.
The quotes are from Painting Peopleby Burt Silverman.
Burton Silverman's website
Harvey Dinnerstein on Wikipedia


Allen Garns said...

Thanks for the post. Dinnerstein and Silverman were both strong influneces on me back in the late 70's. I bought both their books. My art teachers at the time discouraged me from looking at them too much - "too traditional". They've continued to be an inspiration to me now for 35 years. Wonderful drawings you've posted here. Some I had not seen before. Thanks.

Kevin Mayes said...

Interesting post! Burt Silverman was also an influence for me. It would be interesting to see a post on his watercolor paintings. I don't know much about Dinnerstein and would really like to see a post on him as well. Great work samples!
Thanks for this post!

lee kline said...

Do you recall the remarkable sketches Norman Rockwell did during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s? As I recall, he was sent down by LOOK magazine and when he returned to New York to show his sketches to the A. D. (Alan Hurlbut? My memory has a case of the fades) The very wise art director told Rockwell that the sketches were EXACTLY what he had hoped for. They were published as is. As I remember it, those sketches won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators. They were remarkable.

Warren JB said...

A wee bit of a buzz to imagine them there, capturing the events, the people, the man himself; and all apparently so casually and naturally. Though I guess that's what they were there for! Excellent, thank you.