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Monday, January 19, 2015

On Broadway with the Juley Collection

For fans of the theatre: From our Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, we've recently added 247 images of artworks and related items photographed for the theatrical designer, Jo Mielziner. While many of the artists in our collection are more traditionally represented by their painting and sculpture, the Mielziner images struck me as interesting as they feature not just drawings, but also technical studies, collages, and other seemingly random images taken from the artist’s studio.

A student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Jo Mielziner was on track to follow in the foot-steps of his father, the painter Leo Mielziner, Sr. It was after a summer spent working as a stage manager however, that Jo instead became interested in scenic and lighting design for the theatre (an interest that was also encouraged by his brother, the actor Kenneth MacKenna).

In the following years, Mielziner went on to study set design in Europe and then apprenticed with Robert Edmond Jones before branching out on his own. A large part of his career was spent working on Broadway productions, most notably A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The King and I. His designs for these and other plays would earn him several Tony awards and nominations.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Later on in his career, Mielziner developed an interest in theatre architecture. He designed the theatre at Wake Forest University, and was hired as a consultant for the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center and the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. He was also commissioned to create a display for the New York’s World Fair, and while we still need to fully research the Mielziner images, I believe we may have a few photos of sketches and inspirations for that project.

Design for Vivian Beaumont Theatre
New York World's Fair Design, Pieta

Among the stage and theatre designs are portraits and photographs of Mielziner’s friends and colleagues. I really like the portrait below of conductor, Arturo Toscanini. You can find the rest of the Mielziner images here. Many are still unidentified, so if you know who or what they are, do let us know!

Robert Edmond Jones
Arturo Toscanini

A big thanks for the help of our wonderful scanning assistant, Bryan. We've been able to upload the Jo Mielziner images, along with over 3,000 images from the Juley Collection, to the Collections Search Center.

--Rachel Brooks, Photograph Archives, Smithsonian American Art Museum

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