Imagine It's September 1919 ...

the_newsstand_04.pngImagine it's September 1919, and you stop to browse the magazines at your local newsstand. There among the array of covers, many featuring celebrities of the day, is one that captures your attention. The cover is different. It's a painting that is bright and colorful. It pulls you in. The magazine's title, Shadowland, intrigues you, as does its subtitle, Expressing the Arts. You note that it is beatifully printed and includes lots of pictures. A few pages in, you discover it's the premier issue and has well-wishing letters from the likes of Samuel Goldwyn, Cecil B. De Mille, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin. Yes, you see plenty of pictures of the latest starlets of film and stage, which tell you this is a fan magazine, but it's more than that. You continue to find a feast of articles: a piece on marionettes, a story on prohibition and the cabaret, an original play, an article about sketching in nature, and another piece by theater producer Lee Shubert, and later on articles on Parisian fashion, artistic photography, and finally a piece on propaganda by Hudson Maxim. This is, you say to yourself, something new.

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I can't help but think that the 1919 reader would have responded just as delightfully as we did when we recently discovered a set of Shadowland issues in the library's collection. Only a handful of libraries have holdings, and we're among the very few with almost every issue.

Shadowland lives on today largely based on the extraordinary covers painted by Adolf M. Hopfmüller (1875–1971). He created forty-eight covers during the magazine’s short existence from 1919 to 1923. Eugene V. Brewster, a seasoned publisher of movie magazines, hired Hopfmüller as an art director in 1917, and together they launched the new publication. Born in Germany, Hopfmüller ran away from boarding school to work as a sailor before immigrating to New York City in 1898. He studied at the Art Students League of New York from 1912 to 1913. Following his work on Shadowland, Hopfmüller continued his career as an art director for Harper’s Bazaar.

A.M. Hopfmuller, ca. 1920sHopfmuller Signature

We quickly learned that information was scant on Hopfmüller, and in the process of researching the artist, we made contact with his grandson, Don Hamann, and his wife, Ruth. Recently the Hamanns visited the museum and helped illumintate Hopfmüller's life through their remembrances, along with sharing the details of the archive of Hopfmüller's art and documents that they possess.

Our work with Shadowland has sparked a couple of initiatives that we hope will help highlight the magazine and artist. Dustin Dirickson, our UNT library school practicum student this semester, is busy digitizing our issues to join those already available in Archive.org. Kathleen Rice, museum docent, who has done extensive research on Hopfmüller, will be writing the first article on the artist in Wikipedia as well as enhancing the existing article on Shadowland.

A selection of Hopfmüller's Shadowland covers remains on view in the library reading room through the end of the year.

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The following supplemental blog is by Ruth Hamann, wife of A.M. Hopfmüller's grandson, Don Hamann. Submitted November 5, 2016.

It seems that we’ve always been aware of Shadowland magazine by way of its covers. Don grew up in the same house as his maternal grandfather, A.M. Hopfmüller, and was surrounded by his artwork. The original Shadowland paintings and prints were hung prominently in their house as well as in those of two aunts, daughters of the artist, who lived a few blocks away. Don and his two first cousins decorated their college rooms with their grandfather’s prints, as well as some of his lovely plein-air oils. Over the years, Don and I acquired most of the artist’s work, and finally the magazines and cover proofs as well.

After retiring from my position as a community college reference librarian, I decided it was time to take stock of the whole collection. I created a spreadsheet showing the family holdings of magazines, original paintings, artist proofs, and prints of the covers. We also finally got to spend some time perusing the magazines as a whole and discovered a wealth of articles and images from major writers and artists of the period. Discoveries included articles written by Hopfmüller himself. However, since Shadowland was not indexed, it was difficult to know all it contained. I found that a small subset of the magazine had been digitized and was searchable in Internet Archives, and I began to explore ways to get the rest digitized as well—not an easy task for a retired librarian!

Suddenly, from out of nowhere it seemed, Don received an email from Samuel Duncan, Library Director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. He had come across Shadowland in the museum's collection of bound periodicals, was enthralled with the cover images, and decided to feature them in an exhibition. Finding a dearth of biographical material on the artist, he and Kathleen Rice, one the museum's docents, performed a creative search that led them to us. We were thrilled to learn that a major museum had “discovered” Grandpa’s cover art. (It has had an underground following in the form of reproductions of isolated covers distributed on the web.)

We were able to fill in some of the blanks in Hopfmüller’s biography, and Sam followed tangents from there. He has also begun the task of digitizing his collection of Shadowland—a real contribution to scholarship (we were able to supply a few that the museum was missing).

We decided to travel to Texas to see the Shadowland exhibit he had mounted in the library and meet our “collaborators.” We were not disappointed! We were welcomed with open arms and spent a good part of a day—and then some—with the library staff, sharing some of our remembrances and information that we had about the life and times of Hopfmüller and his magazine. One vibrant memory we shared was of watching the first moon landing in 1971 together with Don’s 96-year-old grandfather, reminiscing about the highlights of his life. He talked of his adventures at sea—he had spent ten years on square-rigged ships, climbing slippery rigging as they sailed around Cape Horn in an ice storm. Ships and the sea form a recurring element in his art.

Hopfmüller was fond of sharing stories about his relationship with Eugene V. Brewster, whose flamboyance influenced the artist's Shadowland covers. We suspect Brewster played a role in the addition of foreground bathing ladies in the following images of the original painting and actual cover of the May 1920 issue.

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The following two images however, from artist’s proofs of the September 1921 and March 1922 covers, are representative of the distinctive style he later developed.

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How pleased we are that his creative genius is finally gaining recognition!

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From the left: Rachel Panella, Don Hamann, Sam Duncan

Ruth Hamann