Bergman's Studio


Bergman's Studio
   Robert Bergman's scene-painting studio was located on West 39th Street, across from the south side of the old Metropolitan Opera House. Bergman and his partner William Pennington ran the establishment most respected by top scene designers of the 1920s for those who wanted their sketches reproduced exactly. Robert Edmond Jones kept a hideaway office there, and thus Bergman's became a popular meeting place for designers. According to Claude Bragdon, who called it not only a place where scenery was painted, but "also a Republic of the Arts, a club, a salon" (1938, 203), it was frequented by Norman Bel Geddes, Lee Simonson, Jo Mielziner, Donald Oenslager, and James Reynolds, among others. If an artist wanted to see Jones, according to designer John Ezell, one had to get to the studio before four in the afternoon, because that was the hour of the "Bergman bath," when all the paint water would be emptied onto the lower floor to drain, thus making the path to Jones's upper-level drafting room inaccessible. Thus barricaded, the convivial designers could begin their drinking. Ezell adds that the mix of paint and water was actually sloshed over the scenery that had been meticulously painted that day as a way of glazing "the scenic surfaces with swirling, richly mottled, transparent washes of color. That is why the water and color were sometimes ankle deep and the floor was impassable until the scenery had dried—or the whiskey ran out—whichever came first." Lee Simonson, whose book The Art of Scenic Design is dedicated to Bergman, wrote that "a setting painted in this way is astonishingly rich in texture and responds to the slightest variation in light" (1950, 40).

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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