Cityscape (Untitled), c. late 1940s, 21 x 14 ½ inches, watercolor and gouache on illustration board, signed lower left, marked “Baker 1-16” verso.
About the Painting
Samuel Sunasky’s Cityscape (Untitled) is a groovy, pulsating image of an urban metropolis. Using the loose brush strokes of his fellow the late 1940s California watercolorists, Sunasky portrays the city as a vibrant energetic place. Lights swirl, cars stream down the streets, pedestrians scurry along the sidewalks and advertising signs blare their messages. Sunasky uses contrasting thin washes of watercolor and strong opaque blocks of brightly colored gouache to complete the composition. There is a feeling of controlled serendipity in Cityscape. As Sunasky himself noted, “Watercolor is chiefly accident. The thing is to put the accidents in the right places.” In this work, Sunasky has found the “right places.”
About the Artist
Samuel Sunasky was a painter, art instructor and Hollywood set designer, who primarily worked in watercolor and gouache. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied at the Cooper Union, Pratt Institute and at Beaux Arts in Paris, with Eugene Bridgeman, Laurence Murphy and Nicholai Fachin. Sunasky then taught at Pratt and the Watercolor Association of New York. From 1942 through 1945, he served in the Army. By 1946, he had arrived in Los Angeles, where he exhibited at the Los Angeles Art Association Galleries at 2425 Wilshire Blvd. in a show entitled, “Watercolors by Seven.” The other artists in the exhibition were Frode Dann, Michael Frary, Leon d’Usseau, Nicholas Brigante, Palmer Schoppe and David Scott. In connection with that show, Herman Reuter of the Los Angeles Evening Citizen cited Sunasky’s “Fishing Village” as a strong work. He noted, “It is simple and brisk in design, being somewhat reminiscent of an oriental print in this respect, and in addition there is a sort of punch in the way it has been brushed in. What particularly appeals to me is the fact the painting has a good proportion of light areas.” Also, in 1946, Sunasky exhibited at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA) (then called the County Museum, Exposition Park) in the GI Art Exhibit, co-sponsored by the Veteran’s Administration and the California Art Club. The show consisted of the best works from among the 1600 veterans studying and working in Southern California’s art schools. Sunasky’s “Carnival” won first prize in the watercolor category. Sunasky showed at the Los Angeles City Art Exhibit at the Greek Theater in 1947, where Reuter again approved of Sunasky’s work, placing him among a listing of Who’s Who of Los Angles artists of the time. Sunasky also showed in 1947 at Lynn Bassel Gallery at 6109 W. Fifth St, and at Raymond & Raymond Galleries at 9522 Santa Monica Blvd where he contributed works for a charitable auction to support the American Veteran’s Committee. Later that year, he began to teach art at the Immaculate Heart College. In connection with these classes, The Tidings (Los Angeles), quoted Sunaksy as saying, “Watercolor is chiefly accident. The thing is to put the accidents in the right places.” In 1949, Sunasky had a one-man show in Bakersfield where he exhibited landscapes, seascapes, nudes, war studies, European scenes and images of city night life. In 1955, together with Manning Hall, Sunasky opened an art school in Studio City called the Art Academy. In 1957, he had a one-man show at the Van Nuy’s Women’s Club. Other exhibitions included the Jefferson Art Gallery in Hartford Connecticut. Sunasky’s work as a set designer included the Red Skelton Show, Climax, Playhouse 90, The Shower of Stars, the Jack Benny Show, and the Civic Light Operetta presentation of Peter Pan staring Mary Martin. His works were collected by some of entertainment’s leading stars during the late 1940s and 1950s, including Peggy Lee, Roddy McDowell, Dane Clark, and Marie MacDonald.