Brookpace Fine Art Manhattan Collection – James Dean With Camera – Large
Pros: Great photograph of Dean. Composition one of superb casual elegance. Beveled mirror frame evokes best of Deco and Hollywood Regency styles.
Cons: Hey… it’s James DEAN!
Hearing opportunity knock is one of life’s great moments. Our weekend village shop-crawl was initially fruitless – which can be preferable to when multiple bric-a-brac begs to follow you home. Our raucous, yet respectable retail rampage led to a sullen and distressed vendor whose lease was pending expiration. My initial assessment of the place screamed ‘gift shop’, until I turned and saw the gleaming image behind the register.
Even from a distance, the large, framed photograph had an ethereal composition that dominated the space. Its substantial wooden frame was lined with four rectangular slabs of beveled mirror that both reflected and refracted the room’s natural light in subtle rainbow hues. Reclining within was a candid B&W photograph of 1950s Hollywood icon James Dean – the Marilyn Monroe of his gender.
At the moment of exposure, Dean gives the camera a penetrating stare – though not one of mirth or malice, but of vulnerable bad-boy innocence. The depth-of-field is such that Dean himself is the only subject in focus, which adds to the photo’s impactive ambiance. The image even offers its own Where’s Waldo moment by featuring a collection of 50s detective mysteries – including one of Gardner’s Perry Mason novels – in the bookcase behind his right shoulder.
Getting A Clue
Upon closer inspection, the only indication of its origin was a small, oval sticker in the upper-left corner of the glass. Brookpace Fine Art, a British purveyor of ‘high quality decorative pictures’ was responsible for the sum of these formidable parts. With a web address present, it was clear that the photograph didn’t have a lot of age, but it sure looked the part of a retro-minimalist piece in the late Hollywood Regency style.
A visit to Brookpace solved the mystery. James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn are all part of The Manhattan Collection – mirrored, hand-finished frames surrounding both candid and professional images of three American actors prominent during Hollywood’s 1950s Golden Age in decline.
A generic Hollywood category features an eclectic assortment of celebrities from Twiggy to Louis Armstrong. Sean Connery as James Bond poses with his Aston Martin in the Cars category, while images of New York’s Chrysler building and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge span the collection’s City Architecture facet. A total of 177 black-and-white photographs occupy seven categories – the exception being a dabble of captivating color shots of Marilyn Monroe.
After some spirited horse-trading, we settled upon the sum of $50.00 – substantially beneath the shop’s sticker-price of $300.00 (all prices US). James and his Hollywood friends can still be found at Brookpace in various sizes, priced appropriately. When converted from the British pound, the “Large” 24 x 32-inch (listed size – actual measure: 26-1/2 x 34-1/4) version of James Dean With Camera sells for $386.00.
Cleans Up Nicely
Throughout the process of Jimmy’s rejuvenation, I was impressed with the quality of the piece. The wooden, satin-black frame is substantial. Masonite is used in place of the usual cardboard backing. A strong and secure wall-mount is necessary to support the entity’s 17 lbs. of iconic tinsel-town awesomeness – an appropriate description, once each of its elegant surfaces were restored to their original gleaming brilliance.
Unit 10, 1000 N. Circular Road