This Day in History
Silver Ghost, Autumn Leaves


On a day like today in the 1920’s...

“Jazz,” applied to music, came out of late nineteenth century New Orleans; it was the gifted F. Scott Fitzgerald who in his Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) first used it as the name of an era, and who was its most skillful literary historian. He was the chronicler of the very rich, who preferred to live in Paris, or the Riviera, or, at the very least, on the North Shore of Long Island; and of the near-rich, who yearned to be very. He wrote of the great Prosperity and the great Bust of the twenties; of that Hollywood whose striking characteristic was that “when you got through the artificial tinsel, you came to the real tinsel.” His stories and novels recreated the other side of the society whose faithful historian was the Sinclair Lewis of Main Street and Babbitt.

Mr. Künstler’s painting might be an illustration for The Great Gatsby, that desperate figure, who, in a sense, symbolized the Jazz Age: the Great Jay Gatsby, whose wealth was as obscure as his social credentials. His life mirrors the economic and social fantasies of the decade. Here, in a curious blend of fancy and achievement is a dream life: the phony Oxford education, the phony cosmopolitanism, the real jewels that, nevertheless, managed to be artificial, the great estate on Long Island with it Marie Antoinette music room where nobody played. Here, too, were the dream cars: “rich cream in color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in their monstrous length with triumphant hat boxes and supper boxes, and terraces with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns.”

Gatsby yearned for the realization of his illusion but - like the decade - was unable to delude even himself. As effectively as Thorstein Veblen, Fitzgerald laid bare the pathology of the leisure classes and of their big money.





December's Archived Features:

Sunday December 1, 2019
Monday December 2, 2019
Tuesday December 3, 2019
Wednesday December 4, 2019
Thursday December 5, 2019
Friday December 6, 2019

 

 

 
All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.