Saturday, March 12, 2011

Frank Crowninshield


Francis Welch Crowninshield was born in Paris, France on June 24, 1872 and died in Manhattan, New York on December 28, 1947.  Though he was born in Paris, he came from one of the original New England families, the Crowninshields and was born to the artist and poet, Frederic Crowninshield and Helen Suzette Fairbanks. His father Frederick was for two years, the director of the American Academy in Rome; for artists. Crowninshield, to his friends was known as, "Crownie"After coming to America, and being in America for awhile he met Conde Nast, who both became very good friends. In 1913 Mr. Nast bought the title Vanity Fair, which was the titled used for John Bunyan's 17th century allegory "The Pilgrim's Progress," and William Makepeace Thackeray's 19th century novel. He bought the title for a magazine idea that he had. "In 1913, he was one of the organizers of the New York Armory show - that milestone in American aesthetic education in which the post-impressionist pictures created such a furor." In 1929 he was one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York.
Crowninshield told Nast, "Your magazine should cover the things people talk about," Crowninshield told Mr. Nast. "Parties, the arts, sports, theatre, humor, and so forth." After Crowninshield told this to Conde Nast "anointed" Crowninshield editor of the magazine. Crowninshield also told Nast to get rid of the first have of the title and to just call it, Vanity Fair. Crowninshield, with much confidence told Mr. Conde Nast, "young men and young women, full of courage, originality, and genius are everywhere to be met with. From 1921 - 1927 they lived together in a Park Avenue deplex; Frank also said, "I suppose people thought we were fairies." "Miraculously, genius did materialize in "Crownie's" office with alarming frequency."
There were people who roamed around his office such as, Dorothy Parker, a caption writer, sold her first poem to Vanity Fair; and from the Harvard Lampoon there was Robert Benchley. Frank discovered people like e.e. cummings, Walter Winchell, Noel Coward, Edmund Wilson, P.G. Wodehouse, Alexander Woollcott, Cecil Beaton, Edward Steichen, George Hoyningen-Huene, Man Ray, and Gertrude Stein. He would also put the works in his magazine such as Matisse, Maillol and Picasso "long before any mainstream American magazine dared - and over Nast's headed objections; he had roughly 90,000 readers.
"The magazine's jaunty ethos of mixing, matching, and homogenizing personalities from different classes, races and sexes (as long as they were brilliant, beautiful, rich, or talented) was nowhere better expressed than in illustrator Miguel Covarrubias's "Impossible Interviews," imaginary pairings of such unlikely duos as Greta Garbo and Calvin Coolidge. Though V.F. elevated all of its elect to the same celestial plan, once apotheosized, nobody was sacred. Thus the glossy mirthfully printed humbling beach shots of George Bernard Shaw and Otto Kahn, and in 1918 in enshrined Henry James in its Hall of Fame, only to list him five years later among "the Ten Dullest Authors."
Vanity Fair suffered during the depression and in 1936 became out of date, Frank then turned it into Vogue  


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