American, Americana, art history, Charlotte Joan Sternberg, Charlotte Sternberg, Daniel V. Thompson, Deane Keller, Egg Tempera, Eugene Francis Savage, Jean Day Zallinger, John Trumbull, Ken Davies, Leonard Everett Fisher, Painting, Realism, Richard Rathbone, Rudolph Zallinger, Yale, Yale Art School
Women were accepted at Yale Art School when Charlotte entered, but not in the main part of the university. Her parents were daunted at the financial prospect ($300 a semester!), but somehow managed to scrape the money together. Her future course was set. She arrived at the college on a sparkling autumn day that was unusually cold. Her rooms were in a separate house off the main campus with several other girls (today, the Department of Anthropology.) That evening, she looked out the window and was surprised to see what appeared to be veils of white moving across the sky. These were northern lights, making an unusual appearance in Connecticut. Everything seemed full of mystery and promise.
In 1937, the Yale Art School was highly traditional. Time-honored, indeed ancient methods of teaching dominated. Drawing teachers such as the classic portraitist Deane Keller held sway, as well as muralist Eugene Francis Savage. The composition teacher Richard Rathbone, author of an excellent book on that subject, was also one of Charlotte’s great inspirations. He enthralled his classes with analysis of the Renaissance masters, and Charlotte became as fond of Botticelli as her teacher was. Years later, she had an extended trip to Italy, and admired the masters first hand.
Students took drawing in the morning, painting in the afternoon. Beyond that, there was art history, history of architecture and of ornament. They started figure drawing with “cast” drawings: these were studies of plaster casts which were reproductions of famous sculptures. “Life drawing” was done from live models. Anatomy was an important part of these studies, and the students even visited the medical school to see the dissection of a cadaver. Still life and many painterly studies in oils rounded out the curriculum. Students did very few of the quick sketches or “gesture drawings” common today. Instead, they labored all week on a large charcoal figure drawing, only to have the dauntless Keller whack most of the vine charcoal off the paper with his chamois cloth, and correct their efforts.
The social atmosphere was intellectually charged, stimulating, and most enjoyable for Charlotte. She met students from Europe and China, students from all over America, students who’d been to Oxford, students who had been to the Sorbonne in Paris. One of her good friends in school was Nancy Trumbull, “Trummy,” who was a descendant of John Trumbull, painter of the American Revolution. (Unfortunately, Nancy died quite young.) Other dear friends were Jean Day( later Zallinger), who became a renowned children’s book illustrator; her future husband, Rudolph Zallinger, famous painter of the Peabody museum dinosaur mural; and Thomas Wells, well-known painter of the tall ships he’d served on. Other Yale graduates Charlotte would know well included the superb still life painter, Ken Davies, later dean of Paier School of Art, and Leonard Everett Fisher, prolific and famed author and illustrator of children’s books.