Working with Wingate Paine in 1977

by Alden Cole on March 4, 2015 · 0 comments

Character is much easier kept than recovered.” – Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

OmegaCoupleOriginal900In 1977 I met fashion-photographer-turned-fine-art-photographer-turned-hatha-yoga-teacher-and-personal-guru Wingate Paine through mutual friend Barbara Somerfield, a book publisher whom I knew through Donald Weiser, owner of Samuel Weiser Inc.

“Wingate Paine (1915-1987), was a member of a Mayflower New England family with ties to law, banking and the ministry. He broke from those traditions and became a Marine captain, connoisseur of French wine, devotee of Hatha-Yoga and finally a gifted photographer and filmmaker. Described as his ‘visual valentine to feminine beauty,’ Paine’s series of female nudes were published in his 1967 book Mirror of Venus. This 1960s classic was printed in ten editions and features text written by Federico Fellini and Françoise Sagan. Paine later abandoned photography for sculpture. Mirror of Venus represents the culmination of his photographic career. In his classic Mirror of Venus, Wingate Paine created an icon of the 1960s Sexual Revolution. Though innocent by today’s standards, it pushed the limits of what was considered acceptable art photography. The book illustrated playful, strong, modern women posing in flagrante delicto for an enamored photographer. With the help of his wife, Natalie Paine, who directed a major New York modeling agency, he enlisted three remarkable models as collaborators: Sandy Brown, Carla Moliere and “Scarlet”. Paine viewed his models with appreciation and respect, as well as desire. These three women stand on the threshold of sixties feminism.”

The succinctly informative overview above is quoted from the following blog which includes many of Wingate’s photos:

PurpleOmega900I was 33 when we met, Wingate was 62, a bon vivant sophisticate famous as a photographer with a penthouse apartment on the East Side. My career as graphic designer was new; I was impressed with this man who was reinventing himself as a hatha yoga teacher and personal guru to well-heeled New York society women. A bit awe-struck, I was honored that he wanted to work with me. He had in mind a publishing project – a special book he was writing for which he needed illustrations, and which he planned to publish in order to make copies available to his students/devotees, as well as hopefully gaining a wider audience.

GoldOmega900Wingate had an obsession with the Omega symbol, which he wore as a rather large shiny pendant against a dark sweater the color of another obsession – purple. We sat on cushions of that color in his elegant eyrie, the penthouse where he taught hatha yoga classes and dispensed wisdom to a small group of students. Perusing my young portfolio, he was impressed, describing what he had in mind – a line drawing of a nude couple facing each other on their knees in such a way that an Omega symbol could be printed over them, thus creating a design suitable for a book cover, with the possibility of additional uses in other appropriate formats.

B&W&ColorWPI took to the challenge like a duck to water, coming up with the first design in short order – the simple line illustration at the top of this posting, which includes details in non-repro-blue pencil that didn’t get inked in the final version. The second variation – the couple overprinted with an air-brushed Omega in purple – followed quickly thereafter, followed by the first piece commercially printed for the project – the drawing of the couple printed in purple ink on Manila paper with the Omega gold-stamped over the drawing; a page destined for the loose-leaf notebook Wingate was creating for his students. In the pair of artworks immediately above the left monotone drawing shows how the art was used on the cover of the first printed edition of the book. The right shows the colorful luma-dyed version (with figures switched) executed on rice paper in early ’78, intended for a full-color book-cover that never materialized… Provenance of original artwork unknown.

Face2FaceWPFace to Face • pen and ink drawing on paper – 24″ x 24″ • collection of the artist. The next and last project I worked on with Wingate came to nothing as well. I have no memory of our few exchanges over this job, except for our final meeting. I suppose that’s not totally surprising, considering how many years ago it was, and how poorly I maintained records of my day-to-week-to-month activities at that time, keeping those records instead ‘all in my head’ – an idea which obviously didn’t work, which is why this record is so tentatively spotty. If only I had known, perhaps I would have become a diarist; perhaps not. Anyway, the project was to draw the ideal androgynous face, composed of the best elements of masculine and feminine, a project which was right up my alley, in line with the directions I was exploring in painting. Towards that end I drew the basis of the drawing above, well over life size. Try to imagine a much simpler drawing of just the face with only the suggestion of hair radiating outward from the face; the ring of figures surrounding the head was not there; they were additions made later. I had never drawn such a large head before, so there were challenges in the process which blinded me to the overall effect of the drawing. Nevertheless I felt good about the results I came up with, so when I delivered the work, I was crushed by Wingate’s response: ” HMMMM, interesting drawing, but where did you get those incredibly ugly ears? Were you on drugs or something?” I don’t remember my immediate reaction to such a comment, but shortly thereafter I made my exit and did not return; we never resumed a working relationship thereafter. I saw Wingate one more time a couple years later when my friend Barbara who had introduced us originally, took me to visit him in the hospital where he was recovering from a malady unknown to me now, presumably not the cause of his ultimate demise less than a decade later at age 72. Our meeting was cordial but cool, and we never saw each other again. R.I.P.

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