Always a gifted portrait artist, it wasn't until Darwin Musselman retired that he started to increase his portrait work. As seen in the 1938 sketch completed while studying under Stanley Reckless at the Arts Center School, Musselman has always been able to capture the likeness, and yet establish a great sense of form and composition in all his work.
As many of the portraits were commissioned, few remain in his estate.
The photograph at the left shows Musselman working on the 1973 portrait of Demetra, the daughter of family friends John and Demetra (DeDe) Fried. DeDe was the daughter of the famed Hawaiin musician and composer - Johnny Noble, most famous for his song Little Grass Shack.
Portraits as Part of Commercial Art
Steven, approximate age 6, was the subject for this billboard commission circa 1960 for Rainbo Bread. Designed for a quick read on highways such as Highway 41, or Highway 99, simplicity was the key. You'll note the photographic sketch, and the final execution below.
During the photo shoot, where Musselman had his twin-lens reflex Rollie 2.25 x 2.25 camera set up on a tripod, with a remote squeeze shutter release, he received a phone call. "Stevie", hopped off his chair, snapped a photograph, and returned back without comment. When Musselman returned from his call, he thought nothing about having to wind his camera to the next frame. Later, while Musselman was developing the negatives in his converted bathroom darkroom, he noticed a blank scene, and couldn't imagine how this could have happened. The seeds of Musselman humor were sown at an early age in youngest son Steven.
Rainbo Bread Billboard Master Drawing by Darwin Musselman
National Portrait Seminar
The following quote from noted portrait artist John Howard Sanden is taken from a fuller statement found on the "John Howard Sanden Tribute" tab.
"I counted Darwin as my friend for 22 years or more. I believe that Elizabeth and I first met Darwin in 1979 when he arrived for the very first National Portrait Seminar in New York. He arrived early -- I mean several days early -- with his gracious wife who traveled everywhere with him. Darwin wanted to visit the galleries and museums in New York and get thoroughly settled before the five-day meeting began.
Beginning with the 1980 seminar, Darwin was a regular faculty member. He would lecture on his specialty -- composition and design -- with a scholarly thoroughness that was impressive and appealing. Darwin was a teacher to the core. He loved to teach, and he was good at it. "
The egg tempera at the right shows a Navajo woman captured in one of Musselman's photographs, and yet completed in his studio due to the nature of tempera.