Obscurity of the Day: Art’s Gallery

Although the 1970s are the ground zero decade for nostalgia, Art Finley got the drop on the fad almost a full decade early with Art’s Gallery. Take an old woodcut from 19th century magazines like Harper’s and Leslie’s, slap on a caption using an anachronistic reference and you’ve got yourself comedy gold … well brass at least.

Art Finley evidently did this panel as a minor part of his busy life. He is better known to Californians, and San Franciscans in particular, for being a local TV and radio personality. In between takes he found time for his daily panel feature starting on January 15 1962. At first the feature was run only in the San Francisco Chronicle, but starting in 1963, they syndicated it through Chronicle Features. The feature ran a long time, though never in all that many papers. It does seem strange that it didn’t take off during the 1970s nostalgia craze, but my guess is that newspaper printing, particularly execrable during that decade, was simply not up to the task of reproducing these fine line drawings in a paltry 2-column format. What’s the point of running a panel of mud?

In 1977 the feature moved to Universal Press Syndicate, who no doubt thought they could breathe some life into its sales figures. That didn’t happen. The series ended on June 22 1981.

There remains some question over whether this feature was offered on a daily basis throughout its life. However, in spot-checking the San Francisco Chronicle, where the feature ran from its first day to its last, I noticed no reduction to a weekly frequency, although occasionally it was bumped from its typical home in the classifieds section due to lack of space.

2 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Art’s Gallery

  1. I watched the Mayor Art show in my distant youth. It was an interesting time, when you'd recognize kiddie show hosts doing grown-up TV & radio — and, in this case, newspaper cartoons.

  2. It wasn't just old woodcuts Art used. The ones I clipped (from the S. F. Chronicle) featured line art by the likes of W. A. Rogers, Goeway and Opper.


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