Book: Diane Arbus: A Biography

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and sold some of his stock. After auctioning off most of their antiques, he and Gertrude moved to Florida and the penthouse of the Palm Beach Towers, where David began painting fulltime—mostly vivid flower studies, but also paintings of Central Park, the Manhattan skyline, Radio City. In November 1958 he had his first major exhibit of fifty paintings at Gallery 72 in Manhattan and he sold forty-two of his canvases at prices ranging from $350 to $1250. “A lot of his Seventh Avenue cronies bought his stuff,” Nate Cummings says. Cummings himself bought two Nemerovs for the lobby of his Sara Lee cheesecake factory in Chicago.

Alex Eliot flew in from Europe to review the exhibit for Time magazine. “Nemerov’s paintings are crude and luminous and intensely colorful,” Alex wrote. “He’s obviously been inspired by the French impressionists.” When he asked Nemerov to explain why his paintings sold so rapidly, Nemerov answered, “People who bought them were mainly people of means who prefer a colorful painting. But when a stranger walks in and pays for a painting of yours, life becomes wonderful. You see, I couldn’t bear to be a failure. Not only in my eyes but in the eyes of the world.”

Howard came to the exhibit and kidded his father about being reviewed in Time magazine before his son was. And Nemerov retorted, “You see? An artist can be successful at making money.”

“It was a bitter pill to swallow,” John Pauker says. “Howard had been struggling for years to write fine poetry and he had a wonderful reputation and received a great deal of praise, but he’d made very little money. Now in a matter of months his father was earning up to a thousand dollars for one lousy oil. It wasn’t fair.”

Not long after the Arbuses became estranged, Sudie Trazoff, a former student of Howard’s from Bennington who lived across the street from Diane, offered to serve as baby-sitter and general factotum. She was the first of several young women who worked devotedly for Diane over the years and who became “like family.” Amy Arbus remembered in a radio interview, “As we got poorer and poorer and after my sister, Doon, went away to college, we had boarders—people who would take care of me and In 1958 Russeks Fifth Avenue folded; one of the reasons given was “changing customer patterns.” Other Russeks stores in Chicago and Brooklyn stayed open for the next few years. The chain, including the Savoy-Plaza shop, finally expired in the mid-sixties.

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