Dooby du Bois

I admit I don't know diddly about W.E.B. Du Bois, except my friend's son is writing a paper about him. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes Du Bois as a pragmatic philosopher, among other things, but not as an author, artist, or illustrator. 

Guy Pène du Bois was an artist whose "Beach" series hung in the Sheldon Museum's permanent collection gallery during my Wonder Years. The series of three small oils showed groups of people in 1924 swimming attire, a matter of some interest for a 10 year old student of history, costume, swimming, and the human form. The subjects do not appear to be having any fun at the beach. I was always intrigued by the woman wringing out the skirt of her bathing costume. What would she think about shopping the Lands End swim catalog?

Guy was a student of William Merritt Chase and Robert Henri. He was named for his father's friend, the writer Guy de Maupassant. Much as I don't know diddly about W.E.B., I am clueless about Maupassant. I've reserved a library book of his stories. 

Guy had a large family to support, and wrote for a newspaper besides being an artist. He reported on the police beat, and was a music critic. He was the subject of Peggy Bacon's 1933 portrait etching entitled "Hangover".

One of Guy's children was William Pène du Bois, the author/illustrator of my very favorite Newbery Medal book. That would be the 1948 winner for The Twenty One Balloons. Besides writing children's books, this du Bois was an illustrator for George Plimpton's Paris Review.

But what about Blanche, you inquire. There is no evidence that Tennessee William's fictional character was related to artist/reporter, writer/illustrator, or socialist/philosopher on the Du Bois family tree. I'm mean, she doesn't even have a space between her du and her bois!

And then you have to wonder about Bois-D'arc trees. What's up with them? Are they osage oranges or horse apples? They have a lot of names, but none are Maupassant.

The Twenty One Balloons includes the eruption of Krakatoa, also the subject of a fantastic book by 
Simon Winchester. And that is how I remembered the word "caldera" to answer 77 across, "Name for a depression at the mouth of a volcano."

So, ultimately, du Bois is an antidepressant. And always, dear muse, "Anxiety is the shallow breathing of a narrowed mind."

© 2013-2015 Nancy L. Ruder

1 comment:

seana graham said...

I knew of W.E.B. Du Bois more as a name than anything else, but ran across him a few years ago when I was doing some research about Zora Neale Hurston. Although right at the moment, I am not quite sure what their interaction was. I mean whether they were on opposite sides of some issues. Knowing Hurston, probably.

I loved Twenty-One Balloons as a kid. It's long overdue for a reread. Also should finally get to that Simon Winchester book.