Red Lipstick and Cufflinks: Mac Conner at the Delaware Art Museum

I just meandered through an exhibition of Mac Conner’s paintings at the Delaware Art Museum, and I am joyfully agog.

Most of these marvelously evocative works were commissioned in the 1940s and 1950s to illustrate stories for gone-but-not-forgotten magazines like Red Book, McCalls, and Colliers. And trust me on this, the man was seriously talented. At present, Mac Conner is 103 years old. He is engaged, engaging, and he attended the recent opening of this exhibition. By all accounts, he had a fine and dandy time.

Go Mac!

Now. About the paintings. Within their frames, you will encounter beautiful, slim women who are perfectly groomed and stylishly dressed (often in tight-waisted, flouncy skirts), even when wearing blue jeans or shorts. Conner’s men, usually corporately attired in dress shirts, suits, and ties, are masculine, broad-shouldered, clean-shaven, square-jawed, and handsome.



But that’s not all. Conner paints miscreants, too! His villains are sinister; his children are delectable; and his gangsters skulk as menacingly in shadows as Really Bad Guys do in Warner Brothers Film Noir.

My profile of a perfect person to visit this exhibition would be any of the following: Someone who was young or old during the 1950s. Someone who knows anyone who was young or old during the 1950s. Someone who loved the elegant allure of Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. Someone who watches old movies from the 1950s or new movies about the 1950s. Someone who inhales and exhales. Someone who watched or deliberately avoided watching “Mad Men.”

This television series is relevant because the official title of the exhibition is: The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner.

My jaw dropped when I first entered the rooms in which his 70-plus paintings are artfully and effectively displayed. The walls are red, pink, coral, and blue and were inspired by the colors and designs in Conner’s paintings. Embraced by such an evocative ambiance, the images instantly transport us to an era where slim and stunning gals smiled, frowned, or waved as they gracefully exited planes, buses, and trains, or sat demurely behind the steering wheels in cars … and when good-looking couples ogled each other on streets, on fire escapes, and in gardens, or embraced beside forgotten bicycles in the grass.

What fun!

As I happily drifted from picture to picture, I couldn’t resist conducting an unscientific and probably inaccurate survey. In the various unrelated and inhomogeneous painting, I observed:

· 28 women wearing bright red lipstick.

· 14 women wearing bright red nail polish.

· 9 men and/or women smoking cigarettes.

· 4 men smoking pipes or cigars.

· 6 women in cute hats (with or without veils).

· 5 men wearing cufflinks.

And – are you ready for this? My all-time favorite! – a whopping 27 men or women getting coerced, shot, kidnapped, threatened, or otherwise made dead.

Is that great, or what?

Do please find the time to walk, drive, take a plane, a train, or a Conestoga wagon to this truly terrific exhibition of works by a truly talented living artist. And hurry. It’s only running until September 17, 2017.

Delaware Art Museum • 2301 Kentmere Parkway • Wilmington, Delaware 19806

Phone: 302.571.9590 • Toll-free: 866.232.3714 • info@delart.org

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