April 21, 2014 -- The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has acquired Jules Fisher's personal collection of scenic renderings by Jo Mielziner, making the biggest private collection of the theatrical designer's work available to the public for the first time. The Jules Fisher Collection of Jo Mielziner Designs significantly expands and enhances the current holdings of Mielziner materials within the Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division, creating one of the largest and most robust archives of the artist's work anywhere.
Tony Award-winning lighting designer Jules Fisher assembled his extensive collection, which includes more than 150 scenic renderings and designs spanning the entirety of Mielziner's historic career, over decades from various sources. The Jules Fisher Collection of Jo Mielziner Designs features examples from every phase in Mielziner's designing process: from rough initial outlines and preliminary pencil sketches, to finished renderings and paint elevations. It also includes works in pencil, pastel, pen and ink, charcoal, color gouache, watercolor and airbrush, showcasing Mielziner's mastery of multiple rendering techniques.
The Jules Fisher Collection of Jo Mielziner Designs documents the prolific and influential theatrical designer's historic career, and how Mielziner shaped performances with his scenic designs by collaborating with directors and aiding in their conceptualization of the show itself. Mielziner created the original set designs for iconic Broadway shows such as Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Most Happy Fella and Death of a Salesman, all of which are represented in The Jules Fisher Collection of Jo Mielziner Designs. Eighteen small renderings from the less commercially successful 1947 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Allegro, directed by Agnes de Mille, offer rare images of the show's groundbreaking minimalist design. Renderings for The Red General (1929), and Yellow Jack and Emperor Jones (1934) illustrate a simplified expressionist technique and early examples of Mielziner's utilization of lighting effects, while renderings from his 1955 set for The Lark illustrate his innovative solution to complex staging requirements. Other highlights from the collection include costume designs for Pillar of Fire, Romeo and Juliet, and others showing Mielziner's collaborations with Robert Edmund Jones; and his venue designs for the AT&T Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and the Arch Theatre.
"Jo Mielziner was an inspiration to me from the beginning of my career," said Fisher. "Most people know of him as a great scenic designer. True, but he also designed the lighting for every one of his shows. Each show was beautifully lit. I wanted to emulate his ability of using light to enhance the storytelling. Upon his death in 1976 I decided to collect his work. I am thrilled that this survey of theatrical design of the 20th century is now available at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts."
"The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is honored to be the new home for Jules Fisher's remarkable collection of Jo Mielziner works, and to make them available to the public for the first time ever," said Jacqueline Z. Davis, Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleishman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. "Jules spent years creating and expanding this collection, which is evident from its breadth and depth. The richness of Jules' collection also enriches our Jo Mielziner Designs and Technical Drawings, which came to the Library according to Jo's wishes at the time of his death. Now, the Library's collections offer scholars, performers, students, and others an opportunity to see the artistic vision in Jo's renderings alongside the technical drawings that outline how he brought that vision to life on stage."
After being processed and preserved digitally, The Jules Fisher Collection of Jo Mielziner Designs will be available at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
About The New York Public Library For The Performing Arts
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the world’s most extensive combination of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. These materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances. An essential resource for everyone with an interest in the arts — whether professional or amateur — the Library is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters and photographs. The Library is part of The New York Public Library system, which has 90 locations in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, and is a lead provider of free education for all.