“Showgirls Playing Chess Between Shows at Latin Quarter, New York, New York” was taken by Gordon Parks (1912-2006), an extraordinary American photographer, musician, writer and film director. He is best remembered for his photographic essays for Life magazine and as the director of the film Shaft (1971). He came to Harlem in 1944, working as a freelance photographer. Vogue editor Alexander Liberman hired him for fashion photography, and in 1948 a photographic essay on a Harlem gang leader won Parks a staff job with Life. For 20 years, Parks documented the city’s fashion, sports, theater and people, as well as portraits of subjects as varied as Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Barbra Streisand. I had never seen this one until today. Perfect.
By Elizabeth Shippen Green, circa 1904
Raoul Jose Capablanca, Cuban chess player, by Sándor Badacsonyi, born in Budapest, 1949. The artist has been quoted, in translation, “I am considered to be a surrealist or romantic surrealist by critics. I used to be an active chess player – winner of the Hungarian Team Championship twice, one individual victory — and I drew a parallel between these experiences and my profession. I learned that the consequences of the steps on the chessboard cannot be withdrawn, as etchings are not erasable on a copper plate. And a sketch which is drawn on the canvas does indicate the following movements.”
Emanual Lasker by Anna Forintos, born in Budapest, 1937.
Snowmen play chess in this wonderful 1991 piece by Wim Finck. In response to my query, he writes from Belgium, “I made this drawing about 20 years ago commissioned by Mr. Daniël De Mol. It was originally meant for a postcard, but he used it also as a Christmas greeting card. The basic-idea of the two snowmen playing chess was provided by him also. I made the drawing with water colour, gouache and ink. I still work as a free-lance artist (illustrations, drawings, paintings, etchings, etc.) and I also teach drawing lessons at a school nearby.” My thanks to Wim for responding, and for his lovely image.
In July of 1944, Life magazine photographer John Phillips spent a day in the cave of guerrilla leader Josep Broz a.k.a. “Tito,” the leader of one resistance group that was battling Nazi Germany in Yugoslavia. During the day and evening, Tito played chess with his top military aide, Arsa Yovanovich, who is off-camera in this photograph.
Tito won the game. After World War II, supported by the Soviet Union, Tito became the leader of Yugoslavia. In 1948, Yovanovich was shot at the Romanian border while trying to flee the country.
As seen by John Allen St. John, with thanks again to the incredible Golden Age Comic Book Stories blog.