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Object Timeline

-0001

1958

  • Work on this object began.

1969

  • We acquired this object.

2015

2019

  • You found it!

Drawing, Stage Design: Bridge Set, for Flower Drum Song, 1958

This is a Drawing. It is dated 1958 and we acquired it in 1969. Its medium is pen and black ink, brush and watercolor, graphite on illustration board. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

Oliver Smith began his career as a scenic designer in New York in 1941, designing for Leonide Massine of Ballets Russes fame. Highlights of his prolific career include sets for productions for "Brigadoon," "West Side Story," "My Fair Lady," and "Hello, Dolly!" as well as for major ballets. He also served as co-director of the American Ballet Theater from 1945 to 1980. For the 1958 Rodgers and Hammerstein production of “Flower Drum Song,” a comedic musical based on Chin Y. Lee’s novel, Smith’s sets evoke a lyrical and serene mood rather than provide a literal description of place. The play, which opened to commercial success at New York’s St. James Theatre in 1958, deals with conflict between two generations of Chinese Americans over arranged marriages and romantic entanglements in 1950s San Francisco. This design, intended to be painted on a muslin curtain backdrop, was inspired by traditional Chinese painting. Smith contrasts scale and perspective to suggest foggy atmosphere and deep space, rather than using Western linear perspective. The two stark, expressive trees bracket the Golden Gate Bridge and evoke the minimalist, graceful forms characteristic of Chinese painting.

It is credited Gift of Oliver Smith.

Its dimensions are

38.1 x 61 cm (15 x 24 in.)

It is signed

Signed in pen and black ink at lower right: Oliver Smith

It is inscribed

Inscribed in pen and black ink at lower left: Flower Drum Song. Inscribed in graphite across lower margin: DT. White 2 1/2 all; and in green graphite across lower margin: PLEASE COVER CELLOPHANE SKETCH Inscribed in graphite on verso: "Flower Drum Song"/ OPAQUE 2 1/2' from bottom/ TRANSLUCENT SEAMLESS MUSLIN/ KEEP ALL drawing - very fine/ PAINT EXACTLY LIKE SKETCH.

Cite this object as

Drawing, Stage Design: Bridge Set, for Flower Drum Song, 1958; USA; pen and black ink, brush and watercolor, graphite on illustration board; 38.1 x 61 cm (15 x 24 in.); Gift of Oliver Smith; 1969-171-8

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18469283/ |title=Drawing, Stage Design: Bridge Set, for Flower Drum Song, 1958 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=20 June 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>