Wednesday, July 16, 2014
“Late Fall Practice”
Rowing historian Thomas E. Weil writes:
I recently received a query from Ed Winchester regarding a lovely item, and thought that a bit of background might be of interest to the readers of ‘Hear the Boat Sing’.
For U.S. rowers from the 1950s through the 1980s, perhaps the most ubiquitous contemporary image of their sport was a print titled “Late Fall Practice” by James (Jim) M. Anderegg, Princeton ‘51. Sold by the artist himself, or through local print shops, such as Merwin’s in New Haven, CT, the scene decorated countless dormitory, library, study and living room walls, serving as a striking visual madeleine to the recollections of thousands of rowers. Depending on when and where it was sold, the purchaser could (and many did) request that the oar blades – which were left uncolored in the original prints – be painted with the colors of their own school, college or club. As a result, one may find a copy described as showing a Yale, Harvard or Princeton, etc., crew, when, in fact, the original image (though based on one crew, as described below), could be adapted by anyone to represent the affiliation of their choice.
Its nearly universal attraction is easily understandable. Highlighted by an unseen light source as darkness gathers, an eight strides for home along a river or lake bounded by low hills or high treetops in deep shadow, with the remnants of sunlight producing a dark blue sky, all repeated in reverse as reflected in the water below. Few rowers will not have experienced a moment like that depicted in “Late Fall Practice”. The site could be almost anywhere in rowing, so it is not surprising that, because of its popularity combined with its anonymity, questions have often arisen as to the origins of the piece. Three documents provide some answers.
The first appears in Rowing At Princeton, the Princeton University rowing history published in 2002, for which “Late Fall Practice” was used as the cover illustration. Described as Anderegg’s “promotion for the print which he sold in the 1950s” and dated “Fall 1950”, the blurb reads:
During late fall practice, 1948, the idea for this picture came to me and after several attempts I got the composition and expression I wanted. The feeling of the shell’s movement and its run, the beauty of the shell and its reflection under launch lights, the darkness, depth, and clarity all were there. When I took the finished sketch down to the boathouse to show it to the gang I received many requests for copies. I tried to comply with a small edition of lithographs, and have since had to have another published. They are good lithographic reproductions, 16 x 20 inches, in full color on heavy paper. I tell you this because I want you to know that this print of a crew is by a crewman and done especially for crewmen.
/s/ Jim Anderegg
40 Prospect Street
$5.00 Postpaid, check or money order. Will be mailed immediately.
Anderegg expanded on this brief description in a letter, dated May 22, 1984, he wrote to J. David Farmer, director of the University of California – Santa Barbara Art Gallery. Farmer, a former lightweight oarsman from Columbia, organized, in connection with the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, an exhibition titled “Rowing / Olympics.” This was the first show of rowing art and memorabilia to be mounted in the United States, and a copy of “Late Fall Practice” was included in the exhibition.
Dear David Farmer –
Donald Beer [note: Beer was a member of Yale’s 1956 gold medal Olympic eight who lived in Princeton] called the other day wanting to know some details about this print and saying he was going to send you his copy [for the exhibition]. I volunteered to send you one of your own for your upcoming show and I would like to ask in return if you could send me a copy of the catalog for the show ... [note: all ellipses are as in the original letter]
This print incidentally is a rarity today because I put the colors on it myself. I really apologise for the unsteadiness ... witness this writing ... but the gal who ordinarily paints them was unavailable. I’ve had MS for 12 years and for the last two or three I’ve had balance problems and the shakes. Anyway ... back to the print ...
I did it in late October 1948. Two heavy crews on Lake Carnegie ... Princeton ... had raced from the finish line back up the lake and my boat had gotten over the course first. It was really early evening ... dark but still some blue sky ... and when the second boat came up the launch and the flood lights were on one side and the other boat came up just as in the picture, on the other side. The original ink and water color hang in Princeton’s Nassau Hall ... badly damaged by sunlight. This print is the second edition off these plates. The color separation was made in 1953 and lost when these were done in 1974. Edition was about 4000 but only 2500 were usable ... the blue plate was full of hickeys. It has been a lot of fun ... its the only thing I ever did ... I’m a graduate architect. I run libraries for large architects, now ... lots of them.
Yours sincerely, Jim Anderegg
Anderegg’s obituary in the Princeton Alumni Weekly (23 January 1991) provides some further insight into the story of “Late Fall Practice”. The apparent discrepancy in the number of prints described in Anderegg’s letter and this obituary is puzzling, but may be due to what I understand to have been a divorce settlement which gave Anderegg’s ex-wife certain rights with respect to the ongoing production and sale of his prints.
James Murray Anderegg '51. Jim died Oct. 91, 1990. For 27 years he had lived with and fought multiple sclerosis. His painting, “Late Fall Practice,” which he produced as a sophomore, made him famous throughout the country to generations of rowers. Indeed, over the last 47 years more than 7,000 copies were sold, with the buyer’s college colors on the oar blades [note: I suspect that this number includes the many copies that were sold without the blades having been colored]. Jim was born in Chestnut Hill, Penn., and came to Princeton from the Hun school. He had spent almost three years in WWII as a boatswain’s mate on I.STs in the Southwest Pacific. At Princeton, Jim majored in architecture, was a member of Colonial Club, a varsity oarsman, and art editor of the Nassau Herald. Architecture, art, and boats were Jim’s life and livelihood. After ten years as a salesman of architectural products, he formed Anderegg, Inc., in Detroit. His Architects’ Library Service provided technical information to large architectural / engineering firms His woodcuts and prints are prized by collectors. Jim is survived by two sons and a stepdaughter. The Class and his many admirers will miss this courageous and engaging man.
That “Late Fall Practice” is not frequently seen on the market, in spite of its apparently large print runs, is undoubtedly a lasting tribute to Anderegg’s skill in capturing a particularly evocative moment in a beautiful sport, and the pull that the piece has on those who have been able to acquire a copy. Any owner of this image may not only be privileged to enjoy the memories that it inspires, but may also take pride in possessing one of the most attractive and widely appreciated rowing prints of the era.