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 George Russin  (1910 - 2010)

About: George Russin
 

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Lived/Active: Florida      Known for: figure and portrait painting, drawing

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George Russin
An example of work by George Russin
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following recollection is from James O'Connell, May 2006. 

Years ago I would meet George at the Dunkin' Donuts every morning and we all knew of George's paintings and the photographs of his work.

One morning Frank, a printer, and myself decided to reprint the photographs on large paper and I would go over each print with clear acrylic paint on a knife blade, the way George did his work, then frame each print.  With permission of the owner of the donut shop, we hung the prints on the walls of the shop and at time people would come in and want to purchase one.  George would sign them and make a few bucks for himself as he no longer painted and owned none of his originals. This was good for George and I know it made him somewhat proud.

The local neighborhood newspaper called "Neighbors" had heard of George's art work and what was being done with his prints on the wall of the donut shop.  They did come to the shop, talk with George, some friends, and photograph some of the prints.

Now George Russin, living alone at 95 years of age in itself is quite George.  Although I do get down there and take him out for lunch now and again, I'm still waiting for him to find me those things you need to help authenticate his autobiography.  I know he has a letter from Eleanor Roosevelt, pictures of himself with some of the well known entertainers of his time, also the movies "The Glenn Miller Story" and "Hollywood Hotel" where he was featured in one of the music scenes.
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Also sent by James O'Connell was a copy of a newspaper article titled "Doughnut shop nails down artist's works" in The Miami Herald, March 13, 1997.  The article describes his regular morning visits to the Dunkin' Donuts shop near his Northeast Dade home and his ordering black coffee, an English muffin and then sitting by the front window where he chats with friends.  The old timers refer to him as "Mayor" or "General".  A wall is dedicated to his art work.  The only work he has kept for himself is a self portrait, and he quit drawing in 1991, after the death of his sister.  He said: "She was the one who would get me out of bed each morning.  She was like my agent. She knew what I had to get done by the end of each day."

Russin was also a musician.  Born in New York, he grew up in a piano-playing family, and at age 16, he joined a jazz band as a "self taught tenor sax player, working with musicians like Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Lena Horne and Louis Armstrong before putting down his sax in 1956.  He recalled:  "I loved doing the musical scenes.  I lived for whatever had to do with women, music and art.  And I wouldn't have changed it for the world."

Soon after that, he began pursuing his art talents, which included taking night classes, working with a palette knife, and doing stain glass "to develop a vibrant, mosaic-like style that was displayed at some of New York's top galleries in the 80."  Of this part of his life, he said:  "It was the same kind of concentration and joy as when I played the sax."  Among his subjects were portraits, Siamese dancers, generals and reporters---many from his travels in Europe and Asia during World War II.

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