Join the Mattatuck Museum for the opening reception of an exciting exhibition of on Saturday, September 21, 2013 from 5:00Norman Sunshine: The Conversation Pieces-7:00 p.m.

   Norman Sunshine is critically recognized for his achievements in both sculpture and painting; he has exhibited widely both on the East and West coasts. In New York City he embarked on a career as a fashion illustrator. Sunshine was Creative Director of the Jane Trahey Agency, where he coined the phrase “What Becomes a Legend Most?” for Blackglama Minks and “Danskins are not just for Dancing.” He won an Emmy for graphic and title design in the 1970s and in 1988, served as Creative Director of Lear s Magazine. Sunshine later returned to California, his original home, where he moved into painting. His growing artistic success coupled with the desire of his husband, Alan Shayne, to quit his remunerative but vexing duties as President of Warner Brothers Television, allowed them both to opt for a countrified life centered on art and leisure. They eventually settled in Washington, Connecticut, the Litchfield town that plays so central a role in these paintings.

   The term “conversation piece” is conventionally applied to the English group portrait of the eighteenth century that featured images of aristocratic privilege and conjured rich narrative. But just who those noble personages really are or were, is less familiar to us than their dramatic personifications in the great English novels such as Tom Jones or Barry Lyndon.
   Similarly, a high degree of narrative fantasy is projected onto the characters of Norman Sunshine’s conversation pieces that date to the mid-1990s. However, unlike their novelistic forebears, these sitters inhabit our moment, and in the cast of better-known personalities, are common fare to the general public.

   For two years, from 1995 to 1997, Sunshine focused energies on the production of this series. These large-scale paintings took as their subjects Sunshine’s friends and neighbors in Litchfield County, Connecticut, where some of New York City’s luminaries keep country homes. The sitters depicted are self-made, middle-class persons of sophisticated taste and a sense of irony forged by high achievement in the worlds of theater, film and television. With these candid scenes, Sunshine provides an intimate look at a privileged class and chronicles the complexity of their relationships.

   Taken together, the eleven works of art form a distinct group within Sunshine’s larger body of work. This series with its arresting, cutting images are not particularly characteristic of Sunshine’s larger, more fitting body of realist painting. Harshly deliberate works, this group is unusual within his larger production and the skeptical sobriety of the paintings is notably different from the Cezanne-like still lives and sculptures for which Sunshine has gained his largest, most appreciative audience.

   This exhibition, on view through Sunday, November 24, 2013, will be accompanied by educational programming and lectures. This exhibition is supported in part by Connecticut Community Foundation. The opening reception is free and open to the public; RSVP is requested. Join the museum to immediately qualify for member benefits. Please register in advance at or by calling (203) 753-0381, ext. 110.