"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
November 25, 2013
Circling the Circus Wagons
by Lawrence Jeppson

Circus art reached its most extravagant level in the circus wagon. Here are some circus wagons I have seen in my travels, all of them in exhibitions of circus memorabilia:






This circus wagon staged Cinderella in shiny gold.


The giraffe required special dimensions and a canopy.

In last week’s column, I mentioned an unpleasant experience I had at a Ringling Brothers museum I had in Florida. It happened 48 years ago. I’m sure the malcontent involved is no longer among the living.

Sarasota, Florida, was the wintering grounds for the Ringling Brothers Circus. Here the performers could rest, polish up their acts, redesign their costumes, and refurbish their equipment. John Ringling was an art collector, and it was only natural that he would build a museum there to house his art and his circus archives. It really wasn’t practical to schlep them around from city to city in circus trucks and wagons.

I was taking painter and collector Nat Leeb and his wife Paule on a two-month cross-country tour of American art museums. It was in November, and we were about to start the last leg of our journey up the East coast back to Maryland. We wanted to see the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota before going on to Cape Canaveral.

It took us a while to find the museum, and we arrived just half an hour before closing time. This would at least give us a chance to glance at its collection.

We were barely inside the door when the director rushed up and declared the museum had just closed. We had to leave immediately.

“But this gentleman has traveled six thousand miles from Paris, France, just to see this collection,” I said. “You don’t close for another half hour.”

My plea cut no ice. We were booted out. Evidently the man was eager to keep a more important assignation. With dentist or doxy? Who knows? We left, the only ungracious experience in two months of travel. It was a very un-circus experience.


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About Lawrence Jeppson

Lawrence Jeppson is an art consultant, organizer and curator of art exhibitions, writer, editor and publisher, lecturer, art historian, and appraiser. He is America's leading authority on modern, handwoven French tapestries. He is expert on the works of William Henry Clapp, Nat Leeb, Tsing-fang Chen, and several French artists.

He is founding president of the non-profit Mathieu Matégot Foundation for Contemporary Tapestry, whose purview encompasses all 20th-century tapestry, an interest that traces back to 1948. For many years he represented the Association des Peintres-Cartonniers de Tapisserie and Arelis in America.

Through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the American Federation of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, and his own Art Circuit Services he has been a contributor to or organizer of more than 200 art exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. He owns AcroEditions, which publishes and/or distributes multiple-original art. He was co-founder and artistic director of Collectors' Investment Fund.

He is the director of the Spring Arts Foundation; Utah Cultural Arts Foundation, and the Fine Arts Legacy Foundation

Lawrence is an early-in-the-month home teacher, whose beat is by elevator. In addition, he has spent the past six years hosting and promoting reunions of the missionaries who served in the French Mission (France, Belgium, and Switzerland) during the decade after WWII.

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