20 North Gallery delivers The Last Supper Paint By Number to the Smithsonian Institution
Gallery celebrates piece that was previously on loan to Smithsonian exhibition in 2001
On October 12, 2018, 20 North Gallery fulfilled the pledge of art director emerita Peggy Grant by delivering The Last Supper Paint By Number artist proof to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This Paint By Number canvas was included in 20 North Gallery’s 2017 – 2018 exhibition The Grant Collection, featuring a variety of media acquired by the prominent Toledo-area arts advocate, Margaret “Peggy” Grant.
The artist proof of the Paint By Number canvas, The Last Supper (after da Vinci), was designed and painted by Mrs. Grant’s late husband, Adam Grant. Created in 1964, during the Grants’ time at the Craft Master company, The Last Supper canvas remains the most purchased kit in the genre of numbered painting, with millions and millions of copies sold.
In 2001, this artist proof of Adam Grant’s 1964 The Last Supper was featured as part of the National Museum of American History’s exhibition, Paint By Number: Accounting for Taste in the 1950s. In December 2017, Mrs. Grant reaffirmed her commitment to contributing the work to the permanent collections of the Smithsonian and the painting arrived at the museum on October 12, 2018.
On that day, Peggy Grant remarked, “It is truly a blessing and a compliment to know that the Smithsonian has accepted Adam Grant’s Paint By Number canvas of The Last Supper into the nation’s collection. I hope that seeing it will motivate a whole new generation of young people to not only learn about the history of Paint By Number, but also—just like the kits were intended—instill in them a desire to try the exciting process of oil painting. Adam would be delighted by this opportunity to inspire future artists.”
The painting was added to the Cultural and Community Life Collection at the museum as an example of one of the most popular mid-twentieth century hobbies.
Adam Grant’s first Last Supper Paint By Number design was created in 1951, as a far more simplistic rendition, utilizing only 35 colors. The Beta version of that design was reproduced in 45 oils when Palmer Paint, owner of the Craft House brand, made the switch to producing the more convenient canvas board kits in 1954. Although a popular subject with good sales for the company (inspiring similar designs created by rival numbered painting kit companies), Craft Master’s Alpha and Beta versions of The Last Supper were of great dissatisfaction to Adam Grant, who saw them as being too simplified and highly colored to adequately portray such a complex and meaningful masterwork of Renaissance art. Grant eagerly revisited the design in 1964, creating the Omega version shown above.
20 North Gallery owner Eric Hillenbrand states, ‘Ever since Peggy Grant served as a consultant to the 2001 Smithsonian Paint By Number exhibit, she hoped that the artist proof of The Last Supper would find a permanent home in their collection. The Craft Master Paint By Number brand has long been a “Toledo Treasure” in our local history but we believe Peggy and Adam Grant’s work in Paint By Number had an even greater influence throughout the world. Truly, they and their colleagues made an indelible impact on popular culture in our nation.’
Paint By Number The cultural phenomenon of Paint By Number began in 1950 at the Palmer Paint Company in Detroit (Michigan). Commercial artist Dan Robbins based his concept on Leonardo da Vinci’s practice of numbering sections of his canvases for apprentices to complete. After trial and error, Robbins’ painting kits became arguably the most loved—and most maligned—hobby of the “new leisure class” of 1950s Americans.
As the business rapidly grew, Robbins hired additional designers, including Adam Grant and Margaret “Peggy” Brennan, whose artistic partnership soon evolved to marriage. Robbins became their good friend, as well as the head of art direction for Palmer Paints and, later, the Craft Master company of Toledo (Ohio), where the newly married Grants moved in 1955.
Not only popular, the kits were also highly controversial, accused of debasing the concept of original art. But the combined testament of generations of fans has demonstrated that, by making the process of painting more accessible to everyday folk, “Art,” itself, became more approachable and no longer the sole province of the cultural elite. Many fans attest that, through the introduction of Paint By Number, they had the courage to later attempt their own original paintings—a proud accomplishment for Mr. Robbins, Mrs. Grant and all those who grew the brand.
20 North Gallery is celebrating the role of Paint By Number in local history by reissuing The Grant and Goodridge Paint By Number Collections exhibition catalogue. The revised 2nd edition of the catalogue are available exclusively at 20 North Gallery for $20.00 each.
The Grant and Goodridge Paint By Number Collections exhibit included pieces both designed and painted by Peggy and Adam Grant during their time at Craft Master, as well as canvases and kits of their designs which were collected by her dear friend, the late Ann Goodridge.
Paint By Number canvases and kits from The Grant and Goodridge Paint By Number Collections exhibit and signed copies of Dan Robbins’ book, Whatever Happened to Paint-By-Numbers? are available for purchase at 20 North Gallery.
Click for The Grant Collection exhibition catalogue, containing images of the full fine art collection and artist information. For purchase inquiries, please contact 20 North Gallery:
419-241-2400 or firstname.lastname@example.org