[From the catalogue-in-progress for “Landscapes & Livestock”, a loan exhibition for Agincourt Homecoming in the Fall of 2015]
FROMM, E. G. [1903-1955]
oil on panel / 9 inches by 12 inches
On a still winter evening, three cloaked figures trudge through a snowy forest, carrying a litter. A pale form (perhaps living, perhaps not) seems about to slide from its carriage. Without the context of the play which it illustrates, this painting is as cryptic as the artist-author’s largely undocumented life, making “Night Court” among the most unusual works in the Community Collection.
Oral tradition and the chain of provenance associate it with Evangeline Grandbois Fromm [1906-1959], whose last years were spent here, living with her son the late Abel Kane in the old Brinkman Township school. E. G. Fromm—as she preferred—was born and raised on “The Hill” in South Omaha and schooled in the American labor movement by her parents, both active labor organizers in the meatpacking and railroad sectors of the Omaha workforce. Thirteen years of age during the Race Riot of 1919 and a young woman promoting unionization in the 1930s, Fromm published on multiple social issues (though often writing anonymously) and corresponded widely with radicals everywhere. [Her extensive collection of letters is preserved at the Fennimore County History Center.]
Late in life, Fromm presented her ideas in other less direct but equally confrontational ways, in this case through art and a play which it illustrates. Anticipating the 250th anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials in 1942-1943, she began to write “Night Court” but completed only the first act. In a style reminiscent of pulp magazine illustration—and certainly unintended to find itself framed and hanging on a gallery wall—she chose to imagine the scene that brings Act I to dramatic conclusion. A debilitating illness prevented completion of the play, though local theater director Seamus Tierney hoped to put flesh on Fromm’s skeletal notes for a second act.