Monday, February 20, 2017

Houdini by Tom Lovell

Here's a beautiful painting by pulp artist Tom Lovell of Houdini jumping from what is credited as the Wheeling, West Virginia bridge. Lovell lived during Houdini's lifetime and I'm wondering if he actually witnesses this. As you can see, he puts Houdini in a cerise-colored bathing suit, which we've recently learned is indeed the color bathing suit Houdini wore for his outdoor water stunts.


This image was used to illustrate the article "How Houdini Did It" by William Lindsey Gresham in True: The Man's Magazine, December 1954.

This above image comes from the blog Art Contrarian where you can read more about Tom Lovell's life and art. A larger version can be seen at Main-ly Painting.

Thanks to Tim Rappel and Arthur Moses.

Related:

14 comments:

  1. The river looks incredibly realistic. Lovell really knew his art well. Harry usually jumped off bridges in one piece bathing suits. This looks like a tank top t-shirt and gym shorts.

    The bridge doesn't look high off the river, maybe one of Harry's easier jumps.

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    1. The tank top and shorts looks exactly like what he was wearing for his 1914 Battery Park overboard box escape. Click the second link in related.

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  2. I believe Harry favored one piece bathing suits for his bridge jumps. If you click on Houdini's Bridge Jumps under Related, the photo on the page depicts a man in a straw hat cuffing Harry behind his back. He's wearing a one piece like the cerise bathing suit Harvard Bridge jump.

    There is also a profile photo in Australia of Harry in a one piece before jumping off a pier. There is also the film of Harry bridge jumping shirtless in white Bermuda shorts. I've also seen Harry leaping from boats and ferries shirtless in Bermudas.

    Why would Houdini prefer one piece suits or shirtless for bridge jumping? Most likelyto keep clothing out of the way so that the authority figure could easily and quickly cuff him behind his back.

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    1. Your right. He seems to have worn a one piece or the white shorts for bridge jumps.

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  3. I live in West Virginia and have crossed that bridge many times, It is indeed quite a distance down to the river, depending upon rain fall. It has also been used for many suicide's through the years!

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    1. Interesting. Thank you for your first hand knowledge.

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  4. If I am not mistaken it's like 80 feet from the bridge to the water below. That's quite a jump! Typically didn't Houdini jump from much shorter distances? The few I've investigated were 30 feet or less. Perry from NJ.

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    1. He also jumped from tug boats and roofs of gazebos, etc., so, yeah, these weren't always about the height of the jump. He made do with whatever was available at the location.

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  5. This dude looks over six foot to me, kinda ruins the image. Also I'm sure HH never jumped from 80 feet.
    He was a dare devil but not crazy........

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  6. Yeah--Lovell did make Harry taller in the painting. Good catch. That bridge looks really close to the river, like a ten foot drop.

    A taller Harry and a shorter bridge, artistic liberties?

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    1. He's got Adrien Brody's body in this pic!

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  7. A quick Internet search on this bridge reveals its astonishing height. It's a suspension bridge almost like the Brooklyn Bridge. Can't believe Harry jumped off it.

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    1. I did that same search and the large suspension bridge in Wheeling that comes up I don't believe is this same one. The bridge in this painting is clearly not a suspension bridge, and there's more than one bridge in Wheeling. I'm wondering if this was actually the Aetnaville Bridge. That one matches the pic better.

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  8. I think you're right John, the Aetnaville Bridge matches the truss bridge in the painting exactly. It connects Wheeling, West Virginia to Bridgeport, Ohio via the Ohio River.

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