ERSKINE CALDWELL remarked, on seeing
the work of David Fredenthal, 26-year-old painter:
"That boy could draw my Tobacco Road people."
casual comment, it was enormously productive.

The young painter was just finishing a two-year
Guggenhcim Fellowship, preceded by a year's
tudy in Paris, two one-man shows at New York's
Downtown Gallery, and a fellowship at the Cranbrook
emy near Detroit. He was out in Colorado
when he heard what Caldwell had said about him.

Fredenthal hadn't
read Tobacco Road. He had not
even seen the play - now breaking all records in its
seventh year on Broadway. But he swapped
portrait for a second-hand Ford and headed East.

In New York he learned that
Dnell, Sloan & Pearce
were bringing out
a deluxe edition of Tobacco Road.
But he had no entrée to the publishers, and Caldwell,
to his disappointment, was out of town. So he drove on
to Georgia to have a look at the Tobacco Road people.

He found Dr. I. C. Caldwell, the author's father, in Wrens,
Ga., going on his ministerial rounds among people like the
Lesters. Fredenthal got a room from a couple who ran a
mp filling station—and stayed two months.

He i
s a direct and unaffected person, not a prober into
social problems. He ask
ed no questions - just looked.
At night he stopped at the town's bar, sat at a corner table,
and drew what he had
seen that day: sick people, unable to
mend because of lack of nourishment; an old palsied woman
ng peas to get money for the medicine the doctor
ordered: families housed five in a room - plus a cur dog or two;
amilies at table; men skinning down a pig; women gathering
fire woods; some just settin',
or making away with a jug of corn.

These drawings he sent back to Caldwell. Caldwell turned them
over to the publishers, who sent for the artist and ordered 40-odd
pen and ink drawings
and six in color to illustrate the text.
When the publishers said some of the finished drawings were
raw—contained too many buttocks—Caldwell said: "Give
the ki
d a free hand. He's seen it. He knows what he's drawing."

The publication of the new edition of Tobacco Road. on Nov. 8
s a moment of triumph for young Fredenthal. He grabbed the ball
and ran off ahead of a field of Bentons and Woods and
bcttcr-known artist-illustrators.

Now he likes to illustrate books. Books about elemental people.
He can draw from
vivid memories: sailors on the Great Lakes,
freighters, men on the Ford Plant
assembly line, denizens of
flop houses where he lived when distributing Christmas cards
$4 a week. He can draw his fellow C.C.C. workers in the
st gang to go out in '33 - laying lines, building roads and
state parks, fighting fire.

Like most
artists, Fredenthal is a hopelessly bad businessman
and alway
s broke. "Anyway", he says, "there's a regular pay
to be had from the army - if it has to come to that "

- Maude Riley

CUE - The Weekly Magazine of New York Life (vol. 9 #46, Nov. 1940)