Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1975
On Valentine's Day, February 14th, 1976, the students, faculty, and administration of the School hosted a lively "Love the School" fun-raising event to help match funds from the Ford Foundation Grant recently awarded to the School.
Over $3500 was raised; estimates are that between 500 and 700 people attended the evening. Events included the exhibition and sale of faculty work, of student ceramic sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, and hand painted tee shirts and posters. Two local bands provided entertainment. The evening was topped off by the auction of the Bill Newman "Lady Sarah" painting. Internationally known humorist and writer, Art Buchwald served as auctioneer.
Mr. Buchwald opened the auction with the following statement:
"Today we are making history. We are auctioning off the most valuable work of art of the past Watergate period, the famous "Lady Sarah". This voluptuous sultry seductive woman has driven mad women's libbers, bureaucrats, and bricklayers from 17th Street to the last stop on the Washington Metro System.
Her beauty rivals that of Goya's Naked Maja, and yet, the controversy over her has been heard in the halls of Congress and debated long into the night by the Directors of the General Services Administration.
Her spacial ambiguity, as well as anti-abstractionist form started what has now become known throughout the world as the hard hat school of painting.
There is no question that as time goes on, Sarah will increase in value until someday the National Gallery with the help of Paul Mellon, will outbid the Metropolitan Museum of Art by five million dollars for a work that Carter Brown will insist must remain in Washington.
The legend of Sarah has built up during the months since she was first discovered on a fence in August of 1975. At the time it was believed that the model for the painting by the great post-Vietnam War impressionist, William Newman, was that of a lady friend named Sarah.
But art historians are not certain that Sarah was indeed the model for the painting.
Recent papers released by the FBI indicate that "Lady Sarah" was actually the mistress of four American Presidents, each one having lunch with her the day he was sworn in. She was also a friend of Frank Sinatra, Lucky Luciano, and the entire membership of the Lockheed Duck Hunting Cub of Eastern Maryland.
One of the Presidents, Newman refused to reveal which one, commissioned the artist to paint Sarah with all her clothes on. But before the painting was finished, the next President sworn into office, and decided to hang her in the East Room with all her clothes off.
Newman painted her both ways. But by mistake the painting with her clothes on wound up in the White House and painting of her with her clothes off was exhibited on a fence opposite the Executive Building.
The furor that followed this mistake is now well known. Everyone took sides. The National Organization of Women called it "disgusting and degrading". The Teamsters Union said, "We may not know anything about art, but we know what we like." the CIA denied it had paid for the painting, and Betty Ford, when asked by Morley Safer on "60 Minutes" said that if Susan Ford wanted to pose the same way, the First Lady would have no objections.
But no matter what is truth or what is legend, this mural is part of American history and long after all of us are gone our children and their children and their children will gaze upon her beauty in breathless silence and then say, "When it comes to nude figures, a Goya shouldn't be in the same room with a Newman."
Many more stories to tell. Sarah lived on...
Artist-teacher Bill Newman on his effort:
"1975 has been designated International Women's Year. It is only fitting they should have a monument. Conceptual 'Sarah' was designed to be put up during the last month of the year. For that one month the Washington Monument would be transformed into a new Sarah monument." The mind reels.