Friday, September 30, 2016

Paint by Number Mid Century Kitch Catches On

The Last Supper was a popular Paint by Numbers kit

 Paint by number kits, once seen as the decor of choice for the congenitally low class has experienced a major resurgence. Between the Smithsonian's 2001 homage and modern craft shop kits, the old PBNs are showing up everywhere, appearing in popular magazines as a decorating choice for lovers of mid-century, country, and vintage decorating styles. 

First developed in 1951 by Max S. Klein for his Palmer Paint Company, the kits were based on a concept of the artist Dan Robberts. After World War II and the standard 40 hour work week, America became suddenly interested in hobbies. People had time on their hands and the leisure industry was created to capitalize on a middle class with more time and money than ever before. 

Despite being ridiculed by the art world, the kits became a hit. Kits included paints, brushes, and pasteboard covered with amoebic shapes whose numbers matched tiny pots of paint. Popular themes included religious motifs, landscapes, animals, rural scenes, and clowns. Some kits were simple featuring bright, primary colors while others offered more detail and muted hues. Vintage examples can be downright hideous, offering a kitchy charm with flat perspectives and lurid colors.Some vintage examples are downright attractive.
PBN Jesus - religious themes were popular

Today, you can buy new kits in craft and hobby shops. Country Living Magazine offers some beautiful kits in their Simple Country Pleasures feature for $35.00.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of actually doing it yourself, you can find vintage Paint by Number paintings on Ebay and etsy. Prices for mid-century pieces run the gamut from $10.00 to hundreds of dollars. I picked up this charming winter scene at a thrift shop for one dollar!

                                     Below is a landscape that I spotted at a thrift shop.


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