LOVE KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES: A WOLFSONIAN REFLECTION ON THE SUPREME COURT RULING ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling yesterday which recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry anywhere in the nation, I thought that I would provide a few images from The Wolfsonian-FIU collection to confirm the notion that love knows no bounds, even if it has taken our society some time to recognize the same.
I thought that on this occasion, I would focus on an archive in our collection of the artwork of Frank MacCoy (“Mac”) Harshberger and his partner, the musical composer, Holland Robinson. Their life-long partnership and collaboration began in the 1920s, when the “twenty-something” friends from Tacoma, Washington went abroad after the war and became part of the expatriate American artistic clique that coalesced in “gay Paris.”
Two years of pre-med studies in the States had been enough to convince Mac that his true interest did not reside in medicine but in the fine arts, and he convinced his father to arrange for him to train in Paris in the atelier of Maurice Denis. In Paris, Mac embraced the new Art Deco aesthetics in his own work; there he was also reunited with his sister and muse, Kay—(who had recently married Jean de Landry)—and two other friends from his home town, Holland Robinson and Nina Payne.
Holland had a real talent for music, and had been earning a living in Tacoma playing piano to accompany the silent films being shown in a local cinema. There he made the acquaintance of Nina, who came to the same theatre as part of a traveling vaudeville company. Learning that his best friend, Mac was off to Paris, Holland also made the decision to uproot and move to Paris and to devote himself to the serious study of music composition. There he absorbed the new harmonies of Satie and Debussy and combined them with American lyricism and Jazz. Nina also traveled to Paris and as a dancer became a star at the Folies Bergère.
During their sojourn in Europe, the four friends became inseparable bon vivants enjoying the artistic and social life.
WATERCOLOR OF JEAN AND KAY, HOLLAND AND MAC IN GENEVA, FROM HARSHBERGER’S MANUSCRIPT, UNE MEMOIRE D’UNE VISITE (1925)
In Paris, the aspiring artists and life partners collaborated on projects in which Holland composed music and Mac provided illustrations for the sheet music covers.
In 1926, Mac and Holland moved back to the States, opening a grand studio in New York. There they launched Robinson-Harshberger Productions, publishing graphic art, limited edition books, and illustrated sheet music.
Kay and Nina later returned to the States, also settling down in New York, where Kay provided lyrics for some of Mac and Holland’s musical and artistic publications.
The prolific and happy partnership of Mac and Holland continued to thrive in the mid-to-late twenties.
The 1929 Stock Market crash brought an end to the “roaring twenties” and ushered in a decade of economic depression that also took its toll on the Robinson-Harshberger partnership. While societal norms and the customs of those times did not allow Mac and Holland to marry, neither was their relationship a hidden or secret thing. Mac and Holland were partners in every sense of the word, and their collaboration has left us musically and artistically richer as a result.