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Stanley Roseman - An Artist's Journal
Painting by Stanley Roseman of Frosty Little, Director of Clowns, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, 1977, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. © Stanley Roseman
Director of Clowns
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
 Frosty Little, 1977
Director of Clowns
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Oil on Strathmore paper, 73 x 58 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux
"Paintings by Stanley Roseman glow with a shiny dignity"
- The New York Times
At the Circus -
My Friendship with Frosty Little

     The photograph, taken in the artist's studio, shows Frosty's clown costume: jacket and trousers draped on a chair, and below, his socks and striped, oversized shoes. On the rear table are Frosty's shirt, large necktie, suspenders, white skullcap, and conical hat. On the stool in the foreground is an assortment of Frosty's jars and tins of greasepaint makeup and brushes. On the wall is a framed, fine art reproduction of Roseman's superb portrait Frosty Little. The original painting is in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux.
4. Frosty Little's clown costume.
Gift to Stanley Roseman from Glen "Frosty" Little and his wife Patricia,
longtime friends of the artist from the years he painted and drew at the Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
2. Stanley Roseman and Frosty Little,
Director of Clowns,
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, 1977.
Photograph, taken in Roseman's studio, showing one of Frosty's clown costumes and assorted makeup that the celebrated clown gave to the artist as a token of their friendship. Photo © Ronald Davis
© Stanley Roseman and Ronald Davis, 2014 - All Rights Reserved
Visual imagery and site content may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever.
     A warm tonal harmony of yellow ochre, orange, lilac, and sienna pervades the painting. Roseman's expressive brushstrokes defining the pictorial space and describing the clown's costume are complemented by the fine modeling of the facial features and the subtle tones of the clown's white-face makeup.
    "Paintings by Stanley Roseman glow with a shiny dignity"
- The New York Times
     In a rare acceptance of a circus outsider, Roseman was given the unique privilege to set up his easel and canvases in the private backstage area designated for the clowns' dressing room, called ''Clown Alley'' in circus terminology. "Frosty kindly provided me with my own place in Clown Alley," recounts Roseman, "and the use of a vacant prop trunk in which to store at night my painting and drawing materials. The clowns enthusiastically gave of their time to me before the show, in the intervals between their acts, during intermissions, and after the matinee and evening shows." Roseman's paintings and drawings earned him great respect, and his modesty and pleasant manner established a close rapport between the artist and the clowns in the closed and itinerant circus community. Roseman further writes in his memoirs of his years painting and drawing at the Circus.
     Frosty Little corresponded with his new friend in the months that followed the Circus' spring engagement in New York City. Greatly enthusiastic for Roseman's work, Frosty encouraged him to join the clown troupe on the road and to bring his painting materials. Roseman traveled that October to Chicago, where the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus played the Chicago Amphitheater.
    "In one of his early letters to me, after the Circus departed Madison Square Garden at the end of May 1973, Frosty writes that it is said if one wears out a pair of shoes at the circus, one will always return. Frosty's words were prophetic for I did return, first to Chicago, where I noticed that the soles of my shoes were indeed beginning to wear thin; then, a month later, to Long Island when the Circus played the Nassau Coliseum; and to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the Circus concluded its annual tour that December.
Portrait of Frosty Little
     The Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, has in its prestigious collection the deeply felt portrait Frosty Little, seen at the top of the page and here, (fig. 3). Roseman depicts the esteemed Director of Clowns in a quiet interlude between the busy backstage activity of preparing for a show and the heightened energy of the performance in the circus rings.
3. Frosty Little, 1977
Director of Clowns
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Oil on Strathmore paper, 73 x 58 cm
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux
Painting by Stanley Roseman of Frosty Little, Director of Clowns, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, 1977, oil on Strathmore paper, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. © Stanley Roseman
     The pyramidal composition of the painting is restated in the triangular leitmotif of the boat-like hat on the clown's "bald" head, the shapes of his collar and jacket, and the light-blue makeup that descends from the corner of his eyes onto his cheeks. The red on his mouth and the tip of his nose add bright accents to the superb portrait.
Correspondence with Frosty
Spirit of the Clown
The New York Times published a superlative review entitled "Spirit of the Clown" dedicated to Roseman's paintings created during sojourns with the Ringling Bros. and Barnun & Bailey Circus.
    "Circus clowns are one of the glittering joys of all of our lives, whether we are young or old. Through their theatrical exaggerations, their madcap gestures and antics, their rubber acrobatics and their mimes, they create a magic world at once filled with captivating innocence as well as with the essence of which life is made. They can reach through our pretensions and postures, bare our masquerades through theirs and, all told, touch our souls.
    ''Clowns, I believe, must be as difficult to characterize in paintings as they are in words, for their art defies analytical conventions and descriptions. Although their skills remain firmly fixed in our minds, their interpretations have the gossamer evanescence of filigree. And yet Roseman has managed to catch the spirit of the clown.''
- The New York Times
My Friendship with Frosty Little
     The New York Times cites Roseman's empathy with his models and praises the artist for his technical virtuosity: ''Roseman's style is particularly congenial to the subject matter. His vigorous brushstrokes, bold compositions silhouetted against summary backgrounds and his prodigiously bright colors are consistent with the gaiety and fantasy we associate with circus clowns.''
     In its laudatory review The New York Times observes the humanism in Roseman's depictions of the Clown, who "has chosen his profession and carries it out not only with artistry but with a shiny dignity, a jolly harlequin ability. . . . But he is also described in those moments of introspection. . ."
     The New York Times states that Roseman's skillful rendering with oil paint on canvas or paper "underscores the fragility of the clowns' impressions. One can sense that their mood might change instantaneously and remove us to another dream world.''
     Even with the demanding schedule that Frosty Little maintained as Director of Clowns of both the Red and Blue Units of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the celebrated clown kept a faithful correspondence with Roseman over the years and shared with his friend ongoing events in the life of the Circus.
     Frosty and his lovely wife Patricia sent Roseman archival information, as when Frosty writes "enclosed the first of the memorabilia I'm sending you. Look on the back of the photos for information on them.'' Frosty closes his letter to Roseman, "It was great talking to you,'' for the artist and the clown also kept in touch by telephone, which was especially convenient in Frosty's later years in retirement from the Circus. Roseman further recounts:
    "I am very grateful to Frosty and Pat for thoughtfully sending me archival material that document Frosty's career at the Circus. Included are newspaper and magazine articles; circus brochures; Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus stationery with Frosty's picture; photographs of the show, as well as of circus billboards, also with Frosty's picture; and his visiting card which reads 'Glen 'Frosty' Little, Director of Clowns, Red and Blue Units.'
    "Frosty sent me a vintage black and white, head and shoulders photograph of himself smiling into the camera and wrote on the back of the photo: 'The first year 1969 that they used white face clowns in Come In (20 mins before the show). We worked 24 clown gags. Another white face clown wore show costumes. They gave us a huge camera. We would walk around the arena floor, see someone in the seats, have them pose, take their picture (real flash) then pull this photo out of the back & hand it to them - on the back it said 'compliments of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.' That was the only year the show did this.'
    "Frosty also sent me many personal and publicity photographs, including ones of Frosty with fellow comic luminaries Red Skelton, 1983, and Dick van Dyke, 1986; a wonderful photograph of Frosty holding an adorable baby, white tiger at the Circus; and an 8 x 10 inch, color photograph of Frosty in clown makeup and costume at the White House in 1984 for an event promoting reading for young and old.
    "I am also very grateful to have personal photographs of Frosty and Pat at home, such as the one of them with their endearing border collie named Sky, whom I fondly remember for he always greeted me with a friendly bark and wags of his bushy brown tail. Frosty also included a photograph of him and Pat standing together and wrote, "To Stan and Ron with Love, Pat and Frosty."
    "I am very appreciative for a photograph of Frosty receiving in 1983 a citation conferring on him the honorary title of Master Clown, the Circus World's highest honor. Only three other circus clowns have ever received this honor: Otto Griebling, who retired before I began my work at the Circus; Lou Jacobs; and Bobby Kay, both of whom I was fortunate to be able to include in my work, as with Frosty Little.
    "I cherish the letters that Frosty wrote to me and the archival material he and Pat most thoughtfully sent me. What could be a greater expression of friendship than a gift to me of Frosty's clown costume - his jacket, trousers, shirt, tie, suspenders, socks, shoes, skullcap, and conical hat - and his jars and tins of greasepaint makeup and brushes with which he applied his marvelous clown face that I know so well."
     Glen "Frosty'' Little (1925-2010) joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1968. His career with the famous American three-ring Circus spanned 23 years, until Frosty Little retired from the Circus in 1991. The celebrated circus clown was Director of Clowns of the Red and Blue Units of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Each unit traveled on a separate annual route throughout the United States. Frosty Little's responsibilities as Director of Clowns were both organizational and creative in writing and conceiving numerous clown gags and acts that have delighted countless audiences of "children of all ages." In 1983, Frosty Little was awarded the honorary title Master Clown. In 1991, the celebrated clown was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame.
Biographical Information on Frosty Little
    "The clowns invited me to return again and again over the following years. Each time I returned to the Circus with drawing book, paint box, portable easel, and canvases - to Philadelphia; Hartford; Troy, New York; Washington, D.C.; the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island and Madison Square Garden, where it all had begun for me - the clowns warmly welcomed me back to Clown Alley, and Frosty, as before, allocated a place where I could set up my easel and paint."
Stanley Roseman and Frosty Little, Director of Clowns, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, 1977. Photo © Ronald Davis
    "My longtime friendship with the celebrated American circus clown Glen "Frosty" Little, Director of Clowns of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, goes back to the spring of 1973, when the Circus played Madison Square Garden, New York City," Roseman recounts. "With a cordial invitation from the famous American Circus, I spent three exciting weeks at the Garden drawing the clowns."
   In a letter to Roseman, 1979, Frosty Little writes about his portrait: "That is such an excellent painting. . . . I think it is one of your best and not just because it's me.''
   When the portrait was acquired in 1984 by the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, Frosty writes to say that he is "so proud'' and to thank his friend "so much" for having painted "the beautiful, beautiful picture.''
                                    - Frosty Little
                                      Director of Clowns
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
   In further correspondence with the artist in 1981, the celebrated circus clown writes: "I have to thank you, Stanley, because you're so talented to paint such a picture.''
At the Circus - My Friendship with Frosty Little
An Audience with Pope John Paul II
An Invitation to Draw at the Metropolitan Opera
On Portraiture