where the writers are
Kerouac portrait rediscovered?
Perhaps Jack Kerouac by George Segal, 1957

It came into the gallery several weeks ago. An oil portrait on canvas of a young man with dark, combed back hair, his eyes looking down. It is dated 1957 and signed Segal. The man who brought it in found it decades ago in some out of the way haunt and was sure at the time it was a portrait of Jack Kerouac.

I wasn't sure but it seemed possible. The man who found the painting is a picker, and one of the best. He has a superb eye.

Then, five or six days ago, a couple from the East Coast walked in, and a man who had been a part of that art and literature scene of the 1950s and `60s pointed at the painting leaning against a bookcase and said, ``Is that Kerouac?'' I said perhaps, why did he think it was? ``Looks like him,'' he said. Added his wife, nodding,``That was his (her husband's) life back then.''

I began to investigate more seriously. George Segal (1924-2000), not to be confused with the fine American actor, was an important American artist. He became famous for his haunting sculptures of the human figure constructed with plaster-impregnated bandages, but he didn't get into this until the early 1960s.

In any case, I put Kerouac and Segal's names together and googled them, and an interesting Wikpedia entry popped up on the ``Fluxus at Rutgers University.'' Fluxus was apparently a term for a happening or happenings, which was what these events were first called, and Segal hosted them for artistic and literary friends from throughout the New York and New Jersey areas.

The first was in 1957, the date of our painting that is signed Segal, and when Kerouac would have been about 35, whch appears to be about the age of the portrait subject.

The entry in part: ``Segal hosted annual picnics for his New York art friends. It was at one of these that (Allan) Kaprow first coined the term Happening, for an impromptu artistic event, in the Spring of 1957 . . . The form was imitated and the term was adopted by artists across the United States, Germany and Japan. Jack Kerouac referred to Kaprow as `The Happenings man.' ''

While that doesn't specifically place Kerouac at the 1957 event, it seems to indicate it was possible if not probable. So could one of the ``happenings'' have been Segal doing a spontaneous oil portrait of Kerouac?

It would fit with our gallery profile. We already have a portrait of Tolstoi, a painting by Ken Kesey, several by William Saroyan, and a number of pieces relating to Steinbeck and his work. Is the oil on canvas of the author of ``On the Road''?