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Artist
Joseph Konopka
Title
Television
Date
1970
Medium
acrylic on canvas
Dimensions
Framed: 42 1/4 × 42 1/4 inches (107.3 × 107.3 cm)
Tags
Painting
Credit Line
Gift of Casimera Konopka.
Accession Number
2001.24
Joseph “Joe” Konopka was a scenic artist whose representational, photo-realist paintings include landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, and things in everyday life. Konopka began working in the television industry with NBC-TV in 1952; he served in the army from 1956-58 as an army illustrator, and then returned to NBC in 1958 upon discharge. Konopka held a long professional career with the late night television industry (employed as a scenic artist on “Late Night with David Letterman” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”).

Television offers contextual information about America during the 1960s-70s. In the painting we see a woman turning on the TV monitor to (or changing the channel to) the network CBS, channel 2, in color. On her lap is a newspaper, and while illegible, the connection is made between the news events in print and on the screen. CBS was hosting most of its programming lineup all in color by end of 1960s, and it was the first time Americans said they received more of their news from television than newspapers.

During the late 1960s, Walter Cronkite—anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81)—extensively covered Vietnam and the Space Race, among other current events. On July 20, 1969, CBS won the ratings for what was the biggest show in broadcast history to date: the live transmission of American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. walking on the moon. Not only was this a huge leap for humanity and American politics, it was also a huge milestone for live TV broadcast technology.