The Sangers – Artists and Rebels

An untitled painting by William Sanger.

THE SANGERS AS PAINTERS

Margaret Sanger and her family members are best known as birth-control pioneers. Yet three of them were also artists. Now their watercolors are on display at the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s gallery in Portland, Me.

The work includes pieces by Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who took up painting after moving to Tucson in the late 1930s for her health, making mostly desert scenes. Her husband, William Sanger, was a painter and an architect, who began displaying his work in the 1910s; much of it featured stormy landscapes of Maine, where he was a frequent visitor.

Their grandson Alexander took up drawing and watercolors after his retirement as president and chief executive of New York City’s Planned Parenthood in 2000. He, too, paints on the Maine coast as well as in New York, where he is chairman of the International Planned Parenthood Council.

“I’m proud to be following in my grandparents’ footsteps in multiple ways,” Mr. Sanger said in a telephone interview. Particularly “haunting,” Mr. Sanger said, is his grandmother’s painting of a woman with three children walking away from an adobe church in the desert — which is something of a self-portrait, he said. Margaret Sanger had three children, and was indicted on charges of violating the Comstock law, which made it a crime to offer contraceptive information through the mail. “My grandmother’s holding a little girl’s arm and that’s my aunt, who died at age 5 of pneumonia,” he said. “The death was closely connected to circumstances — that my grandmother was in exile out of the country for a year. This is the one painting that she kept till the end of her life.”

The show, “The Sangers — Artists and Rebels,” which runs through May 29, coincides with the 50th anniversary of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Information: 207-232-4123. ROBIN POGREBIN

Source: NY Times, Friday May 22, 2015.

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