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A blog about about painting, design and other aspects of aesthetics along with a dash of non-art topics. The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished -- just put in its proper, diminished place.

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    The distinction between historical art and political art can be fuzzy. Whether a painting or illustration falls into one category or the other is often a subjective judgment. One might think that a painting of some event from Greek or Roman times would be a history painting pure and simple. But even there, if the painting depicts one side of a conflict in a more favorable light than the other side, then a political statement of sorts is involved. This probably doesn't matter much if the subject is not related to politics or ideology at the time the painting was created. However, I'll contend (until I change my mind) that if an artist paints a scene from history in such a way that commentary is made about current (for the artist) events, then this is political art. And artistic commentaries on events or people contemporary to the artist are indeed examples of political art.

    The present post deals with the era of the Russian revolution of 1917 and two artists who dealt with it.

    First is Isaak Brodsky (1883-1939), mentored by the great Ilya Repin in pre-revolutionary times, who became and advocate for, and practitioner of, Socialist Realism in the USSR under Stalin's regime. His Wikipedia entry is here. Brodsky's public painting after the revolution was was largely political.

    Morton Roberts (1927-1964) was a fine illustrator and painter who died far too soon. David Apatoff wrote about him here, Leif Peng presented some images here, and a biographic sketch is here. If you can find a copy, issue 22 of Illustration Magazine (Spring, 2008) has an article about Roberts. Otherwise, you can click here, and flip through that issue on-line.

    Roberts illustrated Life Magazine articles on the Russian Revolution that appeared during 1959. Although the Cold War was going strong then, Roberts' illustrations strike me as being far more historical documentation than political commentary. But judge for yourself.


    Brodksy: Demonstration - 1930
    I don't know if Brodsky was depicting a pre- or post-revolution rally here. It seems he wasn't afraid to paint crowd scenes.

    Brodsky: Lenin at a Rally of Workers - 1929
    Another crowd scene. Again I don't know the date of the occasion being depicted. It, and the scene in the first image, might even have been inventions by Brodsky, showing typical events of 1917-23.

    Brodsky: Day of Constitution - 1930
    Crowd again.

    Brodsky: Mikhail Frunze - 1929
    A portrait of a revolutionary figure who met a controversial end. Click here for biographical information on Frunze.

    Brodsky: The Execution of the Twenty-Six Baku Commissars - 1929
    This took place during the civil war between the Reds and the Whites.

    Roberts: Rasputin - 1959
    Rasputin's Wikipedia entry is here.

    Roberts: Assassination of Stolypin - 1959
    For information on Pyotr Stolypin, click here.

    Lenin Addressing Troops - 1959
    This might be Lenin's famous arrival at the Finland Station in Petrograd.

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    Herman Jean Joseph Richir (1866-1942) painted subjects other than portraits, but he seems to have been best-known for the latter. Biographical information in English is skimpy on the Internet, so you might consult Wikipedia entries in French or Dutch and click on the Translate button if you are unfamiliar with the language to get a sense of his career.

    Back around the 1600s, long before Belgium existed, the area produced major artists such as Peter Paul Rubens. And this continued following the 1830 creation of the current Belgian state, though by that time Paris had become the dominant European art center. Some Belgian painters moved to Paris for career reasons, while others remained and generally paid the price of international obscurity. (Exceptions include the Symbolists Fernand Khnopff and James Ensor, and the Surrealist of sorts, René Magritte.)

    Richir made his career in Belgium, was not a modernist, and catered to a wealthy and even royal clientele, so he is essentially unknown to art history. This might be changing thanks to the Internet's ability via search engines to turn up works of artists who failed to make the Modernist Narrative that dominated much of the second half of the 20th century.

    So it was that I stumbled on some Richir images and added them to my data base. Below are some of those that I found interesting. From what I can tell, not having seen any original paintings, Richir was a skilled painter who did images that satisfy my eye, at least. But like many others I write about here, what was missing was that je ne sais quoi that could have made his art distinctive.


    Thé (Les peintres Juliette et Rodolphe Wytsman) - c. 1896

    The Snow Fairy - 1918


    Standing woman

    Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians - 1930

    Queen Astrid of the Belgians

    Woman in blue gown

    Jamilé, the Artist's Model

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    Every so often I leave the realm of painting and illustration to post about architecture, design, transportation, museums and such. Today's post deals with a museum devoted to flight and, to a lesser degree, space travel.

    The subject is Seattle's Museum of Flight, usually ranked as one of the better American aviation museums. It has ties to Boeing, but I offhand don't know if any are formal. Its Wikipedia entry dates its founding to 1965, but it wasn't until the mid-1980s that its permanent facilities began to be opened to the public.

    Here are some photos I took on a recent visit:


    The main buildings are sited next to the Boeing Field runway and near the flight path to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, so visitors experience a good deal of air traffic. Here is a view taken near the main entrance. To the right is the tail of a B-47 Cold War era bomber. The white-shrouded plane to the left is a World War 2 vintage B-29, still under restoration. In the far distance are downtown Seattle skyscrapers. The intermediate distance reveals a couple of UPS cargo planes at the far side of the runway and a large smattering of other aircraft.

    Here is a Boeing 787 Dreamliner demonstration aircraft trundling down the taxiway prior to a take-off, perhaps to the Farnborough air show.

    A few aircraft are positioned near the museum entrance including this B-17F and the B-47 just mentioned.

    Since the opening of the Smithsonian's aviation museum on the Washington, DC's Mall, large halls with suspended aircraft have become a useful cliché for aircraft museums, including the Museum of Flight. Some of the planes seen are a DC-3 airliner (top), Lockheed Blackbird (bottom), and a replica GeeBee racer (the yellow plane near the center of the photo).

    A Boeing Model 40 reproduction.

    Boeing 80A-1 tri-motor transport from 1929.

    Boeing Model 100 (P-12/F4B) built 1928. This aircraft was a civilian version of the Navy F4B-1 fighter that is painted to look like an Army P-12.

    Interior of the "Red Barn," Boeing's factory during the 1920s.

    Across a major street from the main part of the museum is the Airpark containing several larger aircraft. Seen here the tail of a Concorde supersonic airliner, the first VC-137B Air Force One (Presidential aircraft), a Boeing 727 airliner, and at the right, the first Boeing 737 airliner.

    Badly in need of a paint job is the first Boeing 747 airliner. Below the cockpit windows are blurred names of the flight crew for its maiden flight, 9 February 1969 -- more then 45 years ago.

    Here are a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation, the Air Force One, and the Concorde.

    Inside the Personal Courage Wing that houses World War military aircraft, many of which are from the now-defund Champlin collection. I think the name is silly and perhaps politically correct: Why not simply call it something like World War Warplanes Wing, which would be truthful. But this is Seattle, after all (sigh). The lower floor deals with World War 2 and has lots of interesting stuff, jammed so closely together that it's difficult to photograph the planes. Seen here (clockwise from the bottom) are a P-51D Mustang, a Soviet Yak 9-U, a P-47D Thunderbolt and a P-38L Lightning. Mostly hidden behind the P-38 is a Goodyear FG-1D version of the Vought F4U Corsair. This aircraft was fished out of Seattle's Lake Washington years after it crashed during the war.

    A replica Albatros D.Va from the Great War housed on the second floor of the wing.

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    Laurence Fellows (1885-1964), who signed his illustrations "L. Fellows," had an important role in the commercial art of the 1920s, 30s and into the 1940s. I know this because I saw plenty of his work in Art Directors Club of New York annuals and other collections of illustrations from that era.

    Only one photo of Fellows has appeared on the Internet, and I could find virtually no information regarding his personal life. On the other hand, useful information about his career and works can be found here, here and (by illustration authority Walt Reed) here.

    Fellows had a clean, spare style that observers believe he picked up while studying in France. This was used from around 1915 through the 1920s, especially for a series of advertisement illustrations he made for Kelly-Springfield tires. In the early 30s Fellows took up fashion illustration for expensive lines of men's clothing. During the 1930s he adjusted his style from thin outlines and generally flat surfaces to a more traditional watercolor style in response to changing illustration fashions. Also bear in mind that the proper goal of fashion illustration is to make garments "stars" of the show; this is why texture and pattern dominate Fellows' images here. In spite of these influences, Fellows' work remained distinctive.


    Kelly-Springfield tire ad illustration from around 1920 (give or take five years).

    Perhaps a detail from another Kelly-Springfield ad, ca. 1926.

    Couple at ship railing, 1920s.

    Formal attire on an Art Deco / Moderne barstool, 1934

    Couples dancing, formal attire, 1934

    Greeting a woman, 1934.

    College students chatting up coed in roadster, 1937.

    Man not helping women exit automobile, 1936.

    Polo club outdoor lounge lizards, around 1936.

    Glaring shoe shine customer, 1935.

    Fashionable attire and red sports car, London, 1938.

    Perhaps a New York Easter Parade scene, 1941.

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  • 07/23/14--01:00: Tim Huhn's Retro-Deco Art
  • There is little personal information about Tim Huhn on the Internet. His own Website has this biographical snippet, and an art gallery site tells us this.

    Essentially, Huhn comes from up here in the Seattle area, was trained in California, worked in illustration for a number of years in the Los Angeles area, dropped that and moved to the central California coast, and finally relocated back here.

    As for his art, Huhn strikes me as being extremely versatile and able to "sell" his concepts very well. For example, he convincingly painted a number of images in 1930s Moderne style. These poster and mural-like paintings look as if they actually were made in those days. Very impressive. More recently, he seems to have shifted to traditional subjects and technique -- again in a skillful manner. Interestingly, his Web site contains no 1930s iconography; too bad, because he was good at it.


    Dawn of a New Age

    The five images immediately above are posters derived from some Huhn paintings apparently in cooperation with the Just Looking Gallery in San Luis Obispo, California that deals in his art.

    Posters of the four seasons.

    In Repose
    The Just Looking Gallery site indicates that this is a recent work by Huhn.  Still in Moderne mode.

    Colonnade at Tolosa (in San Luis Obispo)

    Biltmore Tower (the hotel in Montecito, California, near Santa Barbara)

    Quartermaster Harbor Morning (on Vashon Island, Washington)
    These last three paintings show Huhn working in a traditional mode.

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  • 07/25/14--01:00: Dieselpunk Airplanes
  • I'm sort of a sucker for the 1920s and 1930s. Call it a "false nostalgia" thing. For that reason, I've developed a peculiar semi-fascination with Dieselpunk imagery where actual 'tween-wars art, machines, architecture and so forth are dumped into parallel universes or alternative histories and thereby transformed.

    Wikipedia deals with Dieselpunk here. A more extensive introduction can be found here at the Dieselpunks Encyclopedia.  And a few Web sites for further immersion in Dieselpunk are here, here and here.

    Like most other things, Dieselpunk objects can be fascinating or ridiculous or something between. As for which, that depends on the eyes and background of the beholder. Just for fun, let's take a peek at Dieselpunk aircraft.


    Flying boat, by Tyler West

    Vigil at War
    I don't have a name for the artist, but wish I did because it's a realistically imaginative image.

    Again, I don't know the name of the designer.

    "Red Baron" by Ajdin Durakovic

    Chaparral float plane by Inago
    This looks too nose-heavy to actually fly.

    Heavy Attacker, by Inago
    This illustration has airbrushing that looks very 1938. The airplane itself strikes me as pretty silly.

    Fictional Airships by "linseed"

    Joint Defense Fighter by "donaguirre"

    British flying aircraft carriers and fighter planes of 1939
    These are from the 2004 movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which I haven't seen, but probably should have for the purposes of this post.

    Sky Captain - Manta fighter by "linseed"
    The Manta also seems too nose-heavy to fly.

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    I'll leave it to art history scholars to tease out the various "firsts" related to this post. Instead, I'll just offer some approximations. For instance, if the French Impressionists didn't originate the concept that shaded areas on objects might be colored violet or purple, they surely popularized it.

    I haven't fully researched its use in illustration, but Impressionism-influenced illustrator N.C. Wyeth was including small touches of violet shading on characters he was painting by around 1920 and Harrison Fisher might have been doing the same occasionally a few years earlier.

    But it wasn't until well into the 1920s that American illustrators made bold use of violet as a shade hue. Perhaps the influence here was the popularity of toned-down colors on contemporary murals where opposites (in color-wheels terms) were either mixed or placed side-by-side Divisionist-style. At any rate, a warm-shifted approximate opposite to sunlit flesh color (that is, an orange) would be some sort of violet. Examples presented in the present post cover the period 1928-1934 when this color fashion was at its height. Actually, it wasn't much of a fashion, as only a few illustrators participated.

    Perhaps the most famous was McClelland Barclay (1891-1943), who used violet shading in some illustrations he made for a General Motors' Fisher Body advertising series. Least-known was Karl Godwin (1893-1962), who I wrote about here. His big-time career period was in the late 1920s and early 30s, though he continued to work at the margins, as indicated here. Finally, there is Walter Baumhofer (1904-1987), whose career began with "pulp" magazines and later transitioned to "slicks." I wrote about him here. Other sources of information are here and here. But if you are really interested in Baumhofer and his work, consider getting a copy of this issue of Illustration Magazine, which is devoted entirely to him.


    Barclay - Fisher Body ad art - December, 1928

    Barclay - Fisher Body advertisement - July, 1930

    Godwin - From a 1929 Hudson automobile advertisement

    Godwin - Ethyl advertisements - 1932

    Baumhofer - Magazine cover - March, 1929

    Baumhofer - magazine cover - May-June, 1931

    Baumhofer - Doc Savage Magazine cover - July, 1933

    Baumhofer - Doc Savage Magazine cover - February, 1934

    Baumhofer - Doc Savage Magazine cover art - May, 1934

    Baumhofer - Doc Savage Magazine cover - September, 1934
    Baumhofer made the greatest use of violet shading, and that was mostly for some of the cover art he created for Doc Savage Magazine. One reason for this is that Dec was described in the stories as having a bronze complexion, and some sort of violet or blue would be the opposite of that dominant color. The cover shown immediately above is my favorite.

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    John E. Sheridan (1880-1948) is yet another illustrator I've been writing about lately who had a reasonably successful career, yet is little remembered. And like so many other technically competent artists I've dealt with here, lasting fame was elusive because what was missing was a distinctive style.

    Sheridan's Wikipedia entry is here, and a more lenghthy biography that stresses his fashion illustration is here.

    The "reasonably successful career" evaluation I made above is based on the fact that Sheridan painted about a dozen covers for the Saturday Evening Post, the dominant general-interest magazine in America during the first six decades of the last century. Becoming a Post cover artist was truly the Big Time for an Illustrator. And yet ...


    This is a Sheridan Post cover. The United States was in the process of a crash mobilization for the Great War at the time it appeared, but one would never guess that from the cover's subject matter. Interesting car, however: note the slanted radiator which is more evocative of 1932 than 1918.

    One of Sheridan's efforts featuring men's suits by Hart Schaffner & Marx, a leading clothing firm for much of the 20th century.

    Cover for the May, 1931 American Magazine. American was a second-tier magazine in those days, and Sheridan's illustration has no "story" to it whatsoever.

    Also from the early 1930s, though I don't know whether it was for an advertisement or a magazine cover. Once again, a bland, generic subject. It's quite possible that art directors, and not Sheridan, were responsible for subject selection on this and the preceding image.

    I really like this movie advertisement or poster. Try to ignore the blue reversed headline type bleeding through that nifty chorus girl. Here we find zing, not blandness. Perhaps Sheridan's reputation would have been better had he been commissioned to paint more of these than the sort of things shown above.

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    I have no idea who "donaguirre" is. He signs his illustrations "aguirre" and it seems that he's based in Germany (could he be originally from Spain?). And I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that he was trained in industrial design.

    His website is a part of the Deviant Art site, and is difficult to navigate for casual viewers such as me.

    Given all this, we have no choice but to drop searching for details about him and instead take a peek at the alternative-1930s universe he has created. Click on the images to enlarge.


    These "posters" help set the stage for aguirre's world. Imaginary countries and cities exist, though they resemble those of the 1930s. And don't miss the wry bits of humor: for example, note the "generous dental plan" appeal in the 1935 faux-poster immediately above.

    Two more poster-like images, but of a different kind. Robert Heinlein fans will catch the reference in the book cover.

    Fighter, HMS Aquarius, 1936
    Design for a dirigible-based fighter plane.

    Leaving Home Defence Perimeter

    Malstroen-Zeppenfeldt, 1935 faux-poster for a weekend racing event

    Nikkokan Task Force
    Apparently the enemy is a Japan-like nation.

    A completed passenger dirigible leaves the factory.

    Spirit of Distopia
    Another plane design. This from the "Hugges" company, and a likely takeoff on Howard Hughes'H-1 Racer of 1935.

    Racing Weekend

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    According to the article on Mead Schaeffer (1898-1980) in issue No. 45 of Illustration magazine, he was quoted as saying in 1945:

    "I longed to do honest work, based on real places, real people, and real things -- work expressive of normal human emotions and activities. So, I did a right-about-face, and have never regretted it."

    This was in reaction to painting "dudes and dandies, exaggerated sentiment, artificial romance, and love withe the endless 'he and she' pictures."

    The images above reflect this change in attitude. The ones below are some of what I consider his better work done prior to his epiphany.

    There is little question that Schaeffer was satisfied with his decision to change subject matter and, as it turned out, his style as well. But while he seemed satisfied, what about his audience and, in my case, his fan base?

    To me, Schaeffer's appeal lies in his style -- the way he composed his scenes and, especially, his painting technique; subject matter is secondary. So far as I am concerned, his work from around 1940 onward was competently done, conventional, and not interesting to look at in most cases. Other contemporaneous illustrators could (and did) do pretty much the same sort of thing equally well. Very few in 1925-39 could equal Scheffer's work. Feel free to disagree in Comments.

    (I wrote about Schaeffer here. A brief Wikipedia entry is here. A David Apatoff take can be found here. There is more about him here.)

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    Clarence F. Underwood (1871-1929) was born in Jamestown in western New York State, trained at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie Julian in Paris, returned to America around 1901, and then pursued a career in illustration.

    That's just about all I could find regarding him.

    But if you Google on him and go into Images, you will find quite a number of examples of his work. It seems that Underwood was prolific and appeared in leading magazines of his day, including the Saturday Evening Post, the top general-interest magazine for more than half of the 20th century.

    I have to admit that I don't care for most of Underwood's work. The scenes he depicts are usually bland (though that might have been because of the stories he illustrated). His compositions aren't usually very interesting, either. While he could draw well when he chose to, often enough his brushwork was just fussy enough to counteract the drawing. From Google, it seems that he used gouache, watercolor or possibly colored inks a good deal, this and the vignette style he often used suggest that he worked fairly fast. Given the quality of printing during his 1902 - early 1920s heyday, it's possible that the reproduction process smoothed over some of the rough brushwork.

    For a quick look at some examples of his work in addition to what is displayed below, click here. The images shown below are what I consider among the best of his work.


    Couple ice skating
    Many Underwood illustrations deal with well-dressed couples. Apparently this is what the stories and art editors required.

    Seated young women in overcoat
    I think this is one of his best efforts.

    Lady getting her hair arranged
    When given the chance or when in the right mood, Underwood could be witty.

    Elegant couple - Saturday Evening Post illustration
    A nondescript painting with large amounts of dead space surrounding the subjects. Was some of that covered with print in the publication?

    Couple in back seat of limousine
    By the woman's hair style, I'll assume this is one of Underwood's later works.

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  • 08/08/14--01:00: One Million Pageviews
  • Really successful Internet sites such as Drudge Report can clock one million pageviews in an hour. Some blogs can probably hit that mark in a couple of months or maybe less time.

    Art Contrarian is a small blog with limited focus, but it hit the 1,000,000 pageviews mark sometime today.

    So many thanks to you, the regular readers and those who drop by occasionally for making Art Contrarian reach this milestone.

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  • 08/11/14--01:00: Jacek Malczewski and Muses
  • Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929) made astonishing paintings. Not astonishingly good paintings, necessarily, but paintings that astonish. Not only do they astonish, they fascinate. This is mostly because of their subjects and how Malczewski presented them. For me, its a "What in the hell is going on here?" reaction in many cases. Malczewski carried this off because was a skilled artist; off hand, I can't think of any other painter who could have painted what he did in such a convincing manner.

    I lasted posted on Malczewski here, showing some of his paintings dealing with death. The present post deals with artists, muses, and in particular, Malczewski's most important muse, Marii Balowej, also known as Maria Balowa or Maria Bal. For a short summary of Malczewski's career, click here.

    The images below are in chronological order. Click to enlarge.


    Natchnienie malarza (Painter's Muse) - 1897

    Artysta i muza (Artist and Muse) - 1898

    Autoportret z muza - (Self-Portrait With Muse Holding Scepter and Heart) - 1904
    Although he was married, Malczewski began using the recently-divorced Marii Balowej as a model. This turned into an affair that lasted for about ten years. Even after it ended, the two remained friends. As best I can tell, this and all the images below have her as the model for the woman.

    Portret Kobiety (Marii Balowej) - 1907

    Modelka (Maria Balowa jako śmierć czytająca nekrologi w gazecie) - Model as Death Reading Obituaries - 1907

    Moja dusza (My Soul) - 1908
    This is really a sketch, but Malczewski considered it finished because he signed it. I include it because it suggests his technique at an early stage of creating a painting.

    Wiosna (Spring) - 1909

    Auroportret - 1915
    Another partly completed work.

    Pytia Pythia (the Delphic oracle) - 1917
    Painted after the break-up. Marii is fully clothed, perhaps due to that.

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    I can't get the thought out of my mind that already I posted about portraits of the Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957). I found a directory containing images of her dating from three years ago, but some searches of this blog have turned up nothing. So I am puzzled.

    But that doesn't really matter because I just added more images to create an even more richly illustrated post (if indeed there was a previous one). La Casati was one of the most portrayed women of her times, though she fell a bit short of Suzy Solidor. Better yet, Casati was painted by some very well-known artists, which adds to the interest.

    As her Wikipedia entry (first link, above) indicates, she was extremely rich, yet managed to spend it away by the time she was around 50. Plus, she had a magnetic personality that fascinated most of those who portrayed her.

    The painting that launched her celebrity is Giovanni Boldini's 1908 version of her shown at the top of this post. Below are other images by name of artist in order of the year they were made.


    Alberto Martini - 1912

    Leon Bakst - 1912

    Adolph de Meyer (photo) - 1912

    Giovanni Boldini - 1914

    Kees Van Dongen - 1914

    Kees Van Dongen - 1915

    Augustus John - 1919

    Augustus John - 1919

    Frederico Beltran - 1920

    Romaine Brooks - 1920

    Kees Van Dongen - 1921

    Augustus John - 1942

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    Charles Courtney Curran (1861 – 1942) was of the same ilk as his Boston School contemporaries, though he did his work in New York State and Ohio rather than in or near The Hub. His Wikipedia entry is here, and a more detailed biography can be found here.

    Curran was highly skilled and painted attractive women in a variety of settings for the most part. For nearly 20 years or so he made many paintings of young, usually white-clad woman on hilltops near his summer home in Upstate New York. I offer a sampling of these below.


    View of Ellenville, New York
    This is the area where Curran did his hilltop scenes. Ellenville lies in Ulster County, up the Hudson River from New York City, near the southeastern corner of the Catskill Mountains. The view is from the Shawangunk Ridge near the tiny village of Cragsmoor (about three miles south of Ellenville), where Curran had a summer home. The Catskills are seen in the background.

    Faraway Thoughts
    This painting is more hard-edge than most of the others.  I don't have a date for it, so can't give it context.

    Noonday Sunlight - 1918

    On the Cliff - 1910

    On the Heights - 1909

    Summer - 1906

    Summer Clouds - 1917

    Sunlit Valley - 1920

    Sunshine and Haze
    I like this (and the preceding image) because Curran did a convincing job of painting the usually humid summer atmospherics of that part of New York State. I can attest to this because I spent more than four years in Albany and traveled to the Catskill region many, many times in those days.

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    I was never fond of the works of Ashcan School painter John Sloan (1871-1951) -- Wilipedia entry here.

    To my way of thinking, Sloan was one of those artists whose paintings became progressively less satisfying to view. His early works (which I might get around to discussing sometime) were pretty good, though not distinctive. Mid-career paintings were less well done, in my opinion, but were distinctively Sloans, which is not a bad thing when it comes to long-term artistic notoriety, if not fame. During the last 20 or so years of his life, Sloan went off the rails and began using tempera paints to create underpaintings featuring topographical-like lines describing a subject's surface, much like the sort of engravings one sees on paper money. Atop that base, he applied oil paint glazes. I show some results below.


    Election Night - 1907

    Women Drying Their Hair - 1912
    Above are two mid-period Sloans to set the scene. When one thinks of Sloan, this is the general style that is most likely to come to mind.

    Girl, Back to Piano - 1932
    A fairly early topographical Sloan effort. The surface definition lines are mostly on the subject, not so much on the setting.

    Barbara in Red and Gold

    Helen [Farr Sloan] at the Easel - 1947
    Two portraits. I have no idea why Sloan persisted with this style when it should have been obvious that resulting works were rather ugly. The technique is so strong and odd that it easily distracts viewers from the subject matter.

    Santa Fe Siesta - 1949
    A late painting illustrating Sloan's stylistic obsession applied to an entire human form.

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    Marie Laurencin (1883-1956) hung out with Picasso and Georges Braque, was muse and mistress to Apollinaire, and early in her career was considered by some a serious modernist artist. Biographical snippets are here and here.

    Her early modernist work doesn't seem to have progressed far into Cubism, and by the 1920s she mostly painted "sweet nothings" (as the title of this post indicates) in the form of dark-eyed girls in flat, pastel tones. I suppose Laurencin has her place in the Modernist Art-Historical Timeline, but from what I present below, her pedestal is a short one.


    Self-Portrait - c. 1905

    Group of Artists - 1908
    This painting has other titles, but its subjects are (left to right): Picasso, Laurencin, Apollinaire and Fernande Olivier (Picasso's mistress at the time).

    Les jeunes filles - 1910-11
    The main hint of Cubism here is in the lines and shadings; the subjects' forms have not been exploded and rearranged.

    Self-portrait - 1912
    Another merest whiff of Cubism.

    Le bal élégante, ou la danse à la campagne - 1913
    Laurencin is said to have had affairs with women.

    girl - 1926
    This and the three paintings below fall into what I call her dolce far niente period.

    Le baiser - 1927


    girl - 1936

    Jidelina - 1946
    A post-war portrait. Not as flatly painted as those shown above, but an unexceptional, derivative work, typical of the times.

    Doctor Le Masle - 1949
    She sometimes depicted men. This is a late painting.

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  • 08/22/14--01:00: Great Ideas in 1950s Style
  • If you want a one-stop shop of 1950s style graphic design, I suggest the Container Corporation of America's advertising series called "Great Ideas of Western Man" that also embodied the now more or less defunct "middlebrow culture" of those days. Even the title now would be considered a thought crime in many colleges and universities in America and elsewhere.

    A useful source of background information on the the series is here; it is well worth reading because it deals with how the series began, the people involved, the source of subjects and the marching orders for the illustrators.

    The CCA ad series followed somewhat similar series from previous decades and continued until around 1975, but the greatest impact was in the early days, starting in 1950. Graphic style of the 1950s and for a while beyond often took the form of simple, flat shapes arranged in some sort of restrained clutter, and that's what we find here. The captions on the images shown below indicate the artist-designers, all of whom were prominent in the field.


    Herbert Bayer
    Bayer was the art director, of sorts, for the CCA project.

    Ben Shahn

    Jacques Nathan Garamond

    Lester Beall

    Milton Glaser

    S. Neil Fujita

    Saul Bass

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    Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) was a leading figure in the Munich art world, both as a secessionist and as an establishment art instructor. Although he painted fairly conventionally when it came to portraits, much of his work can be classified as Symbolist. In his case, symbolism was usually in the form of Classical or Biblical subjects. His Wikipedia entry is here, and I posted about him here.

    Stuck's Symbolist paintings tend to be dark, but he made some bright non-portrait paintings along the way, especially around the early 1920s. But he continued his dark Symbolism into the final years of his career, as can be seen below.


    Sin - 1893
    Stuck's best-known subject is "Sin," of which he painted a dozen or so versions. I include this to set the scene, but you can click on the above link to my post about him to see other examples of his art from his heyday.

    The Circle Dance
    Judgment of Paris - 1923
    Sorry about the small size, but that's all there is on the Internet. The two paintings above are part of the Frye Art Museum collection in Seattle and show a not-gloomy Stuck at work.

    Badende Frauen (Women Bathing) - c. 1920
    A bright, non-Symbolist painting from around the same time.

    The Three Goddesses: Athena, Hera and Aphrodite - 1923
    Again in the same time frame, but more to the traditional Stuck style.

    Pygmalion and Galatea - 1926

    Judith - 1927
    These two paintings were done within a couple of years of Stuck's death at age 65. He seems to have been little influenced by the Modernist "isms" that came along after 1900, his final works not being greatly different in spirit from what he painted 20 or 30 years earlier. The two Frye paintings suggest influence of the simplified, flattened representational painting style that emerged for a while after the Great War. The bathing women seem to have an Impressionist touch.

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    Some people laughed back in December 24th of 1956 when Time Magazine (it was an important publication then, with an actual raison d'être) featured Edward Hopper (1882-1967) on its cover. Hopper was derided as old-fashioned, somebody who couldn't get with the abstract expressionist program. As it turned out, Time's editors in those days were better judges of artistic worth than many of the rest of us (I too was a brainwashed modernist). Hopper, nearly 50 years after his death, is considered a very important American painter and exhibits of his work draw large numbers of people.

    For details on Hopper's career, here is his Wikipedia entry. It seems that Hopper worked as an illustrator at first in order to make a living doing art. But as Paul Giambarba in his blog "100 Years of Illustration"suggested, Hopper really didn't seem to enjoy that line of work. Nevertheless, he kept at it into his 40s until he was able to fully transition to fine arts painting and engraving.

    Many painters in this occasional "In the Beginning" series of posts made extreme changes in style from their early days to their days of fame. Hopper was not one of them. His illustrations were influenced by the needs of art directors, so we can't give them much weight when evaluating the early Hopper. But his non-landscape paintings definitely prefigure his mature style. Mostly they lack the later refinement and clarity.


    Chop Suey - 1929
    One of Hopper's better known paintings to set the scene.

    Couple Drinking - 1906-07

    Le Pont des Arts - 1907
    Two scenes from his Paris days.

    Summer Interior - 1909
    He later painted many such interior scenes featuring young women in isolation.

    New York Corner (Corner Saloon) - 1913
    This hints at later streetscapes.

    Illustration for "Your Employment System" - July 1913
    One of his nondescript illustrations.

    Soir Bleu - 1914
    I'm not sure what to make of this because it is so atypical.

    Road in Maine - 1914

    Blackhead Monhegan [Maine] - 1916-19
    Hopper spent time in Maine and did some landscapes. His later, famous landscapes include structures such as houses and lighthouses.

    Morse Drydock Dial magazine cover - May 1919
    More illustration work. He had to keep at it well into the 1920s.

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