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Articles on this Page
- 12/03/14--01:00: _Sarah Stilwell Webe...
- 12/05/14--01:00: _Some Collier's Maga...
- 12/08/14--01:00: _Luke Fildes: Painte...
- 12/10/14--01:00: _Paul Nash: War Arti...
- 12/12/14--01:00: _Frank Tinsley: Illu...
- 12/15/14--01:00: _John White Alexande...
- 12/17/14--01:00: _Eugene Speicher: Fo...
- 12/19/14--01:00: _Molti Ritratti: Que...
- 12/22/14--01:00: _Zinaida Serebriakov...
- 12/24/14--01:00: _Dan Content: A Dean...
- 12/26/14--01:00: _Norman Wilkinson: S...
- 12/29/14--01:00: _János Vaszary: Trad...
- 12/31/14--01:00: _Raeburn van Buren: ...
- 01/02/15--01:00: _Molti Ritratti: Vio...
- 01/05/15--01:00: _Diego Rivera's Cubi...
- 01/07/15--01:00: _In the Beginning: C...
- 01/09/15--01:00: _Oswald Birley, 20th...
- 01/12/15--01:00: _Otis (and Dorothy) ...
- 01/14/15--01:00: _Vanessa Bell, Moder...
- 01/16/15--01:00: _Identify the Artist
- 12/03/14--01:00: Sarah Stilwell Weber: More Than Kiddie Covers
- 12/05/14--01:00: Some Collier's Magazine Cover Artists
- 12/08/14--01:00: Luke Fildes: Painter of Poverty and Royalty
- 12/10/14--01:00: Paul Nash: War Artist, Surrealist
- 12/12/14--01:00: Frank Tinsley: Illustrator of the "Gee Whiz!"
- 12/15/14--01:00: John White Alexander's Women in Green
- 12/17/14--01:00: Eugene Speicher: Forgotten Tepid Modernist
- 12/19/14--01:00: Molti Ritratti: Queen Alexandra
- 12/22/14--01:00: Zinaida Serebriakova's Sweet Smiles
- 12/24/14--01:00: Dan Content: A Dean Cornwell Desciple
- 12/26/14--01:00: Norman Wilkinson: Sea, Sky and Other Stuff
- 12/29/14--01:00: János Vaszary: Traditionalist Gone Modern
- 12/31/14--01:00: Raeburn van Buren: Second-Echelon Cartoonist
- 01/02/15--01:00: Molti Ritratti: Violet, Duchess of Rutland
- 01/05/15--01:00: Diego Rivera's Cubist Period
- 01/07/15--01:00: In the Beginning: Childe Hassam
- 01/09/15--01:00: Oswald Birley, 20th Century Painter of Royals and Society
- 01/12/15--01:00: Otis (and Dorothy) Shepard: Billbord Masters
- 01/14/15--01:00: Vanessa Bell, Modernist Amateur
- 01/16/15--01:00: Identify the Artist
Sarah Stilwell Weber (1878-1939) or (1863-1935), both sets of dates are in various places on the Internet, was a successful illustrator during the first two decades of the 20th century. Her illustrations graced the covers and interiors of several leading magazines as well as books and advertisements.
Unfortunately, I can find little in the way of information about her on the Internet, though two sites dealing with her are here and here.
What little detail follows is gleaned from Walt Reed's "The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000." Reed and other sources I'm inclined to trust have 1878-1939 as her dates. She studied under Howard Pyle both at Drexel and in summer sessions at Chadd's Ford. Reed also notes her book illustration work and some advertising clients.
That being that, all I can do is present some examples of her work.
Stilwell was hitting the big-time around age 25.
One of Stilwell's best-known works.
It seems she borrowed the general idea ten years later for Collier's rival, the Post.
Many of her covers used children as subjects.
More leopard, this time skinned, and for Vogue.
This seems to be unsigned, but Internet sites credit her with the illustration.
A really fine illustration here.
The Russian-type costume was ill-timed, because the February Revolution (March 8-12, new calendar) occurred just after this issue was off the news stands, and Russia became more chaotic than it usually was in those years.
Collier's magazine in its original form ceased publication in 1957 (a revival was briefly attempted a few years ago). But for much of its existence it was a major American general-interest publication, being second only to the Saturday Evening Post.
As such, it's covers featured many of America's leading illustrators, though not the Post's star Norman Rockwell. Below is a sampling of Collier's covers I assembled, each by a different established illustrator.
The United States'"Great White Fleet" was on its around-the-world cruise in 1907 where Japan was to be one of its stopping points, hence the Japanese naval ensign as backdrop. Hostility was building between the countries, but the fleet's reception in Japan was cordial. A curiosity is the 7 December issue date, given that Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Navy exactly 34 years later.
Reuterdahl is noted for his portrayal of ships. Here he depicts sailors, presumably on their return from the world cruise.
Sarah Stilwell Weber
In the late spring of 1939, King George VI of Britain and Queen Elizabeth toured the United States and Canada.
Collier's published a multi-issue study of space travel in the early 1950s.
Sir Samuel Luke Fildes (1843-1927) began his career as an illustrator, then moved into painting. He also moved from depicting poor or common folk to making portraits of members of the royal family. Plus, he seemed to enjoy painting portraits of pretty young women. If he did any landscapes or still lifes, they were a small part of the output of his career.
Filde's Wikipedia entry is here. He had one son who died in childhood, that event serving as the basis for one of his best-known paintings, "The Doctor". Fildes lived a long life, as did two other sons, Luke and Sir Paul.
Given that his art training took place before French Impressionism was revealed to the world, Fildes' style remained traditional, though some of his informal works done after 1900 feature more casual brushwork than what he used when depicting royalty.
Paul Nash (1889-1946) was a member of the Slade School's second surge of noteworthy artists, a group strongly influenced by modernism while retaining a bit of traditional British caution in the matter. A lengthy Wikipedia biography is here and here is a short note from the Tate.
It seems that Nash had a deficiency exposed while at the Slade: he wasn't very good at depicting people. As a result, he generally painted landscapes. During the 1930s when Surrealism became fashionable, he did works in that vein based on landscape art.
Nash is best known as a war artist, particularly for his works featuring the Great War (he also depicted World War 2). Unlike many men commissioned to do war art, Nash had had combat experience as an officer and knew full well what that war was like.
A 1917 exhibit of works dealing with Ypres led to his posting as a war artist, according to the Tate link above. This painting was done later.
Showing why Nash seldom featured people in his paintings.
This and the Ypres Salient painting above are probably his best-known Great War paintings.
A nice, bold composition, which accounts for the tilted horizon line, I suppose.
An early Surrealist work.
Much Surrealism supposedly dealt with dreams, something I find hard to believe.
Nash wasn't any better with airplanes than he was with people.
Perhaps his best-known Second War painting.
This painting is dreadful. Perhaps Nash's frail health was overtaking his abilities.
Frank Tinsley (1899-1965) was an illustrator who specialized in machines. Aircraft, usually, but also ships, trains, cars, space ships and any other speculative technology that pulp and semi-pulp magazine editors tossed his way. By the 1950s he was often called upon to write the articles that he was illustrating. So he had a nice little niche and filled it well.
Here is biographical information, and links with plenty of examples of his work are here and here.
Tinsley worked in color when doing magazine covers, but much of his article illustrations were two-color, the norm for the likes of Mechanix Illustrated, where he did a good deal of illustration following World War 2.
During the 1930s his drawing wasn't always accurate, but he improved somewhat as time went on. Apparently his editors and fans weren't troubled.
This seems to be a Curtiss BF2C or something like it. The fuselage is too large, too long, if we use the pilot as a scale reference. The upper and lower wings are out of perspective, seeming too close together.
Shown here is the Boeing model 299, or XB-17 Flying Fortress that first flew in 1935. Although Tinsley got the various parts in roughly the correct shapes, they are out of scale. The perspective is off -- the axes of the wings and horizontal stabilizers on the tail diverge with distance, whereas the opposite would be correct. Also, the 299 was never painted, nor were other 1930s B-17s, yet Tinsley gave it current Army Air Corps colors (sort of -- the green is wrong and the orange should be more yellow).
This is a Fokker G I two-place fighter that flew for the first time in March of 1937, about the time the magazine hit the news stands. Therefore, Tinsley must have been working from other drawings and perhaps photos of the plane on the ground. As usual, details are wrong. For instance, the unit housing the pilot and gunner is too small relative to the rest of the aircraft. Further, for some reason the plane doesn't carry actual Dutch insignia.
Featured here are two Junkers Ju 86 bombers, but they are carrying civilian rather than military markings.
That's a Northrop YB-49 flying wing bomber. I'm not sure why rocket-like flames are spewing out behind its jet engines. The escort fighters are purely Tinsley's imagination. Their fuselages resemble that of the Bell XS-1 that broke the sound barrier the previous October. The wings and tail are swept back, unlike the XS-1. On the other hand, Tinsley's fighters seem to have rocket motors like the XS-1, but are shut off, a jet engine being in use. Yet I don't notice any air intake for a jet engine. Oh well....
Here we see what the McDonnell XP-85 (later XF-85) Goblin "parasite fighter" might have looked like had it entered service. The B-36 bomber shown in the image supposedly had a 10,000 mile range, far in excess of any potential escort fighter, so one idea was to have them carry tiny escort fighters for deployment as necessary. Two prototypes were actually built and a few test drops were made from a specially modified B-29, but the project was cancelled due to its impracticality. As usual, Tinsley's drawing is off: the XF-85 fuselage was actually shorter and chunkier, and the tail units were closer together. The B-36 is poorly drawn as well, the wings seemingly drooping and the cockpit glazing pulled too far around the side of the aircraft.
This is the left-hand part of a two-page spread. The helicopters are conjectural, so I can't criticize how they are drawn. I include this because it embodies the "gee-whiz" sort of speculative future technology that Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Mechanix Illustrated and perhaps other magazines featured for many years. The idea of ordinary people replacing their automobiles with personal helicopters is clearly insane for a number of good reasons, including what would happen in inevitable collisions and engine/rotor failures.
The U.S. Air Force funded development of an atomic reactor powered bomber, but the project was cancelled for reasons of practicality. Here Tinsley (who wrote the article) came up with a speculative design of a delta-wing flying boat bomber that used hydro-skis like those on the Navy's XF2Y Sea Dart fighter that first flew in 1953, but never saw service.
Finally, an atomic-powered rocket ship seen blasting off (or landing, maybe), and a base on the moon.
John White Alexander (1856-1915) rose from being an orphan to the upper reaches of the Art Establishment of his day, as is mentioned here. This was because he was technically very good and could create some interesting, though sometimes stylized, images.
The paintings shown below are neither formal, commissioned portraits nor the stylized works just mentioned. Instead, they seems to be more like exercises or experiments Alexander did when not working on major assignments.
This selection shows women dressed in green gowns. It happens that green seems to be a difficult color for many artists to work with, especially when the main subjects are people. For example, the somewhat orange color of skin often stands out sharply when placed in a woodsy or grassy landscape setting. For that reason, artists need to take special care to create paintings with that subject matter that are harmonious in terms of color. So even though Alexander was painting interior scenes here, he might have been working the flesh-green problem because the results are rather sketchy, unfinished. I note below that he was probably using the same two costumes for his models.
The three paintings shown above feature a billowy gown that might be the same item shown from different model poses.
The images below are of paintings where clearly the same gown is used in all cases. The model might also be the same.
This seems to be a sketch or study.
These two paintings are nearly identical, but the one immediately above is more finished.
American portrait painter Eugene Speicher (1883-1962) has remained largely forgotten since even before his death. A brief Wikipedia entry is here. An extensive analytical piece on Speicher is here. And a bit more about him can be found here.
The links above stress that he was considered a leading representational painter largely uninfluenced by modernism and, in those artistically somewhat conservative times in this country, had a successful career. He trained with Georgia O'Keeffe and Edward Hopper, both of whom achieved more lasting fame. His most influential teacher was Robert Henri, whose painting style was not entirely traditional (take a look at his brushwork).
Based on the images of Speicher's paintings I found on the Internet, I find it a little hard to understand the praise he received at the height of his career. He did not employ dimensional distortion (a major modernist tactic), nor did he do much in the way of color modification. But he did employ the third major modernist tool, shape simplification, to a slight degree. The result was paintings that were not quite naturalistic depictions of their subjects. They clearly included mannerisms that were part of artistic fashions of the period 1920-1945. In sum, I consider him a good painter in terms of his time, but not a great one.
Painted when they were students.
I don't know whether or not this is the actress Jeanne de Balzac (1891-1930).
Perhaps Speicher's best-known painting. Cornell (1893-1974) was one of America's most famous stage actresses in her day. Both Speicher and Cornell hailed from Buffalo, New York.
His non-commissioned portraits included people from the Woodstock, New York area where he lived.
Mid-1930s modernist-inspired simplification here. Too much contrast between the sharply-defined eyes and the the rest of the brushwork for my taste.
The nearest "big city" to Woodstock was Kingston. I never visited Kingston much when I lived in upstate New York, but this modernist-influenced painting is suggestive of a neighborhood at the edge of town.
Alexandra of Denmark (1844-1925), wife of King Edward VII and therefore Queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India, was the subject of many photographs, but surprisingly few painted portraits. A substantial Wikipedia biography is here.
Thanks to Queen Victoria's longevity, Alexandra was Princess of Wales for nearly 38 years. And because Edward was only 68 when he died, she was queen for little more than nine years. A small flurry of portrait activity followed her coronation.
Back in those times, and to a considerable degree today, commissioned portraits of royalty feature formal poses and conservative representation. So it was with Alexandra. Photographic and painted portraits of her with few exceptions showed her face-on or with her head only slightly turned, usually favoring her left side.
Artistically, portraits of Alexandra offer little interest. Nevertheless, I hope that showing some here will provide some context to paintings of similar vintage that I post about.
To set the scene.
Winterhalter was no stranger to portraying royalty. This painting, in the Royal Collection, was painted soon after her marriage. A curiosity is his treatment of the royal nose, which looks rather lumpy here. Yet photographs show Alexandra with a nose of regular shape. It's hard to image that Winterhalter made a mistake, but absent more information, that seems to be the case.
This photo was taken years after Winterhalter's portrait. Here Alexandra sports a nose with a straight bridge.
Longstaff was an Australian artist.
Zinaida Yevgenyevna Serebriakova, née Lanceray or Lancere, (1884-1967) generally worked in oils and pastels creating pleasant portraits and scenes. No politics to speak of. Ditto irony. And mega-ditto profundity. In other words, there is a lot to like in her oeuvre.
Her fairly detailed Wikipedia entry is here. More biographical information is here, and an article discussing the many paintings she made of female nudes is here.
Serebriakova, before her marriage, had a good deal of art training that built upon her family's artistic background. Even though modernism in general and the various Parisian "isms" that were popping up in the early 1900s were known to her, she accepted little of their stylistic offerings.
One thing about her paintings that I found interesting and charming was a sweet little smile she placed on many of her subjects. I'm pretty sure that she had such a smile herself, but find it a bit curious that so many others had the same.
This was the painting that launched her career.
Thought to be a self-portrait.
Her husband, who died in 1919. This left her with four children, only two of whom were able to leave Russia and join her in Paris after the Communist takeover. He is not wearing a sweet smile in this painting.
Even some Russian peasants are smiling almost sweetly.
She was a ballerina.
A late painting, but the characteristic smile still appears.
Dan Content (1902-1990) was born in New York City and grew up there. His art training took place there too, at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and the Art Students League in Manhattan. Some additional polish was added via studying for a while under Dean Cornwell (links here and here), whose thick brushwork style Content used during the 1920s and into the 1930s.
There are few resources regarding Content on the Internet, perhaps the best of the lot being here. As it notes, he eased out of illustration into art direction, including a stint at Benton & Bowles, a major advertising agency at the time. This was probably a good career move, given the slow decline in high-paying illustration jobs. As an art director, Content got a steady paycheck and didn't have to worry about altering his painting style to keep up with changing illustration fashions.
Content did good, solid work, but remains somewhat obscure perhaps due to his stylistic similarity to much better-known Cornwell.
A complete set of images for this project can be found here.
Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971) was a master poster artist (I wrote about that aspect of his career here). He also carved out noteworthy careers in other fields of art, especially painting marine and naval scenes. His Wikipedia entry is here and another link sketching his work is here.
Below are examples mostly of his marine and naval paintings. Unless he was commissioned to feature a particular ship, his sea paintings featured a lot of water and sky, whereas ships, land and other objects usually occupied small amounts of art canvas real estate. That seems sensible, given the visual vastness of oceans and seas -- something Wilkinson was intimately familiar with, having served in the Royal Navy.
This exhibits a poster style, but I don't know if it was actually used for a poster.
A contrasting, more painterly style.
This is an illustration.
The sky is vast and the Harts are small.
Nowadays, pilot boats are usually a lot bigger and fancier than this.
This is a poster illustration for the London and North Western Railway. I include it here because the style is closer to his marine paintings than the style he usually used for posters.
This has a poster-like style. Lion was Admiral Beatty's flagship at Dogger Bank and Jutland. I'm guessing that this painting shows Lion on the way to her 1924 scrapping.
Thanks to her high speed, the Queen Mary was in little danger of being torpedoed by a German submarine. Her companion Queen Elizabeth went straight to troopship duties before ever carrying commercial passengers.
The commerce-raider Graff Spee was a heavily armed large cruiser (and not really a "pocket battleship," as she was called at the time). She was finally hunted down by three British cruisers and damaged to the point where her captain had her scuttled.
I'm sorry to say that the next coronation review probably won't be as impressive as this one was.
János Vaszary (1867–1938) was a Hungarian painter who was contemporaneous with Gustav Klimt, a fellow Imperial who also could paint convincingly in many styles. That is, both began painting in an academic manner, yet switched to forms of modernism by the mid-to-late 1890s.
A brief Wikipedia entry on Vaszary in English is here. The Hungarian language entry is here, and has more detail though the computer translation to English can be hard to follow. This site includes many tiny images of Vaszary's works that can be enlarged somewhat.
My take on him is that he was very talented, but let modernist ideas get the best of him after he turned 40. The later works are both simple and sketchily done, and so aren't very interesting. In a caption below I mention the paintings I liked best.
The first self-portrait was made when he was about 20 years old. I have no date for the second one, but I'll guess that he was in his 40s when this was painted.
Basically traditional in style, though the brushwork is fairly free.
Some reproductions of this have a more golden coloring. This shows that Vaszary was perfectly capable of painting in the academic style.
Even before painting Golden Age and his uncle, Vaszary was experimenting with modernist ideas.
This seems more like an illustration than a fine-art painting.
These two paintings exhibit strong brushwork. I find them the most interesting of the images posted here.
Kees van Dongen was an influence for a while.
La Cigale was a Paris night spot that Vaszary must have frequented while in town.
Another trace of van Dongen here.
I think the right arm isn't drawn correctly; in any case, it looks odd. Here Vaszary was drifting in a representational direction. I don't have a name for the subject, so cannot guess whether or not she wanted to be depicted mostly naturalistically or if the style was Vaszary's choice.
Raeburn van Buren (1891-1987) was an illustrator / cartoonist active as a freelancer in the 1920s and 30s until he found steady work drawing the "Abbie an' Slats" comic strip in 1937. As an illustrator, he lacked the skills of the likes of Henry Patrick Raleigh or Frederic Rodrigo (F.R.) Gruger. Nevertheless, his work appeared in major publications such as the Saturday Evening Post as well as elsewhere.
His Wikipedia entry is here and another biography is here. Van Buren was actively cartooning until 1971 and lived to be 96.
I include posts about lesser artists here because, in part, their work helps to put in context that of the best artists. A feeling for their times is also enhanced by being exposed to their interpretations. Van Buren might best be characterized as a journeyman, given the large number of highly talented illustrators active in the 1920s and into the 1950s.
For non- English-speaking readers, here we have a religious idol and a movie "idol."
Marion Margaret Violet (née Lindsay) Manners, Duchess of Rutland (1856-1937) was a famous Victorian beauty who was also an able amateur artist. A biographical sketch is here.
Given her social position and the fact that she was in her prime during a golden age of British portraiture, I find it surprising that Violet was little depicted. And those major portraits of her, as best I could locate via Google, were by only two artists, George Frederic Watts and James Jebusa Shannon.
Other images on the Web have a blue cast to this image. I don't know which color scheme is correct, but am posting this one because it is larger.
Similar to the previous portrait, but Violet was now about 62 years old.
Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez (1886-1957) usually known as Diego Rivera, remains Mexico's best-known artist nearly 60 years after his death. Much of Rivera's art from around 1920 onwards featured political subjects. Since I happen to believe that politicized art distracts viewers from aesthetic content (paintings become elaborate political cartoons), I have never been a Rivera fan.
His earliest works tended to be non-political because he seems to have been sharpening and evolving his artistic skills until he reached his early 30s. He spent about a dozen years in Europe -- Paris, mostly -- starting in 1907, and knew many of the modernist artists who created the onslaught of stylistic "isms" in the early 1900s. This included Cubism, a practice he adopted for about three years, and the subject of this post.
Wikipedia's Rivera biography is here. A discussion of his Cubist phase can be found here. Rivera's Cubist paintings was the subject of a museum exhibit in Dallas a few years ago.
Here are some of Rivera's works from that period.
An example of Rivera's mature style. There are political implications here, but they are less overt than usual.
This image and the one above it have hints of Cubism, but are largely representational with other modernist elements thrown in. I like them better than his more purely Cubist works.
Cubist faceting is more prominent here, but use of "multiple perspectives" is still absent.
Now we find face-on and profile views, here for a portrait of a Russian artist. A muted Braque-Picasso color scheme also intrudes.
Many facets, but not much in the way of varying viewpoints. Apparently Rivera could do Cubism superficially, but had a hard time going all the way. Perhaps he realized that Cubism's central premise was silly in reality.
Another derivative experiment by Rivera. No worse than many Cubism-inspired painting of that time.
The subject is shattered Cubist-style, but the woman in the upper-left corner is garden-variety modernist.
The rifle is not cubified: Rivera's homage to revolutionary times back home in Mexico.
Plenty of facets and even some Fauvist coloring. Rivera abandoned Cubism not long after this painting was made.
Frederick Childe Hassam (1859-1935), who dropped "Frederick" early in his career, was one of the best known and most successful American Impressionists. An extensive Wikipedia biography is here, which indicates that Hassam was largely self-taught, receiving instruction sporadically, and began his career as an illustrator.
Hassam was able to visit Paris while still in his twenties. Therefore, he was aware of the French Impressionists and perhaps Postimpressionist stirrings in the Parisian art world. Combining his virtual lack of academic art training, the need to make illustrations fairly quickly, and his exposure to Impressionism, Hassam was a fast, prolific producer of images then can fairly be termed sketchy. This was true for most of his career after around 1890, though when the occasion called for it, he could tighten up his technique. Examples include watercolors featuring architecture and oil portraits or studies of female nudes.
The present post features paintings Hassam made in the mid-to-late 1880s and very early 1890s. While they contain greater or lesser hints of Impressionism and sketchiness, they are distinctly different from his strongly Impressionist-style paintings of, say, 1910-20.
When the subject of Childe Hassam comes up, this is the kind of painting that often comes to mind. It is Impressionist, but of the American variety where more attention is paid to value (light-dark), and the structure of subject matter is more carefully depicted than was the wont of Claude Monet in his later years.
Painted not long after Hassam first visited Europe. The siding boards of the building are clearly shown, but the foreground grasses are freely painted.
Perhaps his best known non-Impressionist work. It can be seen at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.
Two wet Boston scenes. Below, you will find similar treatments of Paris.
Again, in Boston.
I've walked the rue Bonaparte many times, but can't place the locations of these paintings on that street. Either my memory is poor, or a few changes might have happened over the past 125 years. (I just checked Google Maps and didn't notice the walls shown in the paintings, so I suppose that changes were indeed made.)
Hassan clearly enjoyed painting rain-soaked streets, but he tightened up when it came to the woman, omnibus and horses.
The subjects are crisply outlined, but their interior coloring was influenced by Impressionism.
Sir Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley (1880-1952) is yet another of the surprising number of British portrait artists I've written about who managed to thrive in the 20th century when photography began to dominate even the portraiture of wealthy or titled people.
It probably helped that Birley's background included Harrow (where Churchill attended) and Trinity College, Cambridge, so he was socially acceptable to potential clients. His art training included some time spent at the Académie Julian in Paris.
A brief biographical note is here, and another one is here. Perhaps even more interesting than Birley are some of his descendants. For a dab of dirt on that subject, click here.
Although he was no John Singer Sargent or Philip de Laszlo, he was a competent portrait artist who delivered the anticipated goods to rich, famous, or royal clientelle. As you might notice regarding the images below, Birley usually portrayed his subjects from the knees or waist up, and left plenty of largely empty space around their heads.
A fairly early example of Birley's work.
Painted when she was a teenager. For more on the life of this Woolworth heiress, click here.
The scientist shown with some laboratory equipment.
This seems to be a posthumous portrait, as Mercier died in 1934. I include it because it shows Birley's skill at depicting human skin, not an easy matter.
When Ike was in command of NATO. One of Birley's last paintings.
Otis "Shep" Shepard (1894-1969) and his wife Dorothy Van Gorder Shepard (1906-2000) were important figures in American poster and billboard design. Dorothy was trained at the California School of Arts and Crafts, whereas Otis ended formal education after the fourth grade and left home at age 12 to get on with life. His art training was informal, but he had plenty of natural ability along with an active mind that allowed him to exploit it. He got involved with billboards working at Foster & Kleiser, a major West Coast firm, rising to general art director in 1923.
Otis and Dorothy were married November 8, 1929, a few days after the Wall Street Crash, and went to Europe on honeymoon where they experienced first-hand modernistic poster designs. They carried that inspiration home and Otis applied it and the use of the airbrush to a poster for Chesterfield cigarettes (see below). This success led him to go free-lance.
In 1932, not long after he took charge of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, Philip K. Wrigley met Shepard and soon hired him as what amounted to design chief for the chewing gum company whose other interests included the Chicago Cubs baseball team and Catalina Island, near Los Angeles. Shepard was involved with everything from billboards to designing Cubs uniforms to creating architectural and design harmony for Catalina. Not bad for a man lacking formal education.
I wrote about Shepard here in 2009 on the 2Blowhards blog.
An excellent book about the Shepards was recently published. Its cover is shown above and its Amazon link is here.
A web site devoted to the Shepards and the book is here. An interview with one of the authors about the Shepards is here.
Below are (mostly) examples of their poster and billboard work. Unless otherwise noted, the design and artwork was by Otis.
This launched Otis' national-level career as a billboard artist/designer. Dorothy was used as the model.
Besides images, Dorothy often did typography.
The Doublemint Twins theme was used for years.
An interesting feature is the mouth appearing on the slogan banner.
Vanessa Bell, née Stephen, (1879-1961) was a member of the Bloomsbury Group. A brief Wikipedia entry about her is here and a lengthy Guardian article dealing with her painting is here.
She had some formal art training and painted for much of her adult life. From what I've read about her, it seems that most of the paintings she made were for herself; she didn't have to paint to make a living.
Given when she lived and who she associated with (artist Duncan Grant and artist / art critic Roger Fry, among others), she was swept up in modernism, especially 1910-20. By the late 1930s she pulled back and made more conventionally representational paintings. I am not aware that she painted abstractions.
The Guardian piece linked above makes her out to be far more than she was, if the images below are any evidence.
She painted several pictures of people where faces were either lightly indicated or simply rendered as colored blobs. My conjecture is that she (or one of her friends, likely Roger Fry) thought that including facial detail would make faces the painting's focus, whereas a blank face would allow viewers to contemplate the image in "formal" terms -- color, composition, and such.
A Cézanne-like treatment of Vanessa's sister, the writer Virginia Woolf.
More faceless subjects, thinly painted.
The biographer before he gained fame and wealth.
This is the only Cubist-inspired portrait I'm aware of, though others might have been destroyed in a World War 2 air raid.
The pink face and pink wall provide a modernist version of a Coles Phillips illustration.
Accurate anatomy, linear perspective, scale and other attributes are sacrificed to the gods of modernism.
Here she retreats a little from extreme modernism. Drawing is more accurate, but brushwork remains dabby.
Perspective is ignored, and the colors give this a whiff of Henri Matisse.
This is much more representational, but the brushwork remains haphazard.
Virginia Woolf's husband, perhaps doing his obsession, the finances for the Hogarth Press.
A postwar painting with even more compromises with representationalism, though it retains a modernist feel.
Done not long before her death.
I download a lot of images to my desktop computer. Some are reference photos. Others are intended to be used in posts on this blog. Quite a few are snagged simply because they interest me.
Of the latter group, there are a few where I can't identify the artist. In some cases, they are not signed. Others, I can't quite read the artist's signature. I think I'm in need of help, so please take a look at the images below and, if you know who the artist was, let me know in a comment. Thank you in advance.
An interesting setting, though not a great fine arts painting. But it might be a pretty good illustration.
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Aha! Even before I added this post to the publication queue, I discovered that it's by Charles Hoffbauer, painted in 1907 and given the English title "In the Restaurant." Hoffbauer was one of those artists who did edge near the border of fine arts painting and illustration.
Not a high priority here, but I find it interesting because it's so 1930s escapist from the Depression (which had eased a bit at the time this was done). Note the use of watercolor, a big shift from the common use of oil paints in the 1920s.
This looks like a detail from ad advertisement, perhaps an ad for cigarettes. Very 1920s. I like it.
This I don't especially like, but the treatment of the background figures interests me. It's from 1930 and the style is similar to what Bernard Boutet de Monvel was doing around that time. I wrote about him here. In this case, there is a signature. The first name looks like it might be "James," but the rest is hard for me to read. It looks like there's a "+" sign, so maybe two artists contributed; the style for the foreground and background figures look like they might be by different hands.
From a Simoniz car wax advertisement of around 1936 or 37. No signature, but it reminds me of Earl Cordrey's work. However, there were plenty of other illustrators in those days who could have done it.
This interests me the most, so I find it the most frustrating. No signature, but the little box with initials that might be "BT." Or something else. It was painted in 1926, but my reference material for that era comes up short.
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On the other hand, this source says it's by Saul Tepper, and that could very well be true, given the quality of the painting. It also includes a Tepper image from 1939 with a similar identification, but where the "S" doesn't look like a "B" or whatever. (Tepper typically signed an illustration using his full name.) So in this case, let me know if this image is not by Tepper.