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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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    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.


    Harper's magazine interior page - February 1903
    Stilwell was hitting the big-time around age 25.

    Collier's - August 1907

    Collier's cover art - 17 March 1906
    One of Stilwell's best-known works.

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 19 January 1916
    It seems she borrowed the general idea ten years later for Collier's rival, the Post.

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 29 January 1910

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 20 August 1910
    Many of her covers used children as subjects.

    Vogue cover - 15 October 1912
    More leopard, this time skinned, and for Vogue.

    Vogue cover - 15 June 1913
    This seems to be unsigned, but Internet sites credit her with the illustration.

    Collier's cover - 9 May 1914
    A really fine illustration here.

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 3 March 1917
    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.

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    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.


    J.C. Leyendecker
    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.

    Henry Reuterdahl
    Reuterdahl is noted for his portrayal of ships.  Here he depicts sailors, presumably on their return from the world cruise.

    Maxfield Parrish

    Sarah Stilwell Weber

    Herbert Paus

    C.C. Beall

    Ronald McLeod
    In the late spring of 1939, King George VI of Britain and Queen Elizabeth toured the United States and Canada.

    Jon Whitcomb

    Martha Sawyers

    Chesley Bonestell
    Collier's published a multi-issue study of space travel in the early 1950s.

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    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.


    Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward - 1874

    A Venetian Flower Girl - 1877

    Venetians - 1885

    An Alfresco Toilette - 1889

    Fanny, Lady Fildes - 1887

    Portrait of Venetia - c.1900

    Edward VII - 1905

    Carina - 1910

    George V - after 1910

    Self Portrait - 1911

    Naomi - 1914

    Adoration - no date

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    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.


    The Ypres Salient at Night - 1918
    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.

    Wounded at Passchendaele
    Showing why Nash seldom featured people in his paintings.

    The Menin Road - 1919
    This and the Ypres Salient painting above are probably his best-known Great War paintings.

    The Shore - 1923
    A nice, bold composition, which accounts for the tilted horizon line, I suppose.

    Event on the Downs - 1934
    An early Surrealist work.

    Landscape from a Dream - 1936-38
    Much Surrealism supposedly dealt with dreams, something I find hard to believe.

    Messerschmidt [sic] in Windsor Great Park - 1940
    Nash wasn't any better with airplanes than he was with people.

    Battle of Britain - 1941
    Perhaps his best-known Second War painting.

    Totes Meer (Dead Sea) - 1940-41

    Defence of Albion - 1942
    This painting is dreadful.  Perhaps Nash's frail health was overtaking his abilities.

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    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.


    Bill Barnes magazine cover - October 1934 or 1935
    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.

    Bill Barnes magazine cover - January 1936
    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).

    Air Trails magazine cover - April 1937
    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.

    Air Trails magazine cover - August 1938
    Featured here are two Junkers Ju 86 bombers, but they are carrying civilian rather than military markings.

    Air Trails magazine cover - April 1948
    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....

    Mechanix Illustrated magazine illustration - 1948
    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.

    Magazine illustration - 1950
    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.

    Mechanix Illustrated magazine illustration - August 1955
    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.

    Moon base illustration - 1959
    Finally, an atomic-powered rocket ship seen blasting off (or landing, maybe), and a base on the moon.

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    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.


    Green Girl - 1896

    Juliette - 1897

    A Quiet Hour - c. 1901
    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.

    A Rose

    The Green Gown - c. 1904
    This seems to be a sketch or study.

    Study in Black and Green - C. 1906

    Study in Black and Green - 1906
    These two paintings are nearly identical, but the one immediately above is more finished.

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    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.


    Georgia O'Keeffe - 1908
    Painted when they were students.

    Portrait of a French Girl (Jeanne Balzac) - 1924

    Jeanne Balzac
    I don't know whether or not this is the actress Jeanne de Balzac (1891-1930).

    Katharine Cornell (as Candida) - 1926
    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.

    Red Moore: The Blacksmith - c. 1933-34
    His non-commissioned portraits included people from the Woodstock, New York area where he lived.

    Girl in a Coral Necklace (Joyce) - 1935
    Mid-1930s modernist-inspired simplification here. Too much contrast between the sharply-defined eyes and the the rest of the brushwork for my taste.

    Kingston, New York - 1935
    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.

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    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.


    Photo - 1889
    To set the scene.

    By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1864
    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.

    Photo showing left profile
    This photo was taken years after Winterhalter's portrait.  Here Alexandra sports a nose with a straight bridge.

    By unidentified artist

    By Luke Fildes - 1893

    By Luke Fildes - coronation portrait

    By John Longstaff - 1904
    Longstaff was an Australian artist.

    By François Flameng - 1908

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    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.


    Self Portrait: At the Dressing Table - 1909
    This was the painting that launched her career.

    Self Portrait - c. 1911

    Bather - 1911
    Thought to be a self-portrait.

    Boris Serebryakov - 1908
    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.

    Harvest - 1915
    Even some Russian peasants are smiling almost sweetly.

    N. Geydenreyh in Blue - 1923
    She was a ballerina.

    Sandra Loris-Melikov - 1925

    Z.N. Martynovskaya - 1961
    A late painting, but the characteristic smile still appears.

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    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.



    Burial Detail

    McCall's illustration for Sabatini's "An Act of Faith" - September 1928

    Illustration for Sabatini's "The Nuptials of Corbigny" - 1927

    Illustration for "Robin Hood" - 1928
    A complete set of images for this project can be found here.

    Story illustration

    Story Illustration

    Illustration for "The Song Without Words" - Ladies' Home Journal - March 1937

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    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.


    Scene with ships
    This exhibits a poster style, but I don't know if it was actually used for a poster.

    Yachts off the Needles, Isle of Wight
    A contrasting, more painterly style.

    The 'Revenge' Leaving Plymouth to Meet the Armada - 1912
    This is an illustration.

    Hawker Harts of 601 Squadron - c. 1936
    The sky is vast and the Harts are small.

    The Pilot
    Nowadays, pilot boats are usually a lot bigger and fancier than this.

    Dublin and Holyhead - 1905
    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.

    HMS 'Lion' Battlecruiser
    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.

    Fitting Out RMS 'Queen Mary' at Clydebank - 1936

    HM Troopship 'Queen Mary' at Anchor in the Second World War
    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.

    Action off the River Plate, 13 December 1939, Pursuit of the 'Graf Spee'
    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.

    Japan Signs Her Own Death Warrant, Attack on Pearl Harbour, 7 December 1941

    Coronation Review, 15 June 1953
    I'm sorry to say that the next coronation review probably won't be as impressive as this one was.

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    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.


    Self Portrait - 1887

    Self Portrait
    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.

    Primate Kolos Vaszary (his uncle) - 1895
    Basically traditional in style, though the brushwork is fairly free.

    Golden Age - 1897-98
    Some reproductions of this have a more golden coloring.  This shows that Vaszary was perfectly capable of painting in the academic style.

    Woman with Black Hat - 1894
    Even before painting Golden Age and his uncle, Vaszary was experimenting with modernist ideas.

    Woman in Lilac Dress with Cats - 1900
    This seems more like an illustration than a fine-art painting.

    Woman in Front of Mirror - 1904

    Fancy-dress Ball - 1907
    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.

    At La Cigale
    La Cigale was a Paris night spot that Vaszary must have frequented while in town.

    Woman in profile with black hat - c. 1930
    Another trace of van Dongen here.

    Portrait of a Lady - c. 1925-35
    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.

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    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.


    Football stadium scene - 1920s

    Story illustration - 1928

    Artist and model

    "A blind date about to happen" - 1933

    "Deep sea fishing"

    For non- English-speaking readers, here we have a religious idol and a movie "idol."

    "Is there anything else you wish?" - 1933

    "Planning Their Summer"

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    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.


    Photo of Violet Lindsay Manners


    By George Frederic Watts - 1879

    By George Frederic Watts - 1881

    By James Jebusa Shannon - c. 1890

    By James Jebusa Shannon - c. 1900
    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.

    By James Jebusa Shannon - 1918
    Similar to the previous portrait, but Violet was now about 62 years old.

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  • 01/05/15--01:00: Diego Rivera's Cubist Period
  • 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.


    The Flower Carrier - 1935
    An example of Rivera's mature style. There are political implications here, but they are less overt than usual.

    Girl with Artichokes - 1913

    The Adoration of the Virgin - 1913
    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.

    Oscar Miestchaninoff - 1913
    Cubist faceting is more prominent here, but use of "multiple perspectives" is still absent.

    Portrait of Zinoviev - 1913
    Now we find face-on and profile views, here for a portrait of a Russian artist.  A muted Braque-Picasso color scheme also intrudes.

    Two Women - Angelina Beloff and Maria Dolores Bastian - 1914
    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.

    Young Man with Stylograph - 1914
    Another derivative experiment by Rivera.  No worse than many Cubism-inspired painting of that time.

    Ramon Gomez de la Serna - 1915
    The subject is shattered Cubist-style, but the woman in the upper-left corner is garden-variety modernist.

    Zapatista Landscape - 1915
    The rifle is not cubified: Rivera's homage to revolutionary times back home in Mexico.

    Maternity - Angelina Beloff and their son who died in 1918 - 1916
    Plenty of facets and even some Fauvist coloring.  Rivera abandoned Cubism not long after this painting was made.

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    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.


    Allies Day, May 1917 - 1917
    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.

    Old House in Dorchester [Massachusetts] - 1884
    Painted not long after Hassam first visited Europe. The siding boards of the building are clearly shown, but the foreground grasses are freely painted.

    Boston Common at Twilight - 1885
    Perhaps his best known non-Impressionist work. It can be seen at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

    Rainy Day, Boston - 1885

    Rainy Day, Boston - 1885
    Two wet Boston scenes. Below, you will find similar treatments of Paris.

    A City Fairyland - 1886
    Again, in Boston.

    Paris Street Scene - 1887

    Grand Prix Day - 1887-88

    Cab Station, rue Bonaparte - 1887

    Hackney Carriage, rue Bonaparte - 1888
    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.)

    April Showers, Champs-Élysées - 1888
    Hassan clearly enjoyed painting rain-soaked streets, but he tightened up when it came to the woman, omnibus and horses.

    Lower Fifth Avenue [New York] - 1890
    The subjects are crisply outlined, but their interior coloring was influenced by Impressionism.

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    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.


    The Spanish Plume - 1912
    A fairly early example of Birley's work.

    Miss Muriel Gore in a Fortuny Dress - 1919

    Portrait of a lady - 1923

    Barbara Hutton - 1925
    Painted when she was a teenager. For more on the life of this Woolworth heiress, click here.

    George V - 1928

    Ernest Rutherford - 1932
    The scientist shown with some laboratory equipment.

    Dancer in the Coq d'or Ballet - 1938

    Miss Winifred Mercier, Principal of Whitelands College - 1938
    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.

    George VI - 1939

    Winston Churchill - 1946

    Viscount Montgomery of Alamein - 1948

    Princess Elizabeth - 1950

    Dwight Eisenhower - 1951
    When Ike was in command of NATO. One of Birley's last paintings.

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    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.


    Otis and Dorothy Christmas card - by Dorothy - 1929

    Chesterfield cigarettes billboard - 1930
    This launched Otis' national-level career as a billboard artist/designer.  Dorothy was used as the model.

    Underwood typewriters poster by Dorothy
    Besides images, Dorothy often did typography.

    Doublemint chewing gum billboard

    Doublemint chewing gum billboard
    The Doublemint Twins theme was used for years.

    Juicy Fruit chewing gum billboard

    Juicy Fruit chewing gum billboard
    An interesting feature is the mouth appearing on the slogan banner.

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    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.


    Photo of Vanessa by George Charles Beresford - 1902

    Virginia Woolf - ca. 1912
    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.

    Virginia Woolf - ca. 1912
    A Cézanne-like treatment of Vanessa's sister, the writer Virginia Woolf.

    Conversation Piece - 1912
    More faceless subjects, thinly painted.

    Lytton Strachey - 1913
    The biographer before he gained fame and wealth.

    Molly MacCarthy - 1914-15
    This is the only Cubist-inspired portrait I'm aware of, though others might have been destroyed in a World War 2 air raid.

    Mrs. John Hutchinson - 1915
    The pink face and pink wall provide a modernist version of a Coles Phillips illustration.

    The Blue Room, Wissett Lodge - 1916
    Accurate anatomy, linear perspective, scale and other attributes are sacrificed to the gods of modernism.

    View of the Pond at Charleston, East Sussex - ca. 1919
    Here she retreats a little from extreme modernism. Drawing is more accurate, but brushwork remains dabby.

    8 Fitzroy Street
    Perspective is ignored, and the colors give this a whiff of Henri Matisse.

    Dora Morris - ca. 1937
    This is much more representational, but the brushwork remains haphazard.

    Angelica Garnett (Vanessa's daughter)

    Leonard Woolf - 1940
    Virginia Woolf's husband, perhaps doing his obsession, the finances for the Hogarth Press.

    Lady with a Book - 1945-46
    A postwar painting with even more compromises with representationalism, though it retains a modernist feel.

    Self Portrait - ca. 1958
    Done not long before her death.

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  • 01/16/15--01:00: Identify the Artist
  • 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.


    Number 1
    An interesting setting, though not a great fine arts painting. But it might be a pretty good illustration.
    * * *
    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.

    Number 2
    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.

    Number 3
    This looks like a detail from ad advertisement, perhaps an ad for cigarettes. Very 1920s. I like it.

    Number 4
    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.

    Number 5
    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.

    Number 6
    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.
    * * *
    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.

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