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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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    Earl Somers Cordrey (1902-1977) spent his life and career in southern California aside from the 15 years (1927-1942) he was in the New York area, the heartland of American publishing and illustration in those days.

    Biographical information about him on the Internet is thin indeed; the most I could find is here. A source containing a number of samples of his work is here.

    Regardless of the medium he used, Cordrey favored the clean, very slightly simplified type of image that was fashionable in the 1930s.

    Gallery

    Young woman - 1936

    Story illustration, Woman's Home Companion - 2 April 1937

    Duraglas advertisement - 1941

    Story illustration - ca. 1941

    Mallory Hats advertisement - 1942
    Cordrey illustrated for Mallory for several years, but the company was sold to Stetson in 1946 and the brand was essentially gone by the mid-1950s.

    Story Illustration - early-mid 1940s

    Collier's story illustration - 1944

    Palm Springs publicity illustration
    Cordrey must have moved to this resort area by the 1950s because he was busy with the local magazine as well as publicity work such as shown here.  His shift to a cartoon style is striking, but hardly unknown to illustrators intent on economic survival.

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    I include the tag "Political art" for this post about Expressionist artist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) not because his art featured political subjects, but because his political position failed to overcome Nazi opposition to "degenerate" (modernist) art.

    He was born Emil Hansen in the the border area of Germany and Denmark, later changing his last name to that of the town near where he was born. Nolde got a late start in painting, seeking training when in his early 30s. He was a modernist, first influenced by Impressionism, but gave that style up to become an expressionist. In the early twentieth century he was associated with Die Brücke and then with Der Blaue Reiter, key groups in early 1900s German Expressionism.

    Nolde's Wikipedia entry is here, and another fairly long account of his career can be found here. For Nolde's relationship to the Nazi party and its dealings with his art, a useful source is this book.

    It seems that Nolde was a Nazi party member -- but of the Danish, not the German one. He was a strong supporter of Hitler, but the regime favored völkisch art (traditional in technique, featuring Nordic, countryside and heroic subjects, among others). Expressionism of Nolde's kind fell into what was by the late 1930s considered "degenerate" art by Hitler's regime, and a number of his paintings were pulled from state galleries and some included in a exhibit of modernist art considered worthy of scorn. So his Nazi affiliations well as support by some high in the party hierarchy were not enough to counteract his style of painting in the earlier years of his career. He retreated to the land of his birth and worked largely in watercolor during the late 30s and the war years.

    Gallery

    Printemps dans la chambere (Springtime in the Room) - 1904
    This was painted not long after his marriage, so the subject might be his wife. The style is Impressionist, but with a hint of Fauve coloring.

    Dance Around the Golden Calf - 1910
    By 1910, Nolde was in full expressionist mode.

    Spectators at the Cabaret - 1911

    Crucifixion - 1912
    He came from a religious background and painted some religious subjects such as the crucifixion of Christ.

    Nadja

    Verlorenes Paradies (Paradise Lost) - 1921
    Adam seem miffed regarding Eve.

    Frauenkopf mit roten Haar (Woman with Red Hair) - 1925

    The Sea at Dusk
    I have no date for this, though I think it might be a watercolor from the years when Nolde was in disfavor and spent most of his time in Seebüll, near the Danish border.

    NOTE: The NSDAP in the title of this post refers to the National Socialist German Worker's Party, the German language version being commonly abbreviated to "Nazi." The term "national socialist" was intended to distinguish the party from international socialism, the leading generic leftist concept of 1920.

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    Ralph Pallen Coleman (1892-1968) carved out a respectable career as an illustrator while remaining a notch below others who were famous and often better known to the public than the authors whose stories they illustrated.

    Could this have been because he spent his life in the Philadelphia area? Whereas Philadelphia might strike some readers as a backwater of sorts, for the first half of the 20th century and a while beyond, it was a very important place so far as illustration was concerned. That was because the Curtis Publishing Company was based there, close by Independence Hall. And Curtis' stable of magazines included Saturday Evening Post and Ladies' Home Journal, each having huge circulation numbers in their day. So being close to this source of work was no handicap for an illustrator.

    Coleman's career is outlined here. The source mentions that one of his art instructors was the "difficult" master illustrator Walter Everett, who I last wrote about here. The link also indicates that Coleman drifted away from commercial illustration in the 1940s to producing religious illustrations, murals, and such in the later part of his career. I will deal with his non-religious art here.

    Gallery

    Blue Book cover - January 1921
    One of the earliest works that I could find.

    Story illustration - 1922
    Somehow this seems to have been done a few years later than the date shown where I grabbed this image, but of course I could be wrong.

    Story illustration - early 1930s
    The date under Coleman's signature block is smudged, but the woman's gown and hairdo push this beyond the 1920s. The vignette format seen here and immediately above and below was popular with art directors in those days. Illustrators probably liked it too, because they didn't have to spend a lot of effort on backgrounds and settings.

    "To Look Before You Leap" - American Magazine - February 1932
    Here Coleman is using outlines and drawing rather than creating a traditional painting.

    "An Atlantic Adventure" - Cosmopolitan - August 1934
    Interesting combination of framed and vignetted art. I'm pretty sure that the white space was used for a headline and / or text in the magazine.

    Home Arts cover - February 1937
    This magazine dealt with sewing crafts, and so had a somewhat different core audience than the Post, Cosmo and such. Coleman seems to have altered his style to deal with this, quite possibly in line with the art director's wishes.

    "Calcutta Adventure" - 1940
    Yet another two-color vignette.

    Motor Age cover - July 1944
    Just because he was transitioning to religious art didn't mean that Coleman was a total prude.

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    Scottish painter Eric Harald Macbeth Robertson (1887-1941) is essentially a cipher, so far as information about him on the Internet is concerned. In fact, most of what I could find regarding him was on this Wikipedia entry dealing with his first wife, Cecile Walton (1891-1956), daughter of the Glasgow Boy, Edward Arthur Walton.

    The link above mentions that he was trained in architecture, but shifted his attention to painting. From the evidence of a photo of him in uniform in the link along with a painting (see below), Robertson served in some capacity in the Great War. Finally, it seems that he was a heavy drinker, this affecting his peculiar marriage arrangement and quite likely his artistic career.

    So why am I bothering to write about Robertson? Because he is one of those painters who flipped back and forth between traditional painting and various degrees of modernism -- sometimes even working those styles at around the same time. Moreover, I find many of his images appealing. Others seem to be of the same mind because, even though there is essentially no biographical information, the Internet has a fair number of images of his paintings.

    Gallery

    Spring - 1913

    Beauty Luxuriant - ca. 1919?

    Shellburst

    Robert the Bruce and de Bohun

    The Daughters of Beauty (part)

    Cartwheels - ca. 1920-21

    Dance Rhythm

    Cecile - 1922

    Wynne Walker (the artist's later wife) - ca. 1924

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    Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was, along with Claude Monte and Camille Pissarro, a major French Impressionist whose painting style is archetypically "Impressionistic" in the minds of most viewers. (On the other hand Edgar Degas, although considered one of the original band of French Impressionists, painted in a more traditional style.)

    Were I into pop-psychology, I might assert that Renoir experienced a "mid-life crisis" in 1883 when he was in his early 40s. He began to doubt his Impressionist painting style and experimented with a more delineated, harder-edge approach inspired by his admiration of Ingres (who Picasso also claimed to admire). This is noted in his Wikipedia entry and elsewhere on the Internet. It is also discussed in this book by Anne Distel, a Musée d'Orsay curator.

    Renoir's wanderings in a not-quite-Impressionist wilderness lasted roughly five years (1883-88). He then picked up where he had left off stylistically.

    But not entirely. From time to time he continued to make paintings featuring more sharply defined subjects. And not just commissioned portraits; the final painting below was done for his own purposes in 1896.

    Gallery

    Luncheon of the Boating Party - 1880-81

    On the Terrace - 1881
    To set the scene are the two paintings above, made not long before he modified his style.

    Les parapluies - ca. 1880-86
    As this link notes, Renoir began "The Umbrellas" around 1880-81 and then reworked and completed it about 1885-86. It notes that the right side seems to have been painted first and the left part later. So it is a stylistic hybrid that Renoir was hesitant to sell for several years.

    Children's Afternoon at Wargemont - 1884

    Bather Arranging Her Hair - 1885

    The Large Bathers - 1887

    The Washerwomen - ca. 1888

    La famille de l'artiste - 1896

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    Lazar Markovich Lissitzky (1890-1941), who styled himself El Lissitzy (the "El" might be from Eleazar, or perhaps from an aspect of the Unovis movement of 1920 when he first identified himself as "El"), was a major player in the group of Russian modernists who briefly thrived around the time of the Great War and for a dozen years or so in its aftermath. Biographical information on him can be found here, and this site features a number of large images of his graphic work.

    Lissitzky trained in architecture in Germany and traveled in the west, but was forced to return to Russia when the war started in 1914. He did not serve in the Imperial army though he was of military age. This might have been because of tuberculosis, a disease that killed him at age 51. (Though one source mentions that the disease did not impact him until after the war, so perhaps his professional training or other factors kept him out of the army.)

    The October Revolution kicked his creativity into high gear, his Jewishness no longer being a social barrier. Lissitzky's graphic designs helped anticipate the work of the Bauhaus in Germany and modernist-inspired designs elsewhere up into the 1950s when angled design elements became largely passé.

    Some of his designs spilled over into painting, where his works were what was termed Non-Objective Art, a phrase used during the 1930s by New York's Museum of Modern Art for abstractions often comprised of geometrical elements. Aside from some Op-Art pieces in the 1960s and 70s, this geometrical type of decorative painting seems to have been an artistic dead-end.

    Gallery

    "Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge" poster - 1920
    This was in support of the Bolshevik armies during the post-revolution struggle against anti-Bolsheviks.  The Red Army eventually succeeded against the White forces, but didn't do well in its push into Poland.

    Preliminary version of poster design - 1920

    Proun design

    Proun design

    Vyeshch cover - 1922
    Vyeshch was an avant-garde, modern art review that seems to have been multi-lingual to a degree. Note the German and French, especially at the lower left. The title is the three large Russian letters, the third of which symbolizes the "shch" sound.

    "Iron in Clouds" design for Strastnoy Boulevard structures - 1925
    The note at the upper right indicates that this drawing was a gift from Lessitzky to J.J.P. Oud, the Dutch architect who happened to have been born the same year.

    Kusntgewrbemuseum Zürich catalog cover - 1929
    This is perhaps Lissitzky's best-known graphic design, the merged heads being a clever but not particularly meaningful touch.  The event was a Russian exhibition, presumably of architectural and graphic designs.

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  • 03/20/15--01:00: Molti Ritratti: Nancy Cunard
  • Nancy Cunard (1896-1965) was a rich heiress of the kind who led a messy, self-destructive life that ended in poverty, alcoholism and a degree of insanity. I speculate that, because she reached maturity when Modernism (and its rejection of the past and quest for a fabulous, new, to-be-determined-by-the Modernist-elect, future) was becoming fashionable, this made things even worse than they might have otherwise been.

    I'll spare you more details of her foolishness, but this link provides the basics.

    Cunard's portraits were mostly photographic, but a few were painted. Here are examples of both:

    Gallery

    By Man Ray (un-cropped version)
    This seems to be a contact print.  Man Ray tended to cut the bottom at or just below her left elbow.

    By Cecil Beaton
    A fashion magazine image.

    By Cecil Beaton - ca. 1930
    This is one example from several taken at one shoot.  Probably not used for publication, as others were better.

    By Ambrose McEvoy - ca. 1925
    Doesn't really look like her.  Plus, I don't see her trademark bangles.

    By Alvaro Guerva
    A Russian look, but that was in fashion during the early 1920s.

    By John Banting
    Edging towards Surrealism, but a few bangles still show up.

    By Oskar Kokoshka - 1924
    A mess of a painting.

    By Wyndham Lewis - 1922
    Several sources mention that Lewis and Cunard were having an affair that year. This bangle-free drawing exhibits his skill in judicious modernist simplification that nevertheless retains the character of the portrait subject.

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    Frederic Rodrigo (F.R.) Gruger (1871-1953) was a prolific and highly respected illustrator whose career was at its zenith during the 1920s and early 1930s. In those days, most story illustrations (as opposed to magazine covers) appeared in black and white or sometimes duotone. So Gruger generally used monochrome media such as soft pencils, pen and ink, and washes. At times he did illustrate in color, as we'll see below, but he is mostly remembered for his monochrome work.

    Gruger was inducted into the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame in 1981. A biographical citation is here. David Apatoff posted a series of articles about Gruger here, here, here, here, here and here and, as usual, makes excellent observations. Another worthwhile Web page dealing with Gruger is here.

    Gallery

    Illustration for the book "Manslaughter" by Alice Duer Miller - 1921
    This seems to have been done entirely in pencil.

    Illustration
    It seems to be dealing with ghosts from different eras and places.

    Illustration
    Gruger also used watercolor or lampblack washes.

    Illustration
    Note how sketchily done most objects are here.  The viewer will therefore probably focus on the two faces and maybe the girl's knee.

    Illustration
    Perhaps a speakeasy nightclub scene. Compare to Henry Raleigh's party scenes. Different styles, but equally compelling. Makes me wish I was there.

    Illustration for "He'll Come Home" - Saturday Evening Post - 16 March 1929
    More lightly done than many of his illustrations.

    Study

    Illustration for "Show Boat" by Edna Ferber - Woman's Home Companion - April 1926

    Color illustration for "Show Boat" - Woman's Home Companion - April 1926
    Yes, Gruger also could do color. This is a scan from Benjamin B. Pearlman's biography of Gruger, "The Golden Age of American Illustration: F.R. Gruger and His Circle" North Light Publishers, 1978. The image in the book was itself scanned from a copy of the magazine because the original art could not be found. Therefore, the quality is not good and the color might have shifted due to aging of the magazine page.

    "Show Boat" - Kelly Collection
    The Kelly site dates this as 1903 (as of the time I captured the image), but 1925 should be a better estimate. The publication image is below. But might this actually be the presumably lost original? Although the colors differ (they seem thinner here, for one thing), examination of the line work, shading, and other details show that it is the same as the final version. Could colors have been altered during printing preparation?

    Color illustration for "Show Boat" - Woman's Home Companion - April 1926
    I like this illustration a lot due to the delineation quality -- the variation in line weights and such. The remarks for the first scan, above, also apply here. Moreover, both images have been slightly cropped.

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    Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) divided his career between art and writing, winning esteem and controversy in both fields, but not a lot of money. By his late 50s he was undergoing serious bladder operations. Not long after, a growing pituitary tumor degraded his optic nerves to the point that in 1951 he announced that he had gone blind. Myself having had a vision scare recently, I have an inkling of the horror he must have experienced. (It turns out that a tentative diagnosis of macular degeneration was false, and my problem was almost entirely fixed by surgery.)

    As for his art, Lewis was a vocal modernist in traditional England, promoting Vorticism, a form of Cubism around the time of the outbreak of the Great War. This was in part through his own works and also via his publication "Blast." More biographical information can be found here.

    For this post, I'm setting aside his Vorticist work to focus on his portraiture. This was highlighted in a 2008 exhibit at London's National Portrait Gallery.

    Early in his career Lewis considered himself a modernist, one of those self-anointeds who were to remake just about everything, including art. But by the late 1930s he conceded that things weren't working out as intended. And as early as 1919, Lewis' portrait drawings were an interesting blend of modernist simplification and accurate portrayal. His subjects' appearances and personalities show strongly in part because simplification was only lightly applied and tended to be dominated by his sure control of line. This ability resulted in drawings that usually outshone his painted portraits.

    Gallery

    Ezra Pound - 1919
    Lewis and the poet were good friends when this drawing was made.

    James Joyce - 1921
    Lewis did several portrait drawings of Joyce.

    Edith Sitwell - 1921
    His drawings of Sitwell eventually led to a painted portrait that I included in this post (scroll down).

    Girl Seated (Gladys Anne Hoskins) - 1922
    Lewis married Hoskins in 1930. She was called "Froanna" by then, but mostly remained in the background while Lewis was alive.

    Augustus John - 1932
    Portrait of a fellow portrait artist.

    Dorothy Alexander (Lady Harmsworth) - 1932

    Dame Edith Evans - 1932

    Rebecca West - 1932
    Lewis and West were miles apart politically, but got along personally.

    Girl Reading (Froanna) - 1936

    Froanna - 1937

    T.S. Eliot - 1938
    This, and his portrait of Sitwell, are perhaps Lewis' best-known portrait paintings.

    Miss Close - 1939
    I'm not sure who the sitter is, but include this because it was painted only a few years before he realized that he was starting to go blind.  Lewis continued to paint while he was able, but quality began to fall away.

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    Edward Penfield (1866-1925) is considered America's first great poster artist. His Wikipedia entry is here, a chronology of his life and career is here and a Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame appreciation is here.

    His posters and magazine covers might seem pretty tame today, but they were striking when they first rolled off the presses. His basic style was cloisonniste, using dark outlines with areas filled in using flat colors. However, Penfield's outlines tended to be on the thin side, so the impression generated was more like a conventional illustration than something with a more designed look that thick outlines might have yielded.

    Gallery

    Harper's poster - August 1897
    That's a semi-enclosed beach chair next to the girl, with beach houses and a boardwalk in the background. Harper's was and is a magazine, and Penfield was one of its art directors for about ten years during the 1890s and designed and illustrated many of its publicity posters.

    Collier's cover - 28(?) April 1902
    Just in time for the start of baseball season.

    Pierce-Arrow advertising - ca. 1907
    Pierce-Arrow was an American luxury automobile maker whose fortunes steadily declined after the Great War of 1914-18.  Here, it was in its heyday.


    Penn and Cornell athletes - ca. 1907
    Similar posters were done for some other Ivy schools. In all cases, we view huge bodies and comparatively tiny heads.

    Collier's cover - 10 October 1914
    This seems to be in reaction to the start of the Great War in August of 1914, even though the USA was not yet at war.

    Collier's cover art, ca. 1918
    The caption on the Web where I found this indicated that it was for Collier's, but I can't yet verify that.  Again, the heads are a bit too small.

    Washington's Birthday Holiday poster

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 4 March 1905
    This is interesting because here Penfield did not use his usual flat, poster style of illustration.

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    Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952) won fame illustrating scenes from the Spanish-American War, solidified his status by creating the "Christy Girl" in his illustrations, did posters to help the U.S. effort in the Great War, painted saucy nudes to decorate bars, made portraits of famous people and spent more than two years creating a huge painting for the U.S. Capitol Building. He was a fortunate artist to have experienced great professional success in his lifetime; posthumous fame strikes me as being sad.

    A brief Wikipedia entry about Christy is here, a longer illustrated link is here and a Society of Illustrators tribute to him is here.

    Part of his training was under William Merritt Chase, a grounding that must have enhanced his versatility, the facility that gained him success in the variety of undertakings noted above.

    Gallery

    Rough Riders illustration
    This seems to be a scan from a book published soon after the war in Cuba ended.

    The Puritan Girl - book illustration - 1911

    Navy Recruiting poster - ca. 1917

    Liberty Loan poster - 1917

    Angel of Mercy - 1922
    A wartime scene, but I'm not sure whether it was for a story or another purpose. Christy was highly skilled using water media.

    Late Night Conversation - 1923
    A story illustration that looks like it was done using pen and brush.

    Grace Coolidge portrait - 1924
    She was the wife of the U.S. President, Calvin Coolidge.

    Self-portrait with model - ca. 1935
    Did I mention that he liked to paint saucy nudes?

    Publicity photo of Christy and model
    The model standing at the left of the easel is draped a little, but the image on the canvas is draped not at all.

    The Signing of the Constitution of the United States - 1940
    This huge painting is in the United States' Capitol Building.

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    Charles Hermans (1839-1924), was born in Brussels and died in Menton, France (at the edge of the Italian border on the Riviera). As this brief biography indicates, his art training was not formally academic. Yet his style was representational and almost without modernist technical influence. Where he differed mostly from pure academia was in his selection of subjects, as can be seen below.

    Gallery

    Monks Playing Bowls - 1867
    An early painting influenced by what he saw in Italy.

    Portrait of a Young Woman
    Free brushwork, aside from the face.

    The Flower Seller
    The flowers stand out, the rest is flat.

    Two Dancers
    Some color overlays here along with plenty of visible brushwork.

    La belle voisine
    I wonder if she was Hermans' pretty neighbor.

    Circe
    Modern-dress Ulysses episode.

    Le bal masque à l'Opera
    This is the most modernist-influenced of the images shown here; sketchy background, but more carefully painted foreground subjects.

    At the Masquerade

    L'aube - 1875
    Hermans' career breakout painting depicting the morning after a ball or similar event.

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    Lewis Baumer (1870-1963) made his career as a cartoonist and book illustrator, but like some of his English contemporaries (I'm thinking of you, Heath Robinson), he was capable of a lot more. That was because he was trained at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Royal College of Art, among other places. Biographical information on him can be found here and here.

    I'm not sure that Baumer had the right stuff to succeed doing fine arts painting, and perhaps he came to a similar conclusion. At any rate as early as 1893 his illustrations began appearing in the Pall Mall Gazette, and by 1897 was in Punch, England's leading humor periodical. Besides magazine work, he also illustrated many books -- a list is in the first link, above. By the 1920s, he was doing some portrait painting on the side.

    Gallery

    The Paralysing Fascination of The Latest Step - Punch Almanack - 1922
    A cartoon from before the era of the strong punchline.

    Etching
    Baumer was also an etcher of some skill.

    Illustration

    The Little Model

    Eileen - ca. 1925

    Girl in a Red Coat - 1927
    This is the largest image I could find.

    Noel Streatfeild - ca. 1926
    I like this portrait a lot, though can't quite explain why.

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    Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) got his start as a cartoonist, even though he was given formal training in art. So it can be helpful to be a well-fed young artist rather than a starving one while working on one's skills. As this biographical sketch mentions, he finally got around to the Fine Arts trade when he was in his mid-30s.

    Feininger is best known for images that were probably originally inspired by Cubism, but usually lacked the Cubist rationale that subjects were supposedly simultaneously depicted from various points of view in one image. Instead, Feininger simplified subjects using straight edges and planes, often extending edge lines across the picture plane accompanied by transitional value shading. The result was a clean, somewhat crystalline appearance that has appealed to me for as long as I can remember. Other artists picked up on this, including C.R.W. Nevinson and Ray Hill, the latter an instructor at the University of Washington when I was an art student.

    Below are examples from what I consider to be Feininger's Golden Years.

    Gallery

    Gross-Kromsdorf - 1915

    Hohe Häuser IV - 1919
    This seems to be about as Cubist as Feininger could manage.

    Gelmeroda VIII - 1921
    Even people are reduced to lines and angles.

    The High Shore - 1923
    A crystalized landscape.

    Gaberndorf II - 1924
    Another somewhat Cubist image.

    Church of the Minorites II - 1926
    Gothic arches are reduced to angles here.

    Bird Cloud - 1926
    The bird's wings seem Futurist-inspired (think: Giacomo Balla's Dinamismo di un Cane al Guinzaglio -- "Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash" - 1912).

    Sail Boats - 1929

    Gelmeroda XIII - 1936

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    Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) died blind and not totally sane. Before that, he was one of the most interesting artists Russia produced as the traditionalist-academic school of painting crumbled and Modernism worked its way to ascendancy.

    Vrubel had a law degree, but then studied painting at the Imperial Academy of Art in St. Petersburg. For a few years he worked on a project in Kiev to replace 12th century murals and was able to travel to Venice, but also began to work on images of a demon based on an epic poem by Mikhail Lermontov. His first Demon painting in 1890 was noteworthy enough to launch his career. This and more biographical in formation can be found here and here.

    Vrubel could vary his style, but his best-known paintings feature a good deal of square-brush work to create a fragmented, jewel-like effect around more smoothly painted faces and other features of his subjects. The best place I know of to view Vrubel's art is in Moscow's State Tretyakov Gallery a short distance south of the river bordering the Kremlin. When I was there, an entire room was devoted to Vrubel.

    Gallery

    Head of a Woman (Emilia Prakhova) - study for "The Virgin and Child" - 1884 or 1885
    Pencil and gouache. I include this to show Vrubel's approach early in his career. Later drawings were more wispy with plenty of possibly excess lines included.

    Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel - 1904
    The artist's opera singer wife. This was painted not long before he lost his sight. Vrubel was not completely wedded to the square-brush - jeweled effects he is most famous for.

    Seated Demon - 1890
    As noted, he made several Demon-themed paintings, and this is the first and most famous.

    Swan Princess - 1900
    His wife depicted in a role she sang in a Rimsky-Korsakov opera. Another of his best-known paintings.

    Fallen Demon - 1902
    Vrubel continued the Demon a dozen years after the first painting.

    Artist's Wife in a Stage Dress - 1898
    More of a sketch than a finished work here.

    Siren - 1900
    Absent the woman, this would be an abstract painting.

    Six-Winged Seraph - 1904
    Another classic Vrubel image.

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    The Art Nouveau era from roughly 1890 to near the time of the Great War was a high point for poster design, in my opinion. Laurtrec, Jules Cheret, Maxfield Parrish, Alphonse Mucha and others created designs for posters and magazine covers (a closely related field) that remain popular works of art. Perhaps the leading American poster artist in that era was Will H. Bradley (1868-1962), the subject of this post.

    A brief Wikipedia entry on Bradley is here, a link with more detail and plenty of images is here, and a chronology of his life can be found here. He had a long career that involved art direction as well as creating artwork.

    Bradley was essentially self-taught, learning his trade on the job. The images below are mostly or entirely from the late 1890s. If I eventually find enough interesting illustration art from later in his career, I'll post on that.

    Gallery

    Chapbook cover - Nov. 1895
    Plenty of Art Nouveau swirls here.

    Inland Printer cover - February 1895
    This has more of an Art & Crafts feeling.

    Springfield Bicycle Club poster - 1895
    Although motor cars existed in 1895, bicycling had become popular due to the invention of the bicycle chain drive.

    Bradley, His Book - 1896
    A faint hint of Aubrey Beardsley here.

    Victor Bicycles poster - 1899

    When Hearts Are Trumps
    This seems strongly influenced by Beardsley.

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    A few years ago on this blog I wondered if John Berkey was the best illustrator of space ships. Along with science-fiction book covers, Berkey also did more conventional illustration. A skimpy Wikipedia entry is here and a website devoted to his art is here.

    Not long ago I was mousing through the web and came across two studies by Berkey that were up for sale. They looked oddly familiar, and then I realized that they were preliminary art for the cover of a 1976 book I've owned for nearly 40 years. Since the cover art wasn't of a space ship, I never connected it with Berkey. But I flipped to the back flap and, sure enough, John Berkey was listed as the artist.

    The subject is a 1930 or 1931 Cadillac V-16 Town Brougham by Fleetwood shown sitting in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

    Below are Berkey's studies along with a scan I made of the cover. To enlarge, click on the images.

    Gallery

    This seems to be an earlier study. It's fairly sketchy.

    This study is closer to the final version. The car has reversed its direction and now includes a chauffeur as well as greater detail of other elements.

    Scan of the book cover.

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    Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich can be translated as Empress Elisabeth of Austria. And to be fully pedantic, in 1867 she became empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Elisabeth (1837-1898), was the beautiful, uncomfortable, Bavarian consort to Emperor Franz Josef, and she came to a tragic end as the near-random target of an assassin, all of which is presented in detail here.

    The empire vanished in the wake of the Great War, but Elisabeth (or "Sisi" as she is popularly called) remains the subject of great interest in Austrian and perhaps Hungary as well. I was in Vienna around the time of the centenary of her death, and saw plenty of souvenir images of her, including Sisi chocolates, that nearly rivaled the usual similar items for Mozart.

    Although Elisabeth lived in the age of photography, her station in life made it imperative that painted portraits of her were made. Some of these are shown below.

    Gallery

    Let's begin with photographs of the young Elisabeth to set the scene.

    Photo taken on the day of her coronation as Queen of Hungary, 8 June 1867

    Another photo

    Now for a few paintings by unknown or lesser-known artists.

    By unknown artist

    By Amanda Bergstedt - 1855
    When Elisabeth was about 18 years old, not long after she married Franz Josef.

    By Georg Martin Ignaz Raab

    By Hans Bitterlich

    By Franz Schrotzberg

    By Leopold Horovitz - 1899
    Probably posthumous.  This, and several of the portraits below are dated the year of her death or the year after, and were likely derived from photographs in tribute to the departed empress.  Let us know in a comment if any of these "posthumous" works were actually painted from life.

    Now for portraits by noted artists.

    By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1864
    An informal (private) portrait treasured by Franz Josef.  This shows her famous, (obsessively?) long hair.

    By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1865

    By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - 1865

    By Friedrich August Kaulbach - "Kaiserin Elisabeth auf Korfu" (klein pastell nach 1898)
    A possibly posthumous pastel portrait by the noted Munich portrayer of Bismarck and others.

    By Philip de Laszlo - 1898-99
    Another possibly posthumous portrait, this by the important Hungarian portrait painter who later was very successful in England.

    By Gyula Benczúr - 1899
    Yet another likely posthumous portrait. Benczúr was a leading Hungarian artist whose worth was recognized in Bavaria and Italy as well, but not so much beyond that part of Europe.

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    Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927) was an English painter who usually painted loosely in a sort of Post-Impressionist manner. However, he could tighten things up when called to do formal portraits of military officers and politicians.

    It seems that McEvoy was well-known and respected in his comparatively short day (he died aged 48). Many of his works are in museum collections, though not necessarily on view. A biographical note can be linked here.

    Although he was capable of good draftsmanship, McEvoy often wound up doing convincing faces while dithering with his brush over the remainder of the canvas. He painted in watercolor as well as oil, but the images shown below are all oil paintings.

    Gallery

    Bessborough Street, Pimlico - 1900
    I've waked along Bessborough Street a number of times. But that was a hundred years or so after this was painted. I know that some newish buildings are nearby, but can't remember whether or not I saw those pictured here.

    Cottages at Aldbourne - 1915
    Besides cityscapes, McEvoy painted landscapes such as this, an interesting mix of solidity and Impressionism.

    Gwen John - ca. 1900
    Augustus John's older sister and an artist in her own right. McEvoy and Augustus were friends and presumably he was a friend of Gwen as well.

    Winston Churchill - ca. 1911-15
    Painted while Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty.

    Harry George Hawker
    The aircraft designer who was killed in a plane crash in 1921.

    Seated Nude - ca. 1920
    An informal work where McEvoy was playing around with colors.

    Viscountess Cranborne
    Only the face and, oddly, the left shoe are well-defined here.

    Miss Jeanne Courtauld - ca. 1926
    For some reason this painting is in the Courtauld collection. Her left shoulder needs to stand out a trifle better to make the neck area read correctly.

    James Ramsay MacDonald - 1926
    Future Labour Prime Minister.

    Elizabeth Johnson - ca. 1920
    I perhaps like this best of McEvoy's portrait paintings. Probably something to do with the treatment of the face and his use of color. But there's something wrong with the shape of the hair and its lack of shading on the face.

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  • 04/20/15--01:00: In The Beginning: John Sloan
  • John Sloan (1871-1951), one of the so-called "Ashcan School" painters, began his artistic career as a newspaper illustrator in Philadelphia and continued that trade in New York City as he pursued his goal to be a painter. (Biographical information on Sloan can be found here.) Even though he eventually mostly painted, he continued to sustain himself economically by illustrating, making etchings and teaching.

    When I began planning this post, I had hoped to find examples of his early newspaper work on the Internet. But the best I could manage was to find works from 1900-10 when his newspaper career was largely winding down. I previously wrote about Sloan here, dealing with an odd style he practiced late in his career.

    All artists are not entirely consistent with regard to the quality of their work. Sloan strikes me as being more hit-and-miss than most -- mostly on the miss side. In fact, I find it puzzling that he is regarded as favorably as he seems to be. Some of that might be due to the fact that he was associated with a group of (better) artists active at a pivotal point in American art history. Perhaps his political views appeal to a number of art critics and scholars who therefore might be inclined to give his work the benefit of the doubt.

    In any case, my take on Sloan is that some of his better work was done as a newspaper illustrator based on examples I've seen in print, but not on the Internet. For what it's worth, below are examples of Sloan's monochrome work from the 1900-10 decade along with a color illustration and one painting.

    Gallery


    This is from the Society of Illustrators site that includes a good discussion of Sloan as an illustrator. It's not monochrome like the ones below. Moreover, I think it's a pretty nice example of Art Nouveau illustration. In fact, although I trust the Society of Illustrators, I somehow can't quite believe Sloan actually did this.

    Drawing (crayon) - 1903

    "Fun, One Cent" - 1905
    I find Sloan's illustrations lacking class warfare content most interesting and perhaps even better done; those others take on the feel of political cartoons.

    "Memory" - etching - 1906
    Sloan and his wife Dolly at at the right.

    "Sleepwalker and Hypnotist" - magazine illustration? - 1903
    Looks like he dashed this one off.

    Election Night - 1907
    A sketch of a painting, though one of his better ones from around the same time as the illustration above.

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