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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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    It's August and vast swathes of Art Contrarian readership are probably off on holiday. So I think I'll indulge myself in this post ...

    The world's fair held in New York City in 1964 and 1965 attracted fewer people than the renowned 1939-1940 New York fair (Wikipedia entry on the 1964 fair here). As was the case with other major fairs, Olympic Games facilities, and other major construction projects tied to a tight completion deadline, the New York fair had its share of problems before its 1964 opening. These, plus the fact that it was not blessed by the Bureau International des Expositions, created some bad publicity.

    But the main problem was, the fair wasn't that interesting. The '39 fair's buildings seemed futuristic, but by the early 1960s it was hard for designers and architects to invent shapes that seemed futuristic compared to many buildings already in place.

    I'll deal with the pavilions in another post. For now, I present some photos featuring people at the fair that I took when I visited on two different days in June of 1965.


    The entrance to the fair from the elevated line's station.

    Advanced planning in progress.

    Beer vendors.

    Keeping it tidy.

    Souvenir stand.

    Official World's Fair Balloons vendor.

    Japanese visitors, something fairly rare in those days.

    AT&T family phone booth.

    Replica of the time capsule from the 1939 fair (apparently prepared in 1938).

    Taking a rest by the Chrysler Corporation area.

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    Władysław Czachórski (1850-1911), also known as Ladislaus von Czachórski in Germany, was born in the part of Poland controlled by Russia. In German, his name is pronounced Wuadisuaf Tschachurski, for American English speakers, "Vwahdiswahv Tshahchurski" might work. The "von" in the German version of his name indicates the official respect he was given.

    His English Wikipedia entry is here. It says Czachórski began his art studies in Warsaw as a teenager and moved on to the Dresden Academy for a year. Then he moved to Munich, Germany's art capitol, spending 1869-73 in the Munich Academy. Although he traveled Europe, Munich remained his base until he died at age 50.

    Czachórski was noted for painting pictures of beautiful women, being especially skilled at depicting the fancy fabrics of their dresses and gowns. His approach was academic-representational, but aside perhaps from a few large paintings of Shakespearean scenes, he avoided historical and allegorical subjects beloved by true 19th century academicians.


    Hamlet Receiving the Players - 1875

    Cemetery in Venice - 1876

    Inside the Sacristy -- Silentium

    Stanisława Czachórskiego - 1889

    Lady with a Rose - 1879

    Pensive - 1883

    Das Schatzkästchen (Jewel Box)

    Flirtation - 1889

    The Wedding Gift - 1890

    Portrait of a Woman - 1890

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    World's fairs are usually showcases for architects and designers to strut their stuff. By the 1920s the stuff they wanted to show off was either the latest in modern (or Moderne) thinking or perhaps their prediction of the future. In America, the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress exposition featured plenty of modernistic pavilions to excite Great Depression crowds. And the famous 1939 New York World's Fair was explicitly themed The World of Tomorrow.

    The Chicago fair opened after most of the pre-Depression Art Deco and Moderne office towers had come on line and little was being built. To a considerable degree the thrust of the trend towards architectural modernism had been halted. Its evolution had effectively ceased aside from doodles in architects' sketchbooks. The New York fair came later in the architectural drought at a time when the Depression was easing, but few large buildings aside from government structures were being built. At least it created an opportunity to look ahead while entertaining fair attendees.

    By the early 1960s when the 1964-1965 fair was being planned, the "future" that the '39 fair attempted to predict had already happened in the form of a modernistic building boom in New York City and elsewhere. Rather than featuring Progress or The Future, this fair's weak theme was "Peace Through Understanding." As best I could tell, it was virtually invisible to fairgoers, there being no pavilions from major nations due to the fair's lack of BIE sanctioning.

    Nevertheless, the fair's architects and designers did their best to show off, and a number of pavilions were future-oriented in what was on display. So the fair's architecture ranged from attempts at showing the future to whimsical structures to even traditional or historical recreations.

    The fair was not a great success. And it did not excite me when I visited it in June of 1965 during the second and last year of its run. Information regarding it can be found here.

    Below are some photos I took.


    To set the scene, this is the General Motors pavilion at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress exposition. It seems more Moderne than Deco.

    And there is GM's 1939 New York pavilion as seen from the rear. I suppose the style might be called Streamline Moderne.

    Now it's 1965 and this is part of the Chrysler Corporation area. That's a whimsical V-8 motor sculpture at the left.

    Here is the nondescript, government-issue bureaucratic architecture United States pavilion.

    The theme symbol was the Unisphere. A giant cliché that might well have been selected by an unimaginative committee. It still exists.

    More whimsy: The Tower of the Four Winds. Some of its elements moved when caught by a breeze or wind, in the spirit of Alexander Calder.

    The Rheingold brewery opted for a traditional setting. Its beer had been very popular in New York for decades, but was starting to fade in the mid-1960s.

    And there was the Belgian Village that hadn't been finished when the fair opened in 1964. It was best known for its Belgian waffles.

    The New York State pavilion. Its best feature was observation towers, two of which can be seen at the left. The nice thing about the towers wasn't their design. Rather, once you were up one, there was a good view of the fairgrounds -- especially in the evening when the major pavilions were illuminated.

    New York State observation towers as seen from farther away.

    The IBM pavilion.

    This is the AT&T Bell Telephone pavilion. It features a "floating" look that reminds me of Star Wars type spacecraft that appeared nearly 15 years after it was designed.

    The General Electric pavilion.

    The General Electric pavilion at night.

    The Unisphere and pool at night.

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    Anna Katrina Zinkeisen (1901-1976) wasn't quite as glamorous as her older sister Doris (who I wrote about here), but she seems to have been the better artist.

    Anna's Wikipedia entry is here, and a link dealing with both sisters is here.

    Anna could vary her style when called for. Some murals done in the 1930s are busy (as most murals should be) and painted in a mannered way. Her portrait work, on the other hand, was usually solidly, strikingly done, making use of smoothed, slightly simplified surfaces on her subjects' faces, hands, etc.


    Doris Zinkeisen

    Self-Portrait - c. 1944

    Diana Wynyard, actress - 1930s
    This is not Anna's usual style, but a credible website states that this is her work.

    Consuelo Kennedy in Evening Dress - 1937

    The Dark Lady - 1938

    Elizabeth Allan, actress

    Laying the Foundation Stone of Southampton Docks, 1838 - 1938

    Mediaeval Lincoln

    Sir Archibald Hector McIndoe - c.1944
    Plastic Surgeon.

    Sir Alexander Fleming - 1958
    Posthumous portrait of the discoverer of Penicillin.

    Night Duty - 1955

    St. John Ambulance Brigade Officer and Nurse - 1955

    Julia Heseltine (her daughter)

    Air Chief Marshal Sir Denis Smallwood - c. 1975

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    Henryk Hektor Siemiradzki (1843-1902) was Polish, but his family was prominent in Imperial Russia, his father being an army general. As this biography mentions, he first trained in physics and mathematics, but then went on to study art in St. Petersburg.

    His best known works are very large, dealing in religious and classical subjects. His style was essentially academic, but usually with lively, not stilted, subjects.

    Here are some examples of his work. Click to enlarge.


    Chopin at the Piano - c.1887
    A non-classical subject, but important to Poles.

    At the Spring

    Roman Idyll (Before the Bath) - 1887
    Two examples of smaller paintings.

    Nero's Torches - 1877

    Christ with Martha and Mary - 1886

    Dance Amongst the Swords - 1881
    Version in Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

    Judgement of Paris - 1892

    Phryne at the Poseidonia in Eleusis - 1889

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    Since emerging from Ottoman rule ca. 1832, Greece has remained economically peripheral to Europe. Which is probably why Greece-born Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901) studied art in Munich, returned home, and then left again for Munich where it was easier for him to pursue a career as an artist. That career is outlined in this Wikipedia entry in English. Wikipedia suggests readers link to his Greek entry and translate to get more information. There are Wikipedia entries for Gyzis in many languages, perhaps because he is considered a major 19th century Greek artist.

    Unless an artist is largely or entirely bound to the artistic traditions of his ethnic culture, his personal style when painting representationally will not differ hugely from a number of representational artists from other backgrounds. Which is a long-winded way of stating that Gyzis was essential a Munich School painter, his Greek origin notwithstanding.


    Eros and the Painter - 1868
    This is considered his most famous painting, according to some Internet sites. Maybe it was famous, but I don't think it's his best work.

    Girl Washing Her Feet - 1871

    Artist's Psyche

    Oriental Warrior

    Dance of the Nymphs

    Historia - allegory

    Pan C. Papastathis tobacco products advertising, Munich

    The Archangel - study for The Grounding of Faith - 1895

    The Spider - 1884
    I think this is intriguing, and a lot like Belgian Symbolist painting. It might have influenced Franz Stuck who was still a student when this was painted -- though Gyzis did not become a Munich Academy professor until 1886.

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    William Lee "Bill" Cumming (1917-2010) was not one of the "mystic" school of Pacific Northwest painting. The best-known of that crew were Mark Tobey, Morris Graves and Guy Anderson. As a young man in the late 1930s, Cumming got to know them and other Northwest artists who were not quite so mystic, such as Kenneth Callahan. He also became considered as part of that larger group.

    Cumming was a colorful character, undertaking seven marriages, tuberculosis, Stalinist Communism (until he got sick of it) and teaching, -- while doing his art when not hospitalized or following Party orders regarding this or that.

    As for his art, Cumming was a prolific sketchbook artist whose main interest was the movements and postures of the clothed human body. His later tempera and oil painting usually eliminated facial details so the viewers might focus on the rest of his subjects.

    His Wikipedia entry is here. Not-so-favorable commentary by a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer art critic is here, and his Seattle Times obituary is here.

    Cumming wrote a book titled "Sketchbook" that was published by the University of Washington Press. Here are two excerpts.

    Page 60: "My dream of Paris didn't vanish. It simply melted into life in 1937 Seattle. I was never again able to summon up one scrap of the kind of restless and unsatisfied dreams on which young provincials have traditionally motivated their treks.... To my small-town sensibilities Seattle was a reasonable facsimile which had fattened my imagination....a soggy seaport town wedged into the furthest northwest corner of our United States...."

    Page 238: "For the most part my teaching has been in what is shallowly called commercial art.... The invidious distinction of commercial art and fine art is poppycock. There is only art."

    My interest in Cumming is not his art, to which I am indifferent. Rather, I found his book interesting because it was a gossipy account dealing with local artistic personalities whose names I am familiar with and a few of whom I met many years ago when I myself was young.


    Untitled - 1940
    A standard-issue Depression-era depiction of proletarians.

    Evening Conversation - 1956
    Cumming was still including faces at this point.

    Sailboat - 1965

    Drawing - 1972

    Sketchbook page

    Good News and Bad Weather - 1985

    Street Corner - 1990
    This is part of a Seattle Parks series of paintings. As best I can tell, there is no evidence of a street corner. The inclusion of both baseball and football players is a bit puzzling because these sports tend to be played at different times of the year.

    Pike Street Figures - 1996

    Summer Afternoon in the Park - 2008
    A painting made when Cumming was 90 or 91 years old.

    "Sketchbook" book cover - 1984

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    Harry Willson Watrous (1857-1940) was president of the National Academy of Design, 1933-34, but there is not much information about him on the Internet. One might consult this Dutch Wikipedia entry, or perhaps a short National Academy biography here. And there's this anecdote at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art site.

    Watrous, was born in San Francisco, raised in New York City, studied art in Paris at (where else?) the Académie Julian. While in Paris, he became influence by the small, carefully crafted paintings of the vastly popular (at the time) Jean Meissonier. Watrous painted in the Meissonier manner until the early 1900s, when he developed vision problems -- his "eyesight began to fail" noted the National Academy link. Thereafter, he painted larger, more simplified works, especially paintings featuring profile views of elegant young women. This was about 1905-15. After that, he shifted to landscape and still life painting.


    The Concert - 1903
    This is the closest example to his earlier style that I could locate. But it's probably not quite what he usually did before 1905.

    From the hairdo, this looks like it might have been made about 1900-1905.

    A Cup of Tea, a Cigarette, and She - c. 1908
    Cigarette smoking for women was controversial in America as late as the early 1930s.

    Girl With the Mirror

    Libelulas: The Passing of Summer - 1915
    The NY Met anecdote linked above deals with this painting.

    Just a Couple of Girls - 1915

    The Chatterboxes - 1913
    Très élégant.

    The Composers
    More ravens.

    Fallen Pine at Hague, Lake George
    Hague is near the north end of the lake, on the west bank. Watrous and his wife had a house on Lake George in Upstate New York.

    The Blue Goats - 1929
    An example of his still life painting.

    So Watrous had impaired vision. What kind of impairment is not stated in the few sources about him that I could find. I am puzzled, because all the post-1905 painting images displayed above suggest that Watrous could see pretty well: note the fine lines and details on even the landscape and still life. That is, he was painting quite well with sub-optimal vision for at least 25 or as many as 35 years.

    It happens that Yr. Faithful Blogger has had cataracts in both eyes as well as macular pucker (also called an epiretinal membrane) in one eye. These are fairly common vision-impairment ailments. In my judgment, if Watrous had either of these problems, they must have been mild if he were to have painted what is shown above. Otherwise, perhaps his wife, also an artist, might have assisted painting the finely detailed bits.

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    Gaston La Touche (1854-1913) did not receive expert art training, but his ability and the influence of Impressionist painters and other sources led him to a successful career as a painter and illustrator. As his Wikipedia entry mentions, in 1909 he was named an officer of France's Legion of Honor. More extensive biographical information is here.

    La Touche painted a variety of subjects, but often depicted scenes from the ongoing La Belle Époque. He was happy to include fireworks displays and liked masked balls as subjects.

    His technique was not hard-core Impressionist. It was rather more like the American Impressionist approach of combining accurate drawing and wispy brushstrokes at the times he was in an Impressionist mood. As best I can tell, La Touche painted using oils, though several of his works viewed over the internet seem as though they were done using pastels.

    His paintings don't interest me much, but I nevertheless think they are worth showing you.


    At the Opera

    Dinner at the Casino - 1903

    In the Opera - c.1890

    L'Entracte - 1908

    L'intrigue nocturne

    The Ball

    The Champagne

    The Joyous Festival

    The Promenade

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  • 09/12/16--01:00: Eric Fischl and Photoshop
  • Eric Fischl (1948 - ) is for me an important post-modernist artist because he broke from abstraction and moved to realist paintings of people in psychologically ambiguous situations. Plus, his work was commercially successful while being generally accepted by the New York art world.

    Fischl's Wikipedia entry is here, and here is his web site that contains many examples of his work.

    Due to his need to portray people in those psychologically ambiguous situations I referred to, he needed capture-the-moment body poses and gestures difficult or impossible to obtain from live models. Beyond that was the need to get correct effects of light and shade on his subjects. So Fischl necessarily was drawn to the use of photography for reference material. This is what classical illustrators usually were doing by the 1940s.

    Another consideration was composing scenes. Again he borrowed from illustration by creating overlays, one to a subject, and moving them around to establish the ensemble best fitted for artistic and story-telling purposes. Early in his career he made use of glassine to create finished works on that support material.

    In recent years Fischl has been relying on digital photography, using Photoshop to manipulate the positions of subjects to achieve what he feels is a satisfactory compositions. He credits his wife, landscape artist April Gornik, for getting him using that software.

    A 2012 exhibit at the San Jose (California) Museum of Art dealt with his use of photography. The museum's website page dealing with the exhibit is here.

    Here are a few examples of Fischl's use of photography for his painting.


    This is an example of a Photoshopped image.  I don't have an image of a completed painting for comparison.

    Years before using Photoshop, Fischl began using conventional photography.  This is a key photo taken at a beach near Saint-Tropez, France about 1984.  The pose of women in the center was later used by him in several works.

    Above are a digital image and a completed painting from his 2002 Krefeld Project. This seems to be pre-Photoshop.

    Phototshoped composition and final painting, "The Gang," 2006. The woman in the foreground is April Gornik.

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    Gunnar Brynolf Wennerberg (1866-1950) was born in Sweden, but made a successful career elsewhere, mostly in Germany. His Wikipedia entries are only in Swedish and German as of the time this post was drafted. You probably can have your computer translate from either language. However, differences in syntax with English make for difficult reading in places -- though you ought to grasp most of the meaning.

    Wennerberg was skilled at drawing and painting smiling women. Moreover, most of the images I've found on the Web have highly natural-looking subjects. This is even though female makeup and grooming fashions, particularly in the 1920s and 30s, required some other illustrators' results to seem odd to us.

    Beyond his ability to portray, Wennerberg had a very nice painterly style.


    Beim Ankleiden - Käthe Berger

    Costume ball scene?
    Wennerberg illustrated a lot of carnival and costume ball scenes.

    Der Charmeur
    This might be a magazine illustration from around 1910.

    A very nicely painted sketch with just enough detail to sell the scene.

    In Erwartung
    She is waiting, but for whom or what, I can't say.


    Morgengabe - c. 1920

    Simplicissimus cover
    I don't have the date for this, but between 1910 and 1915 shouldn't be far off.



    Three paintings, each featuring a Tänzerin.

    Clothilde Eggerer - 1939
    For once, a woman who is not smiling. Because of the war?

    Spritzig - c. 1930

    Portrait sketch - 1935
    I think this is especially well done.  The guy could really paint.

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    Alfred Henry Maurer (1868-1932) began as a representational painter influenced by James McNeill Whistler and then switched to various schools of modernism before committing suicide.

    I wrote about Maurer here. A more recent article about him in The Wall Street Journal is here.

    Earlier this year I came across a Maurer from his early period on display at the Huntington Library in San Marino, near Pasadena California. The Huntington has a good collection of late 18th century British paintings, but there is also a useful collection of American art from the decades around 1900.

    Below are two examples of Maurer's work from 1901 that were shown in my previous post about him along with photos I took of the Huntington painting.


    An Arrangement - 1901
    This seems to be Maurer's best-known painting from that time.

    Girl in White - 1901
    Another 1901 painting, perhaps of the same model.

    Woman in Interior - 1901
    This is the Huntington painting, also from 1901. The model might be the same woman as in the previous images. Disregard the hair color and consider the face.

    Woman in Interior - 1901 (detail)
    Close-up photo of the painting above.

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    Once upon a time, fashion illustration -- be it hand-drawn or photography -- was elegant. Quite unlike the ugly photos of strange looking models that populate both advertising and editorial content in current American fashion-related magazines.

    For example, consider Georges Alexandre Adrien Lepape (1887-1971), a mainstay of French fashion illustration from around 1910-1930. His Wikipedia entry (in French) is here. English-language blog posts devoted to him are here and here. A lengthy French post is here.

    Lapape's style is regarded as influenced by Japanese prints -- flat areas and thin linework, heavily design oriented.

    Lapape married around the time his career was launched, and he had a daughter. For some reason, he seems to have ceased being active in fashion illustration by the very early 1930s, if images found on the Internet are any clue. He is known to have built a house by the Riviera, and died near Châteaudun, southwest of Chartres.


    Photo of Lepape
    Dressed to the nines.

    Pochoir from Les Choses de Paul Poiret - 1911
    This publication for the famed couturier launched Lepape's career in fashion illustration.

    Vogue (USA) cover - 15 January 1919

    Vanity Fair cover - December 1919

    L'eventail d'or - Gazette du Bon Ton - March 1920

    Les Modes Élégants - fashion spread - 1922

    Vogue cover - 1 January 1925
    Interesting Voisin car, distorted perspective.

    Vogue cover - November 1927

    Vogue (USA) cover - 1 May 1928
    Tall, narrow skyscrapers, tall, narrow lady.  Very 1920s.

    'L'Initiation vénitienne' par Henri de Régnier - 1929

    Vogue (France) cover - November 1930
    Apparently a late fashion illustration by Lepape.

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    André Derain (1880-1954) is probably best known for joining with Henri Matisse in creating Fauvism in the early years of the 20th century. But that was as far as he got along the modernist path -- using plenty of bright colors not always associated with the actual subject matter. He did make use of noticeable distortion, but did not follow Braque and Picasso into Cubism. So far as I know, he did not make abstract paintings: he always featured a recognizable subject.

    Some background on Derain can be found here.

    Derain was prolific, so this post features only landscapes to indicate changes in style. So far as I can tell, his paintings always included several of the modernist traits of form distortion, simplification of forms, flattening of the picture plane, and color distortion. The number of traits used and their intensity varied for any given work.


    Banks of the Seine at Chatou - c.1899

    Jardin aux environs de Chatou - c.1900
    These are early Derain paintings made before Fauvism.  Colors are only slightly more intense than they were in reality for the upper painting. At this point, he is mainly simplifying and flattening.

    Landscape Near Chatou - 1904
    This is a Fauvist painting.

    Pont sur le Lot - 1912
    While Derain was fiddling with a few Cubist ideas, he easily dropped back to his pre-Fauve pattern.

    La route - 1932
    Here he actually uses perspective to partly puncture the picture plane, though flatly painted areas mitigate that to a degree.

    Vue de Donnemarie-en-Montois - c.1942
    Painted during World War 2, this is about as close to traditional painting as Derain ever got. Only the foreground simplification suggests his modernist impulses.

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    A while ago I posted about Liberty magazine, a second-tier American general-interest magazine published 1924-1950, mentioning that "Liberty's cover artists, while entirely competent, were seldom in the absolute front rank of their day."

    One cover artist included was Leslie Thrasher (1889-1936), who entered into a man-killing contract to provide the magazine with weekly covers for a five-year period. He managed this by doing a long, continuing saga of a young family using himself as the model for the dad.

    Thrasher also painted illustrations for advertisements and Saturday Evening Post covers, the Post being the leading general-interest magazine of the day. So he was no second-rate artist, even though his hurried Liberty covers seldom added to his reputation.

    Some of his Post covers can be found here. Brief biographical notes are here and here. Another, probably mistaken, take on the Liberty contract by Norman Rockwell can be found here.

    Below are examples of Thrasher's cover illustrations.


    Saturday Evening Post cover - 8 June 1912
    Thrasher was young when Post saw fit to put his work on its cover.

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 12 January 1924
    A Post cover from shortly before Liberty was launched.

    Liberty cover - 13 December 1924
    An early cover for Liberty.

    Liberty cover - 27 December 1924
    Two weeks later, this cover featuring a profane parrot.

    Liberty cover - 27 October 1928
    An example of a cover featuring a Thrasher self-portrait.

    Liberty cover - 10 November 1928
    That's Thrasher again, in the background struggling with a baby.

    Liberty cover - 2 March 1929
    Here he travels to pre-Castro Cuba.

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 3 October 1936
    Apparently some readers mistook this for a Norman Rockwell cover.

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 16 January 1937
    This appeared shortly after Thrasher died; it was probably in production and couldn't easily be pulled.

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  • 10/03/16--01:00: Some New York Skyscrapers

  • Here is Yr. Faithful Blogger on New York City's East 56th Street in early September.

    I spent around ten years within striking distance of New York, but have hardly visited the place since the late 1980s. My wife wasn't a big fan, and it had lost much of its charm for me as well. As it turned out, we had a nice two-day stay -- especially because our hotel was at Park Avenue and E. 50th Street, a nicer neighborhood than, say, Times Square and the theatre district.

    While poking around, I took some photos of buildings that interested me ... buildings put up since the years when I lived closer.

    432 Park Avenue
    The second-tallest building in the city, it contains 104 condominiums in 84 floors and was completed late 2015. Its Wikipedia entry is here.

    At the time this post was drafted, the entry stated: "Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly around what is described as "the purest geometric form: the square" and inspired by a trash can designed by Josef Hoffmann..."

    What foolishness. What sophistry. What a commentary on modernist aesthetic thinking.

    Perhaps Viñoly was joking. Even so, the building is ugly, being poorly proportioned (much too thin for its great height) and boring to view (despite a few window pattern break zones). No wonder the Wikipedia entry states (as of this writing) that 432 has not been well received by average New Yorkers. Me? I hate it.

    As for the photo, two modernist architecture classics frame the scene. The plaza and pool in the foreground are on the site of Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building. The building at the left is the Lever House, the first International Style building on Park Avenue.

    383 Madison Avenue
    This office building opened in 2002, and more information can be found here. I include it due to its non-rectangular cross section and the detailing at its top. Not first-rate skyscraper architecture, but better than most of the new New York high-rises.

    Set atop a 210-room Hilton hotel, the tower contains 92 condos. It was completed in 2014. Its Wikipedia entry is here.

    I happened to catch it on a clear day where its exterior coloring created an intriguing image, as this photo suggests.  Otherwise, it's just one of those attempts at making the shape of a building a huge piece of simplified sculpture.

    One WorldWide Plaza
    Part of a three-building complex, the office tower was completed in 1989, as stated in its Wikipedia entry. The design harkens back to late-1920s skyscrapers. For me, that's a plus because the combination of solidity and ornamentation usually created a pleasing visual effect.

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    John Singer Sargent's reputation continues to rise.

    For example, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art now has a room with several fine examples of his portraiture, as the above photo I took in September shows.

    One of his paintings on display is the dual-portrait of Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes and Edith Minturn Stokes. The museum has this to say about it.

    And this is what they actually looked like around 1897 when Sargent painted them. Both were age 30 and married when they were 28.

    Here is the establishment photo I took. For once its colors aren't grossly far from those in the photo the museum took of it, shown above. However, my photo is slightly skewed towards the red. Getting accurate results when photographing in museums is a matter of luck, I've found. The source of trouble is the artificial lighting.

    My close-up of Edith. Sargent slightly exaggerated the height of his two subjects in the same manner fashion illustrators ply their trade.  He does capture the uneven setting of her mouth, but the eyes seem a bit odd and the light and shading of her nose also seem a little off. Viewed from a normal distance, these quirks matter little. You can see that Sargent touched up the background in places close to her head.  Also, her collar does not wrap around her neck, but he apparently didn't think it worth the trouble to tidy up that defect.

    I took this photo to show how museum lighting can reveal some of the surface texture of a painting.  The facial close-up also has some reflections of museum lighting off edges of Sargent's brushwork. He seems to have used oil-rich paints, but as the image above suggests, he didn't paint thickly. It's possible that some of the effects seen here are due to varnishing brushwork, rather than the basic painting. The canvas patch on the right shows up strongly here, though it is evident in the museum photo if you look closely.

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    Gerald Clery Murphy (1888-1964) went to Yale and was a member of some of the best clubs -- DKE ("Deke") and Scull and Bones. His father owned New York's posh Mark Cross store, and Murphy himself later was its president. He and his wife Sara famously led an extravagant expatriate life in France during the 1920s.

    During that time, Murphy became a serious amateur artist. Amateur, in the sense that he made few finished paintings while not having to depend on making art to earn a living. Nevertheless, his carefully structured, hard-edge, modernist-inspired works were nearly all of very high quality for his genre.

    The Wikipedia entry about the Murphys is here, and more can be found here.

    Images of most of Murphy's paintings are below. Some are lost or destroyed, so only black-and-white photos of them remain. I consider "Boatdeck,""Razor," and "Watch" to be his best.


    Turbines - 1922 (lost)

    Boatdeck - 1923 (lost)

    Boatdeck as displayed at the Salon des Independents - 1924

    Razor - 1924

    Watch -1925

    Bibliotheque - 1926-27

    Cocktail - 1927

    Portrait - 1928 (lost)

    Wasp and Pear - 1929

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    When Wall Street crashed in October 1929 marking the start of the Great Depression, a large amount of office space in New York City was either under construction or in such advanced a planning stage that construction happened anyway.

    Depression-driven drastic scaling back of business activity combined with floor after floor of new office space reaching completion in the early 1930s resulted in a glut on the real estate leasing market. Famous sites such as the Empire State Building remained partly empty for years after they were built.

    World War 2 prosperity and the fact that depressed times failed to recur saw more and more space being rented after the war.  The market soon reached the point that new office building construction could resume.

    This first wave of postwar buildings was an odd-looking lot. For one thing, they were short by New York standard -- 21 to 25 above-ground floors. And their shapes determined by zoning regulations were not graceful, especially when compared to the Art Deco style skyscrapers of the late 1920s and early 30s.


    Look Building, 488 Madison Avenue (at 51st Street) - 1950
    Designed by Emery Roth & Sons, 25 floors. This is perhaps the best known of that era's office construction. The building was named for its major tenant, Look Magazine, a photography-centered publication that competed against the better-known, more successful, Life Magazine. A noteworthy tenant was industrial designer Raymond Loewy. A recent tenant is the Municipal Art Society. The building attained landmark status in 2010, as this New York Times article reports.

    Universal Pictures Building, 445 Park Avenue (between 56th & 57th streets) - 1947
    Kahn & Jacobs architects, 22 floors. This is perhaps the first of the postwar breed. Setbacks begin above the tenth floor. The exterior features curtain walls and strip windows.

    505 Park Avenue (at 59th Street) - 1949
    Emery Roth & Sons architects, 21 floors. Again strip windows, but the corner facing the intersection is rounded off -- an echo of certain 1930s Moderne designs. The Look Building continued and elaborated on this motif.

    260 Madison Avenue (by 38th Street) - 1953
    Sylvan Bien architect, 21 floors. The trendsetting 1952 Lever House by Gordon Bunshaft (Park Avenue between 53rd & 54th streets, 24floors) was in place before 260 was completed, and Bien did borrow the sort of cladding used by Bunshaft. On the other hand, the wedding cake setback scheme of the buildings shown above was continued.

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  • 10/17/16--01:00: Terence Cuneo Sampler
  • Terence Cuneo (1907-1996) was a prominent British illustrator who specialized in mechanical objects, yet was quite capable of depicting people -- something some tech artists have trouble with. On the other hand, there are a number of artists who are good at people but have serious trouble with things such as cars and airplanes. So Cuneo, himself the son of a successful illustrator, was something of an all-rounder. His limitation was that he was a run-of-the-mill storyteller in the illustration sense. That is, he could depict scenes of fierce action, but they usually were a kind of snapshot without much of a plot or backstory. To some degree that might have been what his clients wanted, so I can't quite be categorical regarding this.

    Cuneo's Wikipedia entry is here, and here is a link to my post about his railroad illustrations.

    This post shows examples of Cuneo's work over the range of his typical subjects.


    Railroad illustration: "Crossing the Forth"

    The assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, 27 May 1942.

    Coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953. This image from the internet seems to be slightly cropped at the sides and bottom.

    The Festival of Britain was an exposition held in 1951, and The Illustrated London News was a major publication at the time. Note Cuneo's signature in the pennant at the lower right. London fans will note that the Festival grounds are between the County Hall building and the power station that is now the Tate Modern art gallery. The large, flat-domed building is inland from the location of the present London Eye ferris wheel. This illustration combines architecture and human figures, the latter painted in part with flat brush strokes, something we will also see below.

    "The First Air Post" painted in 1978 shows that Cuneo was comfortable dealing with aircraft.

    This is a Bristol Beaufighter having a torpedo loaded. I consider Cuneo generally better than Frank Wootton when depicting aircraft, and Wootton was hardly a slouch (though he could be sloppy getting correct proportions).

    Bristol Aircraft Company assembly line, 1944, showing Beaufighters.

    Another assembly line painting (and he did at least one other!), this of Ford in 1947.

    Probably brochure illustrations for the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 234 or 236, painted 1955 or thereabouts. Cuneo was good at cars.

    Coastal battery scene. I don't know when this was painted, but the period it depicts is probably 1940 when the British were preparing to repel a possible German invasion.

    Detail of a painting showing the Kidney Ridge or Snipe Action in North Africa. Note Cuneo's brushwork: simple, but quite effective.

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