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Articles on this Page
- 08/11/16--01:00: _People at the New Y...
- 08/15/16--01:00: _Władysław Czachórsk...
- 08/18/16--01:00: _Architecture and De...
- 08/22/16--01:00: _Anna Zinkeisen, Dor...
- 08/25/16--01:00: _Henryk Siemiradzki,...
- 08/29/16--01:00: _Nikolaos Gyzis, a G...
- 09/01/16--01:00: _Bill Cumming, Last ...
- 09/05/16--01:00: _Harry Willson Watro...
- 09/08/16--01:00: _Gaston La Touche's ...
- 09/12/16--01:00: _Eric Fischl and Pho...
- 09/15/16--01:00: _Brynolf Wennerberg ...
- 09/19/16--01:00: _Up Close: Alfred Ma...
- 09/22/16--01:00: _George Lepape, Gold...
- 09/26/16--01:00: _Some André Derain L...
- 09/29/16--01:00: _Leslie Thrasher: No...
- 10/03/16--01:00: _Some New York Skysc...
- 10/06/16--01:00: _Up Close: Some Sarg...
- 10/10/16--01:00: _Gerald Murphy's Pre...
- 10/13/16--01:00: _Some Stubby Postwar...
- 10/17/16--01:00: _Terence Cuneo Sampler
- 08/11/16--01:00: People at the New York World's Fair: June 1965
- 08/15/16--01:00: Władysław Czachórski's Elegant Subjects
- 08/18/16--01:00: Architecture and Design at the 1964 New York World's Fair
- 08/22/16--01:00: Anna Zinkeisen, Doris' Sister
- 08/25/16--01:00: Henryk Siemiradzki, Painter of Large Works
- 08/29/16--01:00: Nikolaos Gyzis, a Greek in Munich
- 09/01/16--01:00: Bill Cumming, Last of the Northwest School
- 09/05/16--01:00: Harry Willson Watrous, Who Profiled Women
- 09/08/16--01:00: Gaston La Touche's La Belle Époque
- 09/12/16--01:00: Eric Fischl and Photoshop
- 09/15/16--01:00: Brynolf Wennerberg and His Smiling Women
- 09/19/16--01:00: Up Close: Alfred Maurer at the Huntington
- 09/22/16--01:00: George Lepape, Golden Age Fashion Illustrator
- 09/26/16--01:00: Some André Derain Landscapes
- 09/29/16--01:00: Leslie Thrasher: Not Quite a Rockwell
- 10/03/16--01:00: Some New York Skyscrapers
- 10/06/16--01:00: Up Close: Some Sargent Brushwork
- 10/10/16--01:00: Gerald Murphy's Precision Modernism
- 10/13/16--01:00: Some Stubby Postwar New York "Skyscrapers"
- 10/17/16--01:00: Terence Cuneo Sampler
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.
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.
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.
Unisphere. A giant cliché that might well have been selected by an unimaginative committee. It still exists.
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.
This is not Anna's usual style, but a credible website states that this is her work.
Posthumous portrait of the discoverer of Penicillin.
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.
A non-classical subject, but important to Poles.
Two examples of smaller paintings.
Version in Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A standard-issue Depression-era depiction of proletarians.
Cumming was still including faces at this point.
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.
A painting made when Cumming was 90 or 91 years old.
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.
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.
Cigarette smoking for women was controversial in America as late as the early 1930s.
The NY Met anecdote linked above deals with this painting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Krefeld Project. This seems to be pre-Photoshop.
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.
Wennerberg illustrated a lot of carnival and costume ball scenes.
This might be a magazine illustration from around 1910.
A very nicely painted sketch with just enough detail to sell the scene.
She is waiting, but for whom or what, I can't say.
I don't have the date for this, but between 1910 and 1915 shouldn't be far off.
Three paintings, each featuring a Tänzerin.
For once, a woman who is not smiling. Because of the war?
I think this is especially well done. The guy could really paint.
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.
This seems to be Maurer's best-known painting from that time.
Another 1901 painting, perhaps of the same model.
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.
Close-up photo of the painting above.
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.
Dressed to the nines.
This publication for the famed couturier launched Lepape's career in fashion illustration.
Interesting Voisin car, distorted perspective.
Tall, narrow skyscrapers, tall, narrow lady. Very 1920s.
Apparently a late fashion illustration by Lepape.
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.
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.
This is a Fauvist painting.
While Derain was fiddling with a few Cubist ideas, he easily dropped back to his pre-Fauve pattern.
Here he actually uses perspective to partly puncture the picture plane, though flatly painted areas mitigate that to a degree.
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.
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.
Thrasher was young when Post saw fit to put his work on its cover.
A Post cover from shortly before Liberty was launched.
An early cover for Liberty.
Two weeks later, this cover featuring a profane parrot.
An example of a cover featuring a Thrasher self-portrait.
That's Thrasher again, in the background struggling with a baby.
Here he travels to pre-Castro Cuba.
Apparently some readers mistook this for a Norman Rockwell cover.
This appeared shortly after Thrasher died; it was probably in production and couldn't easily be pulled.
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.
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.
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.
John Singer Sargent's reputation continues to rise.
this to say about it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, 27 May 1942.