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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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    There are a few artists whose personal lives are more interesting than their work: Frieda Kahlo immediately comes to mind. Then there are others where paintings and biographies come close to striking a balance. Salvandor Dalí is a famous example. A less well-known example is Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938), whose biography is lightly sketched here. For some, she is best known for being the mother of Maurice Utrillo, a more famous Montmartre painter.

    A while ago I visited the Montmartre museum housed in a building where she had her apartment and studio for a number of years. I took photos and posted about it here and here. Probably as a result of those posts the publisher of "Renoir's Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon" by Catherine Hewitt sent me a review copy. The book, already available in England, is due to be published in the USA late February: Amazon link here.

    The image on the cover is of probably the most famous painting for which she modeled. It's by Renoir (hence the book's title), who depicted women in something approaching a uniform style. That's why the young lady doesn't resemble Valadon as closely as it might. During her modeling days, she slept around a lot, probably the reason for the book's subtitle. As for modeling, other famous artists she worked for included Puvis de Chevannes and Toulouse-Lautrec. The latter encouraged her drawing efforts (she was a "natural"), but it was the prickly Degas who was most responsible for giving her confidence and help.

    I have a tattered 1959 edition of "The Valadon Drama: the Life of Suzanne Valadon" by John Storm (link to recent reprint here). I skimmed through it before reading Hewitt's book so as to have a mental yardstick for evaluation. There are other Valadon biographies out there, given her colorful life.

    So why another Valadon biography? The author, who has a doctorate, set her goal as providing a well-researched treatment that would be accessible to the general public. Did she succeed?

    Well, the bibliography is extensive, even referencing dozens of newspaper articles and web sites as well as the expected books and journal articles. She provides suitable background information on Valadon's various living environments as well as on the famous and not so well-known people in her life. This should be useful for readers who have little knowledge of the 1880-1935 Paris art scene or even France in general during that time. Hewitt mentions many of Valadon's paintings during the course of the book along with paintings and drawings made of her by famous artists for whom she posed (and sometimes more!). My review copy has no color images of such works nor a contents reference to any. However, the English edition has color inserts, so presumably there will be the same for the American edition. After all, it can be frustrating to read about paintings without being able to see them, so that is good. Paintings mentioned, but not in the book, can often be found via the internet, if a reader is especially curious.

    The main substantive difference from Storm's book is the he insisted that she was never legally married to Paul Moussis, whereas Hewitt makes it clear that she was indeed married to him.

    My main complaint about Hewitt's treatment is that she fairly often mentions the mental and emotional states of Suzanne, her mother, and some others that are not documented in the many footnotes. That is, she is making educated guesses. I assume that to keep the narrative flowing for her target audience, she does not qualify these statements. For example, she might have written "Suzanne was probably most worried about Maurice's latest drunken spree." I invented that sentence, but if it had appeared in the book, the word "probably" would not be found. My stripped-down review copy has no author introduction, so if there is one in the published version, perhaps Hewitt will mention her reasoning regarding this policy.

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    Sir Walter Westley Russell (1867-1949) is yet another competent English painter I am including on this blog: the supply of same seems inexhaustible.

    A brief biography is here. Even though Russell is not well known these days, he was noteworthy enough in his time to be knighted.

    Like many English contemporaries, his style changed little over his career. Based on images found on the Internet, he tended to make paintings with a warm (in the color sense) feeling, though there are some that differ. It seems he liked to portray women. A quirk in many of those portraits was his use of backgrounds with green-blue wallpaper containing many small elements in other colors. Besides similar or identical background wallpaper, Russell usually included framed pictures hanging on those walls. Doubtless these details were from his house or studio.

    Gallery

    Dover
    Russell did some landscape painting.

    Joseph Crawhall
    Crawhall was one of the Scottish "Glasgow Boys" group of painters.

    Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding - 1942
    "Stuffy" Dowding was in charge of aerial defenses during the Battle of Britain.

    Camilla - c. 1910
    A carefully done background, but no wallpaper in this comparatively early work.

    The Blue Dress - 1911
    Still no wallpaper, but there are pictures on the background wall, so we're getting closer.

    Amelia - c. 1937
    A late portrait with wallpaper and pictures.

    Girl in a Muslin Dress
    I don't have a date for this, but the background is archetypical Russell.

    Marion
    Again.

    Cordelia - c. 1930
    And again.

    Isabella
    Here Russell adds a mirror, but the standard background remains.

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    Not all of it is good, and just like modernist architecture it would be bad if it were everywhere. That said, I am fond of Art Nouveau. When it's not overdone, it offers interesting decoration that goes beyond Greek and Roman ornamentation. The same can be said for Art Deco -- in some respects a late-stage Art Nouveau.

    Most Art Nouveau architecture is found in Europe. The best-known examples are in large cities such as Paris and Brussels, but a number of smaller cities such as Riga in Latvia have plenty of Art Nouveau. Another small city to add to the list is Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, a Slavic country tucked in by Italy and Austria and ruled by Austria's Hapsburgs, starting in the 14th century and ending with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.

    A major earthquake in 1895 resulted in some rebuilding in the Art Nouveau style -- actually Vienna Secession style, an Art Nouveau variation with less ornamentation and comparatively little of that with plant tendril themes. Below are some Ljubljana scenes I photographed when I was there a few months ago.

    Gallery












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    Once upon a time -- 150 years ago, perhaps -- the consensus was that paintings should be beautiful. Modernism was a conscious, ideological reaction to and condemnation of traditional art. In other words, what academic painters did, hard-core modernists tried to do the opposite. So rejection of beauty became part of that hard-core package.

    I don't hold that a painting must be beautiful to be great. But I also think that great paintings are far more often beautiful than not. Moreover, I find it difficult to think that really ugly paintings are great ones.

    There are always a few exceptions, but not the ones of women by Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning featured here. The art world seems to disagree with me because the Picassos auctioned for many tens of millions of dollars, and the de Koonings aren't worth chicken feed either.

    First, two Picasso paintings -- the first, a portrait of one woman, the second showing women. Then two de Koonings in the same sequence.

    Gallery

    Dora Maar au chat - 1941
    An auction sale report is here.

    Women of Algiers - 1955
    A report for this painting of a bordello is here.

    Woman I - 1950-52
    As the numeral implies, de Kooning painted a series dealing with women.

    Two Women in the Country - 1954

    Picasso's paintings are more structured than de Kooning's, the Algiers being almost cheerful.
    Borderline ugly, I'd call it. The Dora Maar is just plain awful so far as I'm concerned, though I'll credit Picasso for doing a reasonably good job on the kitten. I find the de Koonings simply horrible. His apologists would praise the emotion and artistic action seen in his brushwork. A lot of emotion does not guarantee a painting's greatness. Here, ugliness rules.

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    Starting when I was a boy and for decades thereafter I had trouble telling American cruisers from battleships. Specifically, cruisers and battleships of the World War 2 era from, say, 1935 to 1950. Before the 1930s cruiser and battleship appearances were fairly distinctly different.

    I was not the only one who confused the two types. Aerial reconnaissance observers fairly often identified enemy cruisers as being battleships. An example is the early Japanese sighting reports of an American task force during the battle of Midway in June of 1942.

    Consider the two photos at the top of this post. Which ship is the cruiser and which is the battleship?

    The upper image is of BB-60 USS Alabama, a battleship, and the lower image is of heavy cruiser CA-74 USS Columbus.

    Here are ways to distinguish the two types of warship:

    Gallery

    Top: CB-1 USS Alaska, bottom: BB-63 USS Missouri, docked at Norfolk, Virginia - 1944
    The USS Alaska was a very large cruiser not typical of those in the rest of the US fleet (only two Alaska Class ships were built). Regardless, the image is instructive. Cruiser lengths were in the same range as contemporary battleships, sometimes a little shorter, sometimes even longer.

    However, cruisers were narrower to allow higher speeds. The fineness ratio (waterline length to beam) of cruisers approached and sometimes equaled ten, whereas that of Great War era battleships was about six, and World War 2 "fast battleships" ranged from about 6.5 to around eight. More specifically, the final US dreadnaught class of the early 1920s (Colorados) had a fineness ratio of about 6.4, whereas the Missouri's was 8.2 and the Alaska's was 8.9.

    I include this photo because it's the only aerial one I know of showing a cruiser and a battleship close together. So generally speaking, cruisers are proportionally narrower than battleships.

    BB-56 USS Washington
    CA-71 USS Quincy
    The Washington was one of the first US fast battleships, having a fineness ratio of 6.7, whereas the heavy cruiser Quincy's ratio was 9.5. These high-angle photos made the difference obvious, but seen from a low angle, as in the top images, the ships look similar because their superstructures are similar. Another difference is in the size of the main battery guns. Heavy cruisers has 8-inch guns and World War 2 US battleship classes had 16-inch guns.

    CA-68 USS Baltimore
    CL-48 USS Honolulu
    For sake of completeness, we should consider appearance differences between heavy and light US cruisers. Baltimore's fineness ratio is 9.5 and that of the light cruiser Honolulu is 9.8, Baltimore being about ten percent longer. Setting aside displacements, light cruiser main armament was six-inch guns in greater numbers than heavy cruiser eight-inchers. So Honolulu has three main turrets forward of the bridge compared to Baltimore's two. This is distinctly different from battleship practice (aside from the Royal Navy's HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney that also had three turrets forward), making it easier to distinguish the Honolulu from a battleship. Later light cruiser classes had a different turret arrangement, but the comparatively delicate gun barrels are a strong difference from a battleship's armament.

    Before the 1930s it was much easier to distinguish cruisers from battleships. Two examples from around 1920 are compared below.

    BB-38 USS Pennsylvania
    CL-5 USS Milwaukee
    Cruiser Milwaukee has small turrets with small guns positioned close to the bow and stern, with a long stretch in the mid area having little but four smokestacks.  Battleship Pennsylvania's topside elements are more compactly arranged.  The reason for this difference is that the cruiser was designed for high speed and therefore required a much larger machinery area whose boilers and engines developed 90,000 horsepower compared to Pennsylvania's 35,000.  The post-1935 battleships and cruisers mentioned in the first part of this post had about the same horsepower from more advanced, more compact machinery systems, which largely explains their similar appearance.

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    Porter Woodruff (1894-1959) was one of five American fashion illustrators Vogue magazine had based in Paris in the early 1920s. He continued illustrating for Vogue through the 1930s, residing in New York City and Tunisia as well as Paris. He died in Tunisia. Why little else is known about him can be gleaned here (click on the "learn more ..." line).

    Besides Vogue, he contributed covers to House & Garden magazine (another Condé Nast publication) around the time of the Great War, before moving to Paris. He also painted North African scenes that fail to impress me. You can Google on his name to locate some of these if you are curious.

    Woodruff was not a great fashion illustrator, but was good in the context of his times.

    Gallery

    House & Garden cover - June 1917
    A nice composition in synch with the architectural style.

    House & Garden cover - November 1917

    Sketch of Chanel costume - 1923

    Vogue cover - March 1926
    Interesting minimalist concept.

    Wedding dress by Jean Patou - 1926

    Fashion illustration - 1926

    Vogue cover art - January 1928
    Woodruff's best-known work.

    Pen & wash illustration - Vogue - May 1929

    Franklin Simon hat - Vogue - December 1931
    By the 1930s, Deco geometry was out and flowing lines were in.

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  • 01/01/18--01:00: Some Stations are Terminals
  • This blog is mostly about painting and illustration. One exception has to do with design, architecture and by extension the urban setting. This post is a bit of a stretch from even those topics, but I think it's okay to have a change of pace occasionally, especially on a holiday.

    In England, the place where one catches an inter-city railway train is called a station. Some London examples are Paddington Station, Euston Station and Victoria Station. The same is generally true here in the USA -- but not completely. Most people, me usually included, call one such place in New York City Grand Central Station. But its actual name is Grand Central Terminal.

    Technically, the place is a terminal because it is the final stopping point or initial starting point for trains. A station, by contrast, is an intermediate point.

    Regardless of what they officially or popularly are called, railroad depots that are functionally terminals are relatively rare because the power of railroad systems lies in the fact that they are basically networks where what is carried can flow from place to place. An exception is at a transportation break, typically where a railway spur ends at a ship docking facility for transferring goods from one transportation mode to another.

    Another exceptional case is certain large, old, dominant cities that serve as transportation hubs for their countries. In these cases, when railroading started in the 1800s it was already considered too disruptive to carve rail lines across those cities' central areas. Instead, terminals were established at various points around the peripheries of central areas, the rail lines heading away to places in their same general direction from the cities' centers. This is the case for London and Paris.

    An alternative is to have a large, central terminal that serves a large number of places, rail lines serving them diverging a ways away from the center. This is approximately how it works in Rome and Milan, though each city does have lesser terminals and stations for commuter lines.

    Below are a photo and some maps illustrating some terminals.

    Gallery

    Seattle Depots - 1913
    In the center of the photo is Union Station, actually a terminal used by the Union Pacific and Milwaukee Road lines.  To its right, with the tower, is King Street Station used by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads.  It actually is a station because some tracks head in our direction and reach a tunnel under Seattle's downtown.  You can glimpse those below-street-level tracks if you drop your eyes down from Union Station.

    London terminals
    They all bear the Station name, but are terminals except for London Bridge Station.  Before the postwar nationalization of railways, each station was associated with a railroad serving its own (but sometimes overlapping) region of Britain.

    Paris terminals - 1900
    This image featured a peripheral line running just inside Paris' fortifications that approximate the route of the Périphérique, Paris' beltway freeway.  Not all these terminals remain: the D'Orsay is now an art museum, for example.  The functioning intercity terminals are the St. Lazare, Nord, Est, Lyon, Austerlitz, and Montparnasse.

    New York - 1909
    This map features a subway commuter line connecting parts of Manhattan with New Jersey.  At the upper right is Grand Central Terminal (called "Station" here), and nearby black lines indicate subway and elevated local transportation lines.  Grand Central served the now-defunct New York Central and New Haven lines for many years.  Pennsylvania Station, the other major New York depot, is a true station because some tracks under the station structure connect Pennsylvania Railroad tracks (to the west) to Long Island Railroad tracks (to the east).  The Pennsy also no longer exists but the tracks remain.

    Chicago - 1908
    I include this map mostly because of the long list of railroads serving Chicago more than a century ago.  Aside from the present government-run Amtrak passenger system (started in 1971) that uses private lines' rails, there never has been a transcontinental railroad company in the United States.  A number of major lines served the eastern part of the county and extended as far west as places such as St. Louis and Chicago.  And there were western railroads serving places as far east as those and a few other cities.  There also were railroads serving the central part of the country, but their tracks did not extend to the east and west coasts.  For someone traveling by train from coast to coast in the heyday of passenger railroading, it was necessary to change railroads in places such as Chicago.

    Chicago - 1958
    This map shows that downtown Chicago was served by seven terminals (most called Station) in the 1950s.  When I was young, I once arrived in Chicago on the Milwaukee Road at Union Station.  We departed on the New York Central a few days later at La Salle Street Station.  Note that Union Station served the westerly Milwaukee Road and the easterly Pennsylvania Railroad.  But being a terminal, there was no through trackage.  The lines branched a ways out of town.

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    Ramon Tusquets i Maignon (1837-1904) came from a well-to-do Barcelona family and became a full-time artist once his father died. Some biographical information is here.

    I will assume that Tusquets never had serious financial worries. One piece of evidence in favor of that idea is that he doesn't seem to have relied on portraiture as an income source. Instead, he painted genre scenes in his beloved Italy along with a smattering of other subjects including a few large historical scenes.

    Although he was a contemporary of French Impressionists Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir as well as the Italian Macchiaioli Giovanni Boldini and Telemaco Signorini, Tusquets tended to paint in a traditional, less painterly styles. As a result, while his works were competently done, few strike me as being noteworthy, and it seems that the art world in general shares that opinion.

    Gallery

    Burial of Mariano Fortuny - 1874
    This has a Macchiaioli feeling to it, so perhaps Tusquets was influenced by them early in his career.
    I'd be tempted to call this a sketch, but the artist took care to sign it.

    Seeking Shelter - c. 1883

    Joan Fiveller davant Ferran d'Antequera - 1885
    That's a French title to this example of his historical paintings.

    washerwomen
    I don't have a formal title to this.

    Washing Day

    hillside village scene in Italy
    Again, I lack a title.

    Fishing Boats in Venice
    Colorful sails on Venice Lagoon fishing boats made it easy for artists to make interesting paintings. I consider this Tusquets' best.

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    Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a theoretician. Highly educated, around age 30 he was on the verge of becoming a law professor but chucked it and became an artist, an art teacher, and a theoretician of art.

    Here are some background links. The Wikipedia entry is long on analysis, but short on biographical information. This site focuses more on biography, and includes the nice feature of having a gallery of his paintings arranged by year. A short biography can be found here.

    The older I get, the less trust I put in theories that have to do with humans and their acts. So it seems for art. To me, art is something of a craft, so I have no problem with rules-of-thumb such as "fat over lean" when painting in oils. That sort of thing isn't theory: it's a matter of practice that can be ignored if the painter so chooses. On the other hand, Kandinsky who apparently was always fascinated by color, applied his intellectual skills to the matter of painting, and before many years elapsed concluded that abstraction was what the facts (as he saw them) demanded. He created some of the first-ever abstract paintings a few years before the Great War, and by the war's end he had essentially abandoned representational painting.

    Kandinsky is perhaps best known for paintings with lines and geometrical forms distributed on flat backgrounds. But he did more than that. Over his abstract art (or Non-Objective Art -- as the Museum of Modern Art called in in the 1930s) career, he did a good deal of experimentation. Often he would be playing with several themes simultaneously.  In the Gallery below I present part of what he was working on around the year 1940. Also included are works from more distant years using elements of what he was doing around 1940. Kandinsky therefore can be seen to have added and dropped abstract painting styles over his career while usually playing with more than one ideas at any given time -- an evolving set of parallel projects or (for him) intellectual investigations.

    Gallery

    First, a few paintings he made during 1939-1941. Note the variety.

    Untitled - 1941

    Red Circle - 1939

    Complex-Simple - 1939

    Sky Blue - 1940

    Next, some paintings using layered or stacked Egyptian-like elements. He did these from time to time over a decade.

    Untitled - 1940

    Succession - 1935

    Sign Series - 1931

    Besides geometric forms, Kandinsky also played around with organic blobs. "Fingered" blobs reappear in the paintings below made over another ten-year period.

    Brown with Supplement - 1935

    Green and Red - 1940

    Untitled - 1941

    Composition - 1944
    One of his last paintings.

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    Henry Russell Ballinger (1892-1993) lived to be 100 years old and was active into his mid-90s. There is little biographical information about him on the Internet. However, this notes that he "studied at the University of California, San Francisco; the Art Students League with Harvey Dunn; and the Academy Colarossi, Paris." And here is another snippet that mentions he "worked as an illustrator for almost 20 years, doing magazine covers for Yankee Magazine, McCall's magazine and the Saturday Evening Post."

    Ballinger was a skilled landscape, seascape and shoreline painter who wrote several books dealing with paintings those subjects (an example is here ). His works are found in several museums.

    What is not clear to me from the limited information available is the arc of his career. My best guess is that, since he had training by Dunn, he probably did his illustration work in the 1920s and 30s, then shifted to fine arts. Or maybe he did fine art painting all the while and worked as an illustrator to maintain his income.

    There are a few examples of his paintings found in Google searches, but I turned up only one sure example of his illustration work. Perhaps lengthy digging or better use of key words might have located Saturday Evening Post covers, but all I found were random cover images.

    All this is too bad, because Ballinger seems to have known his stuff, and I would like to see more of it to be sure of that.

    Gallery

    The Harbor (Kahala Bay) - 1958

    A landscape by Ballinger

    Illustration for "The Wolf Chaser"
    I don't know what magazine this appeared in, nor the date. My guess as to the latter is 1934 or thereabouts. I base this on the women's hairdos and clothing along with the fact that they are shown with alcoholic drinks (Prohibition was abolished in the USA in March of 1933). The cloisoné style is similar to that used by McClelland Barclay at times during the late 1920s and early 30s (examples are here -- scroll down). Click on the image to enlarge considerably.

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    Edwin Georgi (1896-1964) is the subject of a fine new book crammed with his illustrations. I wrote about Georgi's early illustration years here. For more information about the book, you can click here.

    On thing that struck me was how limited the biographical part was. For one thing, no date of death was mentioned. And the text was the same or nearly that of an article in Illustration Magazine's issue No. 30 (Summer, 2010) written by its editor/publisher Dan Zimmer, who also authored the new book. I then grabbed my copy of Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators and How They Worked to see how it treated Georgi. Again, not a lot was said. A brief Google search turned up next to nothing new.

    What is reported regarding Georgi is interesting. He attended Princeton and was on the Tigers' football team. When the USA entered the Great War, he became an Army pilot. Like many, he was shot down in those pre-parachute times, but survived the crash only to be hospitalized for a year. He became an illustrator in the 1920s and had a very successful career into the early 1960s. At some unstated point he married and then had children. He owned several houses and continued to fly. And that was about all important biographical information about him that I've been able to find. Zimmer did have contact with family members, but little information about his career and artistic methods seems to have come from them.

    So, what to make of this? Maybe Georgi was a very private man. Another possibility, given the large amount of work included in the book, is that he spent much of his time laboring to hit his deadlines and spent the rest of his time as a normal, upper-middle class American in the 1940s and 50s.

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    Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) had a long, prolific career. His Wikipedia entry is extensive.

    While I was surfing through collections of his work via the Internet, I came across three unfinished works. I'm not sure how interesting this is for the average reader, but I know that people who paint, along with art historians, usually enjoy stumbling across such items that reveal an artist's technique.

    Gallery

    Mountain Landscape at Saint Thomas, Antilles - 1854-55
    One of Pissarro's earliest surviving works. Painted on his return to Saint Thomas, but quite possibly interrupted when he left again for France. At this stage of his career, Pissarro seems to be finishing a painting area-by-area.

    Peasant Woman - 1885
    Thirty years later, he is more into assembling his painting on a balanced basis. This seems to be a gouache or watercolor that requires different handling than oils. Nevertheless, he leaves important areas to be finished later.

    Poultry Market at Gisors - 1889
    Here Pissarro spent his time on the featured foreground subjects. Heads and faces in the distant crowd might or might not receive a bit more detail.  The far side of the market square is was roughed in when he set this painting aside. (Though he did add his initials instead of his usual signature, indicating ... something.)

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  • 01/22/18--01:00: Analytical Cubism Portraits
  • Wikipedia has this extensive entry dealing with Cubism. Early on, it states:

    "Historians have divided the history of Cubism into phases. In one scheme, the first phase of Cubism, known as Analytic Cubism, a phrase coined by Juan Gris a posteriori, was both radical and influential as a short but highly significant art movement between 1910 and 1912 in France. A second phase, Synthetic Cubism, remained vital until around 1919, when the Surrealist movement gained popularity. English art historian Douglas Cooper proposed another scheme, describing three phases of Cubism in his book, The Cubist Epoch." Those were "Early,""High" and "Late" Cubism, and the entry uses that concept to organize its discussion.

    The peg I'm using for this post is the Analytical Cubism concept, whereby artists were supposedly presenting a subject by simultaneously using several different points of view in order to show it more completely than traditional art's single viewpoint.

    I find it hard to believe the early cubists were serious in this regard. After all, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), an inventor of Cubism, was something of a prankster.

    Consider the hypothetical case of an artist seriously making a Cubist portrait using perhaps half a dozen different perspectives. The result will probably be an image that is so fragmented that only the artist himself would know what segments of his painting or drawing came from which viewpoint. A viewer of the work might be able to identify how a few fragments originated, but would be at a loss to comprehend how the entire work was assembled.

    In other words, instead of showing a more complete view of the subject, the result is that even less of the subject is understandable to a viewer than would have been the case for a traditional portrait.

    Some examples of early cubist portraits are shown below.

    Gallery

    Pablo Picasso: Portrait de Daniel-Henry Kahnweiller - 1910
    If you didn't already know what art dealer Kahnweiler looked like, could you form an accurate image of him using only the material presented in this "portrait?"

    Pablo Picasso: Portrait de Ambroise Vollard - 1910
    Here Picasso comes closer to depicting Vollard as others actually would see him.

    Pablo Picasso: Girl With a Mandolin - 1910
    Not strictly a portrait, as he made no attempt to break the subject's face into many fragments -- he just simplified/abstracted.

    Albert Gleizes: Portrait de Jacques Nayral - 1911
    Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), background here, besides being a painter, was a cubist theoretician who co-authored the 1912 book "Du Cubisme." He remained a cubist of sorts for much of his career, so unlike Picasso he should have been serious. But the example shown here simply has the subject's face and hands reduced slightly in the direction of faceting. Only other parts of the figure plus the rest of the setting are what most would consider cubist.

    Albert Gleizes: Portrait de Mme H. M. Barzun - 1911
    The same can be said regarding this portrait.

    "Du Cubisme" was co-authored by Jean Metzinger (1883-1956), who I wrote about here. Metzinger was a cubist for a while but later works were far more representational. This painting is largely a matter of using simplified shapes and faceting, though a slight amount of perspective-twisting can be seen.

    Jean Metzinger: Portrait de Mme Metzinger - 1911
    When it came to portraying his wife, Metzinger fell back to the practice of faceting features and putting cubist decoration in the background as Gleizes did.

    What the above gallery suggests is that even committed cubists often had to hold back from a hardline "analytical" approach when making portraits. Perhaps this compromise with purity had to do with the practical matter of portrait subjects wanting to be shown in a largely recognizable manner.

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    Herbert Morton Stoops (1888-1948) wasn't a noted cover artist for the likes of the Saturday Evening Post or Collier's, but thrived in the next rung or two below. A near-contemporary of Harvey Dunn (1884-1952) and Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), his style was similar to their 1920s work. Biographical information can be found here and here.

    Stoops was born, raised, and educated in the Mountain West and therefore easily dealt with cowboy-type subjects. As an artillery officer in the Great War he, like Dunn, could convincingly portray scenes of that conflict. And because he lived in New York City from the 1920s onward, he also was capable of illustrating sophisticated urban life.


    Here is an illustration combining the wild west and urban sophistication.

    While collecting Stoops images from the Internet, I noticed that quite a few lacked rip-roaring action. Instead, they were quiet settings showing seated couples.

    Gallery






    Well, this one isn't so quiet, but I like the seated woman.

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    In the second link below it is mentioned that neither Pablo Picasso nor Georges Braque, the inventors of Cubism, wrote a manifesto explaining and justifying what they had done (unlike other modernist artists and movements). However, others filled this void. A fairly standard classification of types of Cubism calls the period roughly 1910-1912 "Analytical Cubism," wherein the artists used multiple points of view to depict a subject more completely on a flat surface than could traditional single-viewpoint paintings.

    A fairly detailed explanation can be found here, and a sophistry-filled one is here.

    Not long ago I posted here about cubist portraits and how various artists followed Analytical Cubism to various degrees. The present post looks at that breed of Cubism from a slightly different angle. (Hmm -- I seem to be getting swept up into this multiple perspectives notion.)

    My contention is that hard-core Analytical Cubism paintings are constructed (presumably against the artist's intent to more fully reveal the subject) so as to make it impossible (or nearly so) for a naïve viewer to identify the painting's subject. That is, the artist presumably knew what steps he was taking to disassemble the subject into parts seen from different perspectives along with what steps he used to rearrange those parts on the canvas. But that naïve viewer would have little or nothing available to allow him to visually reverse that process.

    Which leads to a brief discussion of titles of paintings. Purely abstract paintings don't really need titles because they are fundamentally simply decorations. As for representational art, titles can be avoided for still life paintings. Landscape paintings are something of a gray area. They don't absolutely need titles because a viewer can simply think "Oh, what a lovely mountain scene" or whatever the subject. But it can be useful for some viewers to have a title to identify, in this case, what mountain is depicted. Portraits are similar in that in some respects the viewer doesn't need to know the name of the subject, particularly if the subject was simply a model somewhat arbitrarily chosen by the artist. But where the subject has any degree of notoriety or fame, a title is probably necessary for distant future viewers somewhat ignorant of the milieu at the time the work was painted. (How many people today could recognize an image of Robespierre on sight, famous though he once was.) Similar things might be said regarding historical or religious scenes: to the extent viewers are ignorant of the subject, titles are necessary.

    Due to the process of making an Analytical Cubist painting and the difficulty of discerning the subject unaided, titles are essential to provide the viewer with a clue as to how to reverse-engineer the painting. I am not sure how many viewers actually do try to figure out where all those fragments came from, and from which viewpoint. Generally speaking, for practical purposes Analytical Cubist works come very close to being abstract decorations.

    Now for some fun. Below are several such paintings by Picasso. I didn't provide title captions. Can you correctly guess that subjects of those paintings that are not familiar to you? I'll post the titles in a comment later in the day this appears, so you'll know.

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    Earnest Stanley Adamson, or perhaps Arthur Earnest Penrhyn Stanley Adamson (his name seems to have varied over time) used the name Penrhyn Stanlaws professionally. He was born in Dundee Scotland in 1877 and died in Los Angeles in 1957. Otherwise, he lived in London, Paris, Chicago and New York. Plus, he was a member of Princeton University's class of 1901. Besides illustration, he wrote plays and directed silent movies in Hollywood.

    Unlike many artists covered in this blog, there is much biographical information on Stanlaws on the Internet in the form of a two-part report found here and here.

    Stanlaws' illustration career essentially involved making cover art featuring beautiful women for leading general-interest magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post as well as some movie fan magazines. Examples are shown below.

    Gallery

    Ainslee's Magazine cover - January 1914

    Hearst's Magazine cover - January 1918
    The United States was in the Great War at this time, so war-related magazine covers were common. The subject of this is wearing an Italian Bersaglieri feathered hat.

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 20 February 1926

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 24 March 1928

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 17 August 1929

    New Movie Magazine cover - February 1932

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 19 August 1933

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 3 February 1934
    Here he uses a Coles Phillips background/subject integration touch.

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    It isn't unheard-of for a popular culture figure to disparage the works that brought fame and prosperity and to try doing something supposedly "higher." Examples include portrait artist John Singer Sargent and illustrator Dean Cornwell taking up mural painting. Or Arthur Conan Doyle trying to unharness himself from his famed creation Sherlock Holmes.

    So it was with master illustrator N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth (1882-1945), Wikipedia entry here. As the link mentions, by the time he was well-established as an illustrator, he began to hate being a slave to that trade and began to create Fine Arts paintings. Prudently, he maintained his illustration career to preserve hearth, home, and lifestyle.

    In September I re-visited the Brandywine River Museum of Art that features the works of the Wyeth family. On display were several of N.C.'s paintings done in the fashionable 1920s-1930s semi-Modernist vein. I also bought this catalog for a 1995 exhibit dealing with that subject.

    According to it, Wyeth felt liberated and highly creative when doing such paintings, derivative though they actually were. And in my judgment, they were generally inferior to his illustration work. This post features a painting titled "In a Dream I Met General Washington" (1930). I might deal with other such works in future posts.

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    The museum's image of the painting.

    A detail photo that I took. This and the following images of mine can be greatly enlarged by clicking on them.
    Here we see Wyeth, wearing his usual knee-britches, paintbrushes in one hand, palette in the other, facing the great man.

    Landscape towards the upper-right corner. Thinly-painted for the most part. The stylized, rounded hills and tree forms were an emerging Regionalist cliché, as Grant Wood was doing the same sort of thing in 1930.

    Here Wyeth tosses in a battle scene.

    And includes his young son Andrew Wyeth sketching.

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    Frank Newbould (1887-1951) was an almost exact contemporary of fellow poster artist, the better-known Tom Purvis. Both did a good deal of poster art for British railway companies in the 1930s, especially the LNER (London and North Eastern Railway). Also, by 1930 both were using a style featuring many broad areas of flat colors where outlining was scarce or entirely absent. Unfortunately, I don't have enough information to say who practiced that style first (I suspect Purvis), though it became associated with the LNER due to its extensive use.

    Not a lot of biographical information on Newbould is on the Internet, so this Wikipedia entry will have to do for now.

    Newbould's work was strong, but I rate him not as good as Purvis or Fred Taylor, another railway poster man. Below are his posters for domestic sites. He also did Continental scenes that I might deal with later.

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    A nice, strong poster for the spa town not far from York.

    A silkscreen look, even though this was probably a lithograph.

    Another nice design, this for an East Anglia port town.

    Post for a Scottish destination.

    On the North Sea coast, a few miles north of the mouth of the Tyne.

    A more extremely simplified design, this for the Great Western Railway.

    Yorkshire coastal town about 15 miles south of Scarborough.

    This poster and the one above have a different typographical theme than the others.  My guess is that they date from shortly before British railroads were nationalized in 1948.

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    The painting above is "Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot" by John Singer Sargent (1888). Dennis Miller Bunker (1861-1890) lived just 29 years, but showed considerable promise, as Sargent seemed to have realized.

    Some biographical information is here, and some of Bunker's thoughts regarding being an artist can be found here.

    Bunker was a solid traditional/representational painter who spent a year or two in France when French Impressionism was gaining acceptance and Post-Impressionism was getting underway (Manet died in 1883 and Seurat was about to paint his masterpiece, "Un dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte"). He made some oil sketches that seem to lie in the gray zone between being simply sketches and being a sort of Impressionism -- it's difficult to tell. But he largely continued on a traditional path after returning to America. There is no way of telling what he might have painted had he lived into the era of modernist "isms."

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    The Shed, Cold Spring Harbor - 1880
    Painted when Bunker was about 19.

    Beached - c. 1882
    Another fairly elaborate sketch -- note that here and in the previous work he signed with only his initials.

    Lacroix, St-Ouen, Oise - 1883

    Brittany Town, Morning, Larmor - 1884
    Some French plein air type scenes.

    Tree - 1884
    This painting is also signed using initials.

    Anne Page - 1887
    A portrait reminiscent of Whistler's work.

    Second Portrait of a Woman - undated

    The Mirror - 1890 - (Julia "Dudie" Blair)
    A late work. I wrote about her here.

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    American newspaper comic strips were greatly reduced in size decades ago and their content was reduced to various kinds of humor. Gone were the plot-continuity strips occupying a half or even a full page such as were found in 1930s Sunday papers.

    One such strip was Terry and the Pirates, an adventure series taking place in China. When World War 2 came along, it evolved into a military-themed strip. By late 1946 Milton Caniff, its creator, had tired of the distribution syndicate's control and moved on to create an Air Force themed adventure strip.

    Due to its popularity, Terry was continued by another artist, George S. Wunder (1912-1987) -- Wikipedia entry here. Wunder has been criticized, with some justification, for his treatment of faces. But what interests me here is the degree of background detailing found in his version of Terry, a carryover from strips of the 1930s and still common into the 1950s. That is, Wunder ranked up there with other cartoonists whose strips still went well beyond containing mostly faces and dialog balloons.

    Background settings require a lot of extra work for the cartoonist who was under pressure to maintain about a six-week backlog to allow for production and distribution to newspapers carrying the strip (and for times when the artist was ill or otherwise not productive). The link to Wunder mentions that he took on an assistant in 1962, implying he did it all before that time (and stating that he continued to do the Sunday strips alone). A rational division of labor would be for the main artist to deal with the characters and leave backgrounds and other detailing to assistants.

    Below are some examples of Wunder's Terry and the Pirates from his first five years on the job. Click on the images to enlarge.

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    October 27, 1947
    A daily panel featuring Terry, Pat Ryan, Hotshot Charlie and slang-talking Chopstick Joe who is always on the lookout for making money.

    June 22, 1947
    Now for some Sunday strips...

    July 13, 1947

    May 1, 1949

    July 31, 1949

    September 22, 1951
    This seems to be original art -- note how the title and artist's name are attached to provide consistent branding over time.

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