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Articles on this Page
- 10/07/13--01:00: _Jean Hélion: Aposta...
- 10/09/13--01:00: _Up Close: Manchess ...
- 10/11/13--06:01: _Alexander Mann: An ...
- 10/14/13--01:00: _The Vermeer Museum ...
- 10/16/13--01:00: _Pierre August Cot: ...
- 10/18/13--01:00: _Maxwell Parrish Maz...
- 10/21/13--01:00: _Robert Lewis Reid: ...
- 10/23/13--01:00: _Clayton Knight: Ill...
- 10/25/13--01:00: _Molti Ritratti: Fav...
- 10/28/13--01:00: _In the Beginning: H...
- 10/30/13--01:00: _Reginal Marsh, Yali...
- 11/01/13--01:00: _C.C. Beall, Waterco...
- 11/04/13--01:00: _Brussels' Comic Str...
- 11/06/13--01:00: _Stuck (Franz von) i...
- 11/08/13--01:00: _Émile Aubry, Accomp...
- 11/11/13--01:00: _Cecilia Beaux, Port...
- 11/13/13--07:05: _Impressions of the ...
- 11/15/13--01:00: _István Zádor, Obscu...
- 11/18/13--01:00: _Studies Displayed a...
- 11/20/13--01:00: _Józef Mehoffer, "Yo...
- 10/07/13--01:00: Jean Hélion: Apostate Abstractionist
- 10/09/13--01:00: Up Close: Manchess at the Society of Illustrators
- 10/11/13--06:01: Alexander Mann: An Almost - Glasgow Boy
- 10/14/13--01:00: The Vermeer Museum in Delft
- 10/16/13--01:00: Pierre August Cot: No Longer Icky?
- 10/18/13--01:00: Maxwell Parrish Mazda Calendar Illustrations
- 10/21/13--01:00: Robert Lewis Reid: A "Ten"
- 10/23/13--01:00: Clayton Knight: Illustrator, Clandestine RCAF Recruiter
- 10/25/13--01:00: Molti Ritratti: Favorite Pino Models
- 10/28/13--01:00: In the Beginning: Helene Schjerfbeck
- 10/30/13--01:00: Reginal Marsh, Yalie Gone Slumming
- 11/01/13--01:00: C.C. Beall, Watercolor Illustrator
- 11/04/13--01:00: Brussels' Comic Strip Museum
- 11/06/13--01:00: Stuck (Franz von) in Seattle
- 11/08/13--01:00: Émile Aubry, Accomplished, yet Obscure
- 11/11/13--01:00: Cecilia Beaux, Portrait Artist
- 11/13/13--07:05: Impressions of the Musée d'Orsay Renovation
- 11/15/13--01:00: István Zádor, Obscure Hungarian
- 11/18/13--01:00: Studies Displayed at the Louvre
- 11/20/13--01:00: Józef Mehoffer, "Young Poland" Symbolist of Sorts
Jean Hélion (1904-1987) gained artistic notoriety during the 1930s as an abstract painter. Then he threw that overboard in the early 1940s when abstract painting was in the process of becoming the dominant avant-garde style. That took intellectual and economic courage, because most of his contemporaries were heading in the opposite direction.
His Wikipedia entry is here and his obituary in The New York Times here, the latter indicating how he managed to escape captivity during World War 2, making it all the way from Stettin on the Baltic Sea to New York City. The two sources agree that one of his wives was Peggy Guggenheim's daughter Pegeen, but disagree as the his total number of wives.
Even though Hélion rejected abstraction, he remained Modernist in his depiction of representational subject matter. That is, he usually considerably simplified shapes, used flat areas of paint and distorted perceived colors. I go into a good detail of such practices in my e-book on art.
I like Greg Manchess' way with brushwork, having written about him here and here.
Lucky me, I was subjected to a 24-hours layover in New York City when returning to Seattle from Paris last month, and was able to visit the Society of Illustrators' digs on East 63rd Street where they are holding an exhibit of Manchess' works through 26 October.
The paintings were scattered around the walls of the upstairs dining room. Lighting conditions varied, but I tried my best to photograph details in such a way that his brushwork was revealed. Below are some of my photos. I decided not to include images of complete works, because that doesn't concern me in the present case. The small images below approximate a distant view; click to enlarge to observe the brushwork in more detail.
As you probably noticed, Manchess likes to work with square-tipped brushes, though he uses other brushes when needed, especially for details. His level of experience has reached the point where his brush strokes are both economical and decisive. I envy that.
Alexander Mann (1853-1908), as this Wikipedia entry indicates, had an independent income and so could paint pretty much whatever and wherever he pleased. Because he was born in Glasgow and at times associated with some of the Glasgow Boys, he is considered part of that group even though he really wasn't at the time.
Mann is one of those competent painters active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who were overlooked by art historians until fairly recently. Actually, Mann is still overlooked, as best I can tell, outside the British Isles. One reason might be because he never quite painted a "masterpiece" work. Another might be because he never quite settled into a signature style, making it difficult for viewers to say "Aha! That's by Alexander Mann!" when wandering through galleries.
Matter of fact, even though I've visited some of the most important art museums in England and Scotland, I don't remember seeing a Mann painting. If I actually did walk past one, his name never caught my eye. Nevertheless, based on some of the images below, it's hard to deny that he had talent and could do good work.
A nice example of use of broad, distinct brush strokes.
Bastien-Lepage influenced the Glasgow Boys and many others around the early 1880s. His subject matter and style had its greatest influence on Mann in this painting.
Mann also did landscapes. Not impressionist, but not traditional either. Reminds me most of some proto-Impressionist paintings by the Italian Macchiaioli group.
Interesting composition and pose.
Delft in South Holland was the place where famed painter Jan Vermeer (1634-1675) lived and made his comparatively small number of paintings. It is a pleasant small city that's worth a visit if you are in the Netherlands and would like to see more of the country than Amsterdam.
Besides getting a sense of Vermeer's roots, you can visit the Vermeer Centrum Deft which does its best to inform you about the artist. What you won't see there are original paintings due to their rarity and high market value. (I suspect that strongly attributed Vermeers are virtually "priceless" because they are in important museums, and no such museum would part with a Vermeer under any but the more dire of circumstances.)
What you can see are full-size reproductions of his paintings with explanatory captions that include the work's current location. Many are here in the United States; they can be found at the Met and the Frick in New York and in the National Gallery in Washington. Also pictured is a painting owned by casino owner Steve Wynn of Las Vegas, but its attribution is weak, as a glance at the image will suggest.
On the upper level of the museum are items of interest to artists and people interested in the technology of painting. Included is a camera obscura, but the museum does not commit itself to whether or to what extent the device was used by Vermeer. Below are some photos I took of that part of the museum. Click on them to enlarge.
Pierre Auguste Cot (1837-1883) died fairly young. Worse yet for his reputation according to historians of the Modernist Art Establishment persuasion, he didn't have much of a chance to "evolve" in a direction they would have approved. So he was an Academic painter of the stripe of his teacher William Bouguereau for his entire career.
As evidence of the degree to which Cot was ignored, I can cite two books from a shelf in my library/studio: both the 2003 edition of the "Oxford Concise Dictionary of Art & Artists" and Penguin's 1997 edition of "Dictionary of Art and Artists" ignore Cot completely.
Even the Internet lacks information regarding Cot, so you'll just have to make do with this and this.
Despite all that, rising tides do what they do, so I suspect Cot's reputation is improving along with those of other non-modernist artists active in the second half of the nineteenth century. Aiding Cot are two paintings (see below) that have retained their popularity among the Great Unwashed in Flyover Country, if not amongst the cognoscenti of the Transgressive. But then, might becoming a Cot fan become the next new Transgressive? That's how things often work out, you know.
No people shown here aside from the small figure at the upper left, so Cot's painting style was comparatively loose. It might even be more of a sketch than a finished work.
This is one of Cot's paintings that retained popularity.
A nice portrait suggesting a slight drift from the purely Academic.
This is probably Cot's most famous painting. It is owned by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Cot was a highly skilled artist who was to a large degree a creature of his times. Whereas I can't say that I love his works, I do respect them, cutting him some slack regarding subject matter popular in an era out of synch from when my tastes were formed.
Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) was primarily an illustrator, though he made fine art paintings and many of his illustrations followed the tedious, exacting technique he used for his fine art work. For some background information on Parrish, see here and here.
Parrish's oil painting technique was classical in that he first created an underpainting. One example of an uncompleted Parrish painting I've seen had the underpainting done using blue rather than sienna, green, gray or other common alternatives. Atop the underpainting, he applied layered glazes and perhaps a few spots of thicker oil paint. Given the long drying time between layers, a Parrish painting or illustration could take many months to complete (he usually had a number of works progressing simultaneously).
For about 15 years Parrish created the illustration for a calendar distributed by General Electric promoting its Edison Mazda light bulbs. Below are examples.
No, I'm not talking about a perfect gymnastic score nor how attractive a woman might be evaluated. This has to do with Robert Lewis Reid (1862-1929) who was a member of a group called the Ten American Painters comprised of important and well known artists whose commitment to modernism extended only a little beyond Impressionism.
From my standpoint, Reid is one of the most obscure of The Ten, though he was clearly well regarded by the others and had enough recognition in his day to be commissioned to paint murals for the new Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and other buildings.
Trained in New York's Art Students League and Paris' Académie Julian, Reid spent most of his career in the Northeast. A stroke cut his career short in 1927, though he attempted to resume painting. More biographical information can be found here and here.
Reid's easel painting style resembled that of some of the more Impressionism-inclined Ten as well as that of Richard E. Miller who was not associated with that group.
Other murals in this series featured similar poses and props, yet supposedly dealt with different themes.
These remind me of paintings by fellow Ten member Frank Benson.
These two remind me of Richard E. Miller paintings.
An atypical Reid, painted near the end of his career.
Although Reid was highly competent and many of his paintings are very nice, his career might have suffered in retrospect because he never settled on a distinctive style. In other words, he was too eclectic or derivative for the good of his reputation.
Illustrators tend to be a solitary lot unless they happen to share studio space with others. Given that, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that they are mild-mannered sorts who avoid flash, dash and action.
Not all are of that stripe. For example, McClelland Barclay was killed when his ship was destroyed in the South Pacific during World War 2. Dick Calkins, the first Buck Rogers comic strip artist, was an Army Air Corps lieutenant. And some artists for 1930s aviation comic strips were pilots.
One pilot-illustrator was Clayton Knight (1891-1969) who was shot down on the German side of the front lines during the Great War. Before the American entry to World War 2 he, along with Canadian ace Billy Bishop, was involved in recruiting American pilots to fly for the RCAF and RAF.
Biographical information regarding Knight is sparse on the Internet -- here is a brief account. For a detailed report on the World War 2 Clayton Knight Committee, link here or, better yet, here.
Today, if Knight is known for anything, it is that he was the father of Hilary Knight, who illustrated Kay Thompson's "Eloise" books.
Here are some examples of Knight's work.
Knight's illustrations were mostly aviation-centered.
Rickenbacker got the credit for the strip, but Knight did the drawing.
Here we see knight's signature.
Knight sometimes was able to hit the big-time. He might have gained this Post assignment because he was typed as an aviation specialist.
These planes are not skillfully depicted.
The Townend Ring around the motor is slightly too large.
Based on the illustrations above, I have to conclude that Knight's work was at the journeyman level, far from top-notch even where aircraft were concerned.
Pino Danae, born Giuseppi Dangelico (1939-2010), known professionally as Pino, was a successful book cover illustrator who made an equally successful transition to gallery painting. Some biographical information can be found here.
It should be no surprise that many artists have favorite models, people they use again and again, though this is not obvious unless one can view a collection of the artist's works in a book, museum exhibition or on the Internet as an image search results display. A while ago I wrote a post about the Italian master Tiepolo and the similarity of female faces in his paintings.
Pino tended to use the same model for several of his paintings. And if a different model was used, she often had facial characteristics similar to some of his other models, as can be seen below.
Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) was a Finnish painter who is much better known in Scandinavia than here in the United States. Which is too bad, because her artistic journey is interesting in that she went from being a highly competent naturalistic painter to becoming a modernist.
Her Wikipedia entry is here and a blog post containing biographical information and plenty of images is here.
The best place to view Schjerfbeck's paintings is the Ateneum in Helsinki where, if memory serves, a room is devoted to her works.
I have trouble evaluating modernist painting because I care for little of it. I'll simply mention that I think her best modernist paintings are those that don't stray far from realism. Here are a few to provide a taste of where her style evolved.
She painted some landscapes.
Just enough modernist traits to make this an interesting mostly-representational piece.
One of her last self-portraits.
Below are examples of her early paintings, most or all of which were made during the 1880s when she was in her twenties.
Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) was never a starving artist. His grandfather was wealthy, so Marsh happened to be born in Paris while his parents were there; the family moved to New Jersey when he was two years old. Later on, he attended the Lawrenceville School, but for some reason didn't move on to nearby Princeton, opting instead for Yale.
Marsh didn't serve in the Great War, unlike many other of his classmates, and graduated "on time" in 1920. Even though both his parents were artists, it was only after leaving college that he began to study and practice art seriously.
Somewhere along the line, he focused on what have been called "working class" or "blue collar" subjects, something that became fashionable in intellectual and artistic circles after the Great Depression of the 1930s hit. Rather than featuring a single person as a subject (though he did this to some extent), Marsh tended to feature large groups of people in his more ambitious paintings, placing them in settings befitting their tastes: the beach, Coney Island, burlesque theaters and such. Although it would have been tempting to do so, he avoided strong political statements in most of his Depression-era works (though early in his career he provided illustrations to the leftist New Masses publication). Visual commentary was present in many cases, but Marsh usually downplayed it by casting part of the scene as happy or energetic.
Although he didn't care for modernist art, Marsh incorporated many features of modernism (see my book for details) in his etchings, watercolors and tempera paintings. For example, he distorted the proportions of his subjects somewhat, so they didn't seem quite real. And for some reason, he often liked to depict women as having heavier than average lower legs.
Many of these points and much more can be found in Marsh's Wikipedia entry. What is missing is a discussion of his personal life, though one sentence mentions in passing that he had a wife.
Here are some examples of his work.
C.C. (Cecil Calvert) Beall (1892-1967) was an illustrator who has become so little-known these days that a quick Web search came up nearly dry where biographical information is concerned. I did find this small site devoted to him. As this is written, it was "under construction," but contains a short sketch about him.
Beall was technically skilled. He almost had to be, considering that he was usually working in what I consider the most difficult medium of all: watercolor. And he did better than many illustrators, being featured in advertising campaigns for Maxwell House Coffee (a leading brand for many years), doing cover art for Collier's magazine (a leading general-interest publication) and illustrating government posters supporting the World War 2 effort. Nevertheless, so far as his career can be evaluated, fairly or not, he probably should be rated as a second-rank illustrator.
Below are examples of his work, some of which I consider really nice.
I really like this illustration. Interesting composition and content -- very 1931-32. But Beall's treatment of the gal with the top hat is smashing. Well, the hat is way too large for her head -- but look at that face!
A poor quality image, but it is significant. For one thing, Beall uses the old trick of creating an overarching image made up of smaller ones. Another example is directly below. The main subject here is Franklin Roosevelt, whose first inauguration took place around the time this Collier's issue was on the news stands. The featured author is George Creel. He was Woodrow Wilson's propaganda / public relations supremo during the Great War. His son, also a George Creel, was in charge of Public Information for 8th U.S. Army when I was stationed in Korea. Though I did PIO work for another command, I met him a time or two.
For some reason, Belgians are very fond of comic strips. So of course Brussels has a museum, the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée dedicated to that field. The Web site for the museum is here.
I had a few spare hours on a recent visit to Brussels, so hiked over to it. It's on a nondescript side street, but the building itself, the former Magasins Waucquez store, is an Art Nouveau design by architect Victor Horta.
The displays were nicely done but, as would be expected, featured comics and artists familiar to Belgians and unfamiliar to Americans. One plus was that I learned how to pronounce the name of the most famous Belgian strip -- Tintin. It's not tin-tin as in the metal tin. Nor is it tin-tan, where the final "n" is nasal, French. It is tan-tan with the nasal "n." So there.
First, some views of the building.
You might have noticed that the first two photos included promotional material for a current exhibit dealing with Will Eisner, a major player in the American comics scene and widely considered the inventor of the "graphic novel" comic book genre.
I enjoyed very much seeing workups and finished art for some of Eisner's graphic novels and pages from his comic strip, The Spirit. Below are a few snapshots of the displays, the first three of graphic novels, the last of a 1950 Spirit strip. You'll see some reflections because the material was in display cases or otherwise behind glass.
Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), Symbolist and Secessionist, is Munich's version of Vienna's Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), an almost exact contemporary. Biographical information about Stuck on Wikipedia is here.
Even though Stuck is far from unknown, he has never had an exhibition devoted to him here in the United States. Until now. Seattle's Frye Art Museum, which has extensive holdings of late 19th and early 20th century Bavarian art, is holding, in cooperation with Munich's Villa Stuck, a Stuck exhibit November 2, 2013 - February 2, 2014.
Even though I don't find most of Stuck's works likeable, they do fascinate me. Consider the image at the top of this page: "Lucifer" (1890) which normally resides in Sofia, Bulgaria. It, the paintings below, and other examples of Stuck's art are on display.
Émile Aubry (1880-1964) got off to a good start. Born in Algiers, he made it to Paris where he studied under Jean-Léon Gérôme and won the Prix de Rome. Later in life he continued to find himself part of the French art establishment.
Aubry is essentially unknown today outside of France and perhaps Algeria. Even so, his French Wikipedia entry is skimpy, as is this biographical note in English. For readers familiar with French, here is a more detailed biographical sketch.
Aubry seems to be yet another of those artists who never settled into a distinctive personal style. It is fairly easy to point to this or that painting and suggest another artist whose work it resembles. Perhaps this was because he was of the generation that had to recognize that Modernism was more than a passing fad; one either had to ignore it or else come to terms with it at least to some degree. Aubry chose the latter option, and various modernist features can be found in his works, but inconsistently and never in strong measure.
Cecilia Beaux (1855-1942) was one of America's best portrait artists during what I consider a golden age of portraiture: the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Wikipedia has a useful entry dealing with her life and career. Books about Beaux have appeared in recent years, so I can assume that she is gradually regaining the recognition she had during her productive years.
As the Wikipedia article notes, although she spent time in Paris in the aftermath of French Impressionism and at the time what is now called Post-Impressionism was underway, Beaux resolutely remained a representational painter. Which was almost essential, given that she earned her living in portraiture. Nevertheless, representational painting suited her temperament, so commerce and personality were in synch.
The Musée d'Orsay was partly closed for renovation the last time I was there, July 2010. It reopened in the fall of 2011, but I didn't get to see the results until last month. Moreover, I was focusing on the paintings being exhibited rather than where and how they were presented, but that doesn't prevent me from tossing out my two-bit reactions for all to read.
A detailed report regarding the renovation is here, and interested readers should scan it to to get an idea as to what was done.
Photographs of any kind was not permitted, so the above image was grabbed from the Web. It shows the grey walls that the linked article was unsure of. I was aware of the change in background color, but it didn't bother me. And it was probably an improvement over what was there before.
On my 2010 visit to the d'Orsay, the staff had made their best effort to have the most famous items in the collection on display. That visit sticks in my mind more than what I saw saw in 2009, the previous time I was there. What this means is that what follows as a comparative perspective might well be in error. But this is professional blogging, so content flow trumps all -- and here I go:
I am not a huge fan of hardcore, Claude Monet style French Impressionism, which means that I might not have been paying as much attention as I should. But my impression of the Impressionist galleries is that a lot more works were on display than pre-renovation. For some reason, I was especially aware that a good number of Monet's early paintings were on display -- the sorts of things I especially noticed when visiting the Musée Marmottan when I was there years ago.
Fortunately for me, the d'Orsay still devotes a generous amount of space to artists outside the Art Establishment approved historical timeline to Modernism. To be found are academic works including several Bouguereaus, Orientalism, Symbolism and other interesting species of paintings from a time when uncertainty began to dominate the world of art. I took notes on what caught my attention, and these will serve as starting points for some future posts here.
So far as I am concerned, the Musée d'Orsay continues to be the don't-miss Paris art museum.
The world is and was filled with competent (but not great) artists who never became very well known. To some degree this is a matter of luck. And an important instance when luck runs against the artist is when he happens to have been born in a peripheral (to world art centers) country. Such was the case for István Zádor (1882-1963), Hungarian. (I write his name in normal Western word order, not in the Hungarian manner.) The typical career path for an artist from an out-of-the-way country was to migrate to Paris, Munich, London or (later) New York and remain there until fame struck; after that they could live pretty much where they pleased.
Hardly any biographical material on Zádor can be found on the Internet. This site seems to be the best bet. It mentions that he spent most of his life in Hungary, but went to Paris and Florence for training and fled to Munich for a while after the post-Great War Hungarian communist regime fell.
To my point of view, Zádor was good, but lacked the magic spark of greatness. So it didn't really matter that he remained mostly in Hungary; at least he had a measure of local fame and respect.
Fairly traditional, but with a whiff of modernist simplification.
This is the western part of Budapest, an amalgamation of the cities of Buda and Pest. Pest, to the east of the Danube is flat, whereas Buda is hills, as Zádor's etching shows. That's the famous Chain Bridge in the background, but the huge Parliament building lies clipped-off to the right of this view.
This painting has a much different character than the others in this set. But Web sources state it's by Zádor.
Probably done in the 1930s, but I have no date for it. Something about it is odd -- perhaps the background and how it relates to the subject.
This seems to be one of Zádor's best known works.
More modernist simplification. A nice period piece, however.
Paris'Louvre is considered one of the finest of the world's art museums. It is huge, with many hundreds of works on display. Even so, paintings and sculptures made after 1850-70 or thereabouts must be sought elsewhere in Paris. What can be seen in the Louvre includes such famous works as the Venus De Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace (currently under restoration), David's monumental painting of Napoléon's coronation, not to mention Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
A typical first or even second time traveler to Paris is likely to visit the Louvre for a couple of hours and then retreat in physical and mental exhaustion, having seen perhaps half of the galleries. Because I am more interested in post-1850 painting than what the Louvre has to offer, I tend to gravitate to the bookstore rather than stalk the galleries. The last time I was there, my wife had a few paintings that she really wanted to view, but they were in galleries on the top floor in parts of the museum remote from the five-star offerings. Plus, she was having trouble following the map of the place, so I had to take on the guide task.
As a result, I stumbled onto a number of interesting paintings from the first half of the 19th century, including a couple of small-scale studies for the huge paintings over in the Denon wing. These are shown below via images of the final results plus my snapshots of the studies.
Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix.
Józef Mehoffer (1869-1946), a Pole, was one of those painters I used to call "peripheral" when blogging on the Two Blowhards blog. Even though some readers questioned my use of the term, I rather like it and really ought to use it more on this blog. It's really a concise, two-edged, pun-like concept, the idea being that many perfectly decent painters are peripheral to standard narratives of art history because, in part, they were from and spent much of their careers in countries not central to the art world.
The Wikipedia entry on Mehoffer is here. A better, more comprehensive account is here * in the form of exhibition notes on the Musée d'Orsay site. The latter link notes that he studied in Vienna and Paris as well as Kraków, and later was an active member of avant-garde Young Poland movement of around 1900.
The d'Orsay article's title labels Mehoffer as being a Symbolist, though scanning examples of his work suggests to me that his commitment to Symbolism was inconsistent at best.
Okay, this is Symbolist, and some call it pre-Surrealist.
Three paintings featuring the artist's wife, Jawidga.
Mehoffer designed a large number of stained glass windows.
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