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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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  • 11/22/13--01:00: Signing Paintings a Cute Way
  • Where does one sign one's painting if it (figuratively) has no right or left edge? That's both a theoretical and practical problem when painting a diorama -- a 360-degree view.

    Dioramas were popular in France during the 1870s and 1880s, and a popular diorama subject was battle scenes. One such diorama was the Panorama of Rézonville, painted in the early 1880s by the team of Édouard Detaille (1848-1912), the project leader, and Alphonse de Neuville (1835-1885), two of France's leading painters of military subjects. Events at Rézonville were selected because the French army acquitted itself better there than in most battles of the 1870 Franco-Prussian War.

    I consider Neuville the better painter of the two, and wrote about him here. Regardless of their merits, the artists were faced with the task of covering an immense amount of canvas featuring many figures and objects in a limited amount of time. The inevitable result was that everything had to be dashed off with a loss of artistic merit compared to their regular easel paintings.

    Once the display period for the diorama ended, parts of it were cut off and preserved. You will find a few segments in the Musée de l'Armée in Paris, near Napoléon's Tomb. Below are some snapshots I took of them while visiting the museum recently.


    This depiction, by Detaille, I think, indicates the effect of the haste required to complete the project. Note that the boots seem too small for the rest of the soldier's body and the legs look oddly proportioned.  But I can't rule out the possibility that this was done on purpose because the center of interest of the diorama was several feet above the eye level of the spectators, and this perspective angle might have had to be accounted for.

    Detaille's signature can be seen at the lower right. The painters might have placed them randomly or perhaps by a segment that they had done.

    This shows the sketchiness of the painting required of the artists.

    Here is where the signing gets cute. Detaille put his name on the canteen bag of the musician and Neuville placed his on the silvery object at the side of the wounded soldier (click to enlarge). I have no idea why Neuville would have selected the blessé instead of a hale subject.

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  • 11/25/13--01:00: Short-Lived Henri Evenepoel
  • I suppose I could have lumped this post into my "In the Beginning" series because all we have of the works of Henri Evenepoel (1872-1899) were painted when he was age 27 or younger. As you can see by his dates, Evenepoel's career ended (by disease) before he had the opportunity to progress beyond the usual "beginning" period for an artist. That's too bad, because the paintings that he did make are interesting, and he clearly had real potential as a representational modernist, had his course continued in that direction.

    Evenepoel was a Belgian who spent most of his career in Paris. A short Wikipedia entry about him is here.


    Le chapeau blanc (Louise de Mey) - 1897
    Photo (by Evenepoel) of Louise de Mey at Wépion - Summer, 1897
    It seems that Louise was Evenepoel's cousin and married with two children. That did not prevent them from falling in love and producing a son. This matter and its effect on his art are dealt with here and, especially, here.

    L'homme en rouge, ou Portrait du peintre Paul Baignières - 1894

    Het Loopmeisje (The Errand Girl)

    De Spanja, Francisco Itturino - 1899

    Orange Market, Blidah - 1898

    Foire aux Invalides - 1897

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    Paris seems packed full of museums. A tourist who has visited the town a few times is advised (by me) to devote several hours a day to being simply a flâneur, one who strolls the rues and boulevards instead of rushing from museum to famous site to yet another museum. Even so, it can be worthwhile to drop below Paris' layer of world-class museums from time to time. If you happen to be interested in history, naval history or simply ships, a nice place to visit is the Musée National de la Marine, located a few steps from where one views the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro area. Its Wikipedia entry is here and its website is here.

    A visitor will find decorative bits from old sailing ships, an early diver's suit, paintings dealing with seafaring and naval warfare, plus many, many models of ships. Below are some photos of ship models along with some paintings. These subjects were behind protective screens, so I wasn't able to avoid some reflections appearing.


    The models are of French vessels only, as best I could tell.

    At the top are models of some of France's last battleships, the Dunkerque and the Jean Bart.

    A variety of naval types.

    Pre-Great War battleships.

    A few displays dealt with old shipyards and ship construction.

    Among the artists featured was Marin-Marie, who I wrote about here. The images below are from two paintings dealing with arctic exploration ship Pourquoi-Pas (the "Why Not?"). I have a soft spot for nice brushwork, and Marin-Marie certainly accomplished that in these paintings made during World War 2, long after the Pourquoi-Pas was destroyed in a storm with only one man surviving.

    "Le Pourqui-Pas dans le Soresby Sund en 1925" (detail) - 1943

    "Le Pourqui-Pasà Jan Mayen en 1926" (detail) - 1943

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    Stanisław Wyspiański (1869-1907) was born in Kraków (then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire) and died there 38 years later of the effects of syphilis. According to this Wikipedia biographical entry, he was given great honors at his funeral and this respect continues in Poland, as confirmed by this page on the National Museum site.

    Wyspiański mostly worked in pastels, but used other media at times. Besides art, he also wrote poetry and plays, doing all this at as fast a pace as he could manage in his last years, knowing he was doomed to an early death.


    Self-Portrait - 1894
    Self-Portrait - 1907
    The 1907 drawing was done not long before Wyspiański died.

    Jozef Mehoffer - 1898
    Mehoffer was another artist with Kraków roots.

    Dagny (Juel) Przybyszewska - 1898 or 1899
    Juel led a short, wild life, as can be read here.

    Eliza Parenska - 1902
    Elizy Pareńskiej - 1905
    I assume this is the same woman, painted three years apart.

    Motherhood - 1902
    Motherhood - 1905
    Here he elaborates on an earlier drawing.

    Władysława Ordon-Sosnowska - 1903
    Władysława Ordon-Sosnowska - alternative colors - 1903
    Most of the images I found in Google Images have colors as in the first image. But the lower image seems more natural. I suppose numbers prevail, but thought I'd present both points of view.

    Caritas - 1904
    Cartoon for a proposed stained glass window (never executed).

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  • 12/02/13--01:00: Anders Zorn in San Francisco
  • I've been wanting to see paintings by the great Swedish artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920) for several years, but only came across a few of them here and there. In fact, I'd pretty well resigned myself to hoping that I'd finally get to visit Sweden and then convince my wife that we seriously had to rent a car and drive up to Zorn's home town of Mora, which has a museum devoted to him.

    The wheels of artistic justice grind slowly but truly, so a Zorn exhibit took place in Boston earlier this year (which I missed). Then another exhibit opened in San Francisco in November, which I was able to visit. It runs through 2 February 2014, and I strongly urge you to see it if you are going to be in the Bay Area before then.

    I wrote about Zorn's non-portrait painting here, so now I'll mostly cover the portrait work I saw at the exhibit (which includes a good cross-section of his etchings, watercolors, outdoor nudes and other examples from his prolific career).

    One thing I noticed when finally seeing some of his most famous paintings in person: Zorn often painted freely -- or gave that impression. Actually, his brush strokes were carefully pondered, but the final effect is free. Few lines are present. Instead, he used areas of color to form images. He also softened many edges, this providing some contrast to stronger, more visible brushwork.

    These effects are present on his subjects' faces, the part of the portrait that usually is reserved for the most crisp painting. In fact, Zorn's portraits usually don't sharpen up until the viewer is standing about 12 feet (4 m) away or else is looking at comparatively small reproductions such as on a computer screen or in a book.


    Self-Portrait - 1896
    This shows him with his famous "Zorn Palette" of four colors. Most of his paintings I saw were in good condition, but I noticed some cracking in this one, especially in the dark area above Zorn's head.

    Self-Portrait - 1915

    Midsummer Dance - 1897
    Not a portrait, this is one of Zorn's most famous paintings. I was especially pleased to be able to see it in person.

    Reveille, Boulevard Clichy - 1892
    This is a watercolor painting.

    Omnibus - first version - 1891-92
    The link to my previous Zorn post has both versions of "Omnibus." This one seems to be more of a study than the second version, because it seems pretty sketchy even though it's fairly large.

    Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice - 1894
    Another well-known Zorn painting. This reproduction looks much sharper than the actual painting, an effect I mentioned above.

    Elizabeth Sherman Cameron - 1900
    Zorn's handling of the gown is very free: reminds me of some of John Singer Sargent's portraits.

    Grover Cleveland - 1899
    The former President of the United States. Those books near his right hand are indicated by just a few broad brush strokes, but look convincing here (or if standing 12 feet away from the painting).

    Mrs Potter Palmer - 1893
    The background in the original painting is slightly darker than in this reproduction, making the effect even more smashing. This impact is enhanced because the painting is large: 101 inches (258 cm) high. You really need to see this one in person to appreciate it.

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    Louis Anquetin (1861-1932) seems to have had access to money for much or all of his life, and turned away from modernism and perhaps a potentially greater degree of notoriety in the Art Establishment historical timeline wherein modernism trumps all else. In any case, his career as an exhibiting painter was largely over by 1900.

    As this Wikipedia entry and this biographical sketch (with some odd spellings of some names) indicate, Anquetin was in the thick of Post-Impressionism, knowing van Gogh and Lautrec well and helping launch Cloisonnisme, a style featuring dark outlines surrounding areas of flat or nearly flat colors.

    As the second link mentions, Anquetin never developed a consistent personal style, something I've been noting with regard to some other painters. But some of his paintings and pastels are very good, which accounts for a renewal of interest in his work -- one of his paintings was even on display at the Musée d'Orsay when I was last there. Let's see what he was up to.


    Femme dans la rue
    This was on display at the d'Orsay. A ghostly image not typical of Anquetin.

    Dans la rue - 1891
    Another street scene. He seems to have painted a lot of these: more follow below.

    Femme aux Champs-Élysée, la nuit - c.1891

    Promenade - 1892

    Deux Élégants - 1889

    Juliette, ou Femme au chapeau - 1890

    Au Moulin Rouge - 1893
    As mentioned, Anquetin and Toulouse-Lautrec were good friends and haunted the same sites. This is Anquetin's take on dancing at the Moulin Rouge -- similar to Lautrec's, but less sketchy.

    Avenue de Clichy a cinq heurs du soir - 1887
    I haven't seen this in person. But based on reproductions, it's my favorite Anquetin work.

    Lili Garnier - 1929
    The only example I could find on the web of a late painting.

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    Wallace Herndon Smith (1901-1990) lived much of his life in St. Louis, Missouri, but managed to attend all the right schools (Lawrenceville School, Princeton University, École des Beaux-Arts) and have a career in architecture (for a while) and (mostly) painting. Better yet, his artistic life involved no desperate existential struggles. That was because he was born to riches. A biographical sketch is here and a link to a published biography is here.

    Apparently Smith is a subject of some regard in his native St. Louis, but not elsewhere. I suspect that is because he wasn't a very good artist.

    I wrote a book that focused on the painting scene between the world wars (see link in the panel to the right). Basically that era was one of confusion and indecision. Avant-garde artists had almost completely exhausted the possibilities of anti-traditional painting, whereas many other artists felt they had to come to terms with Modernism, but usually were not sure how best to do this. The result tended to be sketchy paintings with distorted subjects and perspective, often using flat areas of sometimes distorted color.

    Smith took up painting in the late 1920s, going along with this halfhearted Modernist approach. The results were generic works that I find lacking in skill and personality. In closing, I need to confess that I don't like paintings of this kind by more acclaimed painters. It's to some degree a matter of my personal taste regarding style. Anyway, below are many of the few examples of Smith's works that I could find on the Internet.


    Street Scene, France

    Venice Scene

    Landscape with Factory

    Harbour Springs, Michigan

    Paris, Early Morning - 1950s

    Guanajuato - early 1970s

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  • 12/09/13--01:00: Léon Bakst's Fine Arts Work
  • Léon Bakst (1866-1924) is best known for his stage and costume design work. But he also managed to do some Fine Art painting, the subject of this post.

    Biographical information on Bakst can be found here and here. An image search on the Internet will turn up mostly the theater related images he created, so take a look if you're not familiar with this.

    As can be seen below, Bakst was both talented and versatile. His style tended to have a whiff of Modernism in that some (but not much) simplification and sketchiness are introduced.  But some of his paintings are traditional in both spirit and technique: note the Countess Keller portrait below. The most Modernist work is the Lido scene that was auctioned for around half a million pounds. The auction site considered it either a study or an unfinished painting, so it is possible that Bakst planned to add more detail at some point.

    The painting that intrigues me the most is the portrait of Rachel Strong, at the bottom. The composition is unconventional in that she is placed left of center and, furthermore, is gazing off the the left side of the painting. This is balanced by the tree trunks bending to the right which make the composition more or less work.


    Dmitry Filosof - 1897

    Alexander Benois - 1898

    Countess M. Keller - 1902

    The Luncheon (The Supper) - 1902

    Sergei Diaghilev and his Nanny - 1905

    Bathers at the Lido - c.1911

    Willa Cather - 1923

    Rachel Strong (future Comtess Henri de Boisgelin) - 1924

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  • 12/11/13--01:00: Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret
  • Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929) trained under Gérôme, painted religious subjects for part of his career, and otherwise painted realist (in terms of subject matter) scenes using Academic techniques. Plus, he was an early user of photographic reference material. No wonder he was a non-person (non-artist?) back when I took a year-long art history class in college.

    Wikipedia has a short entry on Dagnan here, but you will find much more about him here and here.

    Dagnan is one of those artists whose work can be difficult to find in person. The images below that I found here and there on the Internet suggest that he had a good deal of talent and skill. Better yet, he used his abilities to make some paintings that retain their appeal more than a century after they were painted. That said, these judgments are provisional until I finally encounter some of his works in person.


    Bouderie (Gustave Courtois in His Studio) - 1880
    The year before, Dagnan married Courtois' cousin Anne-Marie. I do not know if she is the woman in the painting or if someone else is depicted.

    Hamlet es les fossoyeurs - 1884

    The Pardon in Brittany (pilgimage) - 1886
    This painting is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, but not currently on view, according to their Web site.

    Bretons Praying

    Brittany Girl

    Woman painting


    Princess O.V. Paley
    Dagnan devoted much of his later career to portraiture.

    Marguerite au Sabbat - c.1912
    This, and several of the paintings shown above are in private collections.

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    The original Eau de Cologne (Cologne water) perfume was indeed developed in Cologne, Germany -- in 1709, as is explained here. The company associated with the early years of the product and still in existence is No. 4711 or simply 4711 Kölnisch Wasser (again, Cologne water, but auf deutsch); for more on this, read here.

    Advertising 4711 for many years featured scenes of elegance that to me offer some false nostalgia for a departed time. Many of the examples I found on the Web were for pressed metal plaques similar to those found in the USA for old Coca-Cola poster art.

    I make no claims for artistic merit, just thinking that you might enjoy viewing the illustrations.

    The headline proclaims it "The wonder water from Cologne."

    "Always Spring fresh" where "spring" is the season, not the source.

    Lady posing with the Cologne Cathedral.

    An artist's model.

    A product variation. This reminds me of the classic Revlon "Fire and Ice" ads of the 1950s.

    And another.

    "Their realm is the world" is the slogan for this Roaring Twenties scene.

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    Walt Louderback (1887-1941) "mailed it in" during much of the 1920s and 1930s when he was living in France and his publisher customers were in the United States. Very little in the way of biographical information regarding Louderback seems to be on the Internet other than here along with this snippet on the Kelly Collection site.

    I find this unfortunate, because Louderback was successful in his day and painted in a thick, direct style that I am fond of: Many of his illustrations from the 1920s and early 30s remind me of those by Dean Cornwell, Saul Tepper and Mead Schaeffer.


    A magazine illustration of a casino scene, probably from the 1930s.

    More of a poster style such as Cornwell began to take up towards 1930.

    Shades of John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo!

    This reminds me of Schaeffer's Count of Monte Cristo illustration style.

    I wish I had more information on this one, because I can't reconcile the long hair and the otherwise circa-1930 painting style.

    From the Kelly Collection, a book cover illustration.

    The Homecoming.

    This last image shows a modernist style Louderback tried near the end of his career.

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    It seems like I've been writing a number of posts recently that deal with painters who never managed to attain a fairly consistent and clearly identifiable style. And so it goes with the present post, which is about Richard Eurich (1903-1992), an English artist who seems doomed to semi-obscurity for that reason.

    His Wikipedia entry is here, and other biographical links are here and here.

    Eurich was skilled enough to be able to paint well in almost any style. His earliest paintings are in the distorted, simplified representational mode of the interwar period. By the mid-1930s he was making some correctly proportioned representational works. He continued in this vein during World War 2, when he was a war artist specializing in naval subjects, and for several years beyond. In his later years, Eurich mostly painted rather flat scenes that included sketchy, distorted people. These might have been influenced by postwar abstract art, though he does not seem to have made any or many pure abstractions.

    This book contends that Eurich "was one of the greatest British painters of the twentieth century" (back cover). Me? I'd say that he might have been one of the more versatile British painters of his generation, but I fail to detect greatness, especially among his early and late works.


    Mrs. Green - 1930
    Very much of its time stylistically.

    Lime Regis - 1930
    Again, of its time, but nicely composed.

    Portrait of Mavis - 1935
    Mavis Pope was Eurich's wife and also an artist. This is a representational portrait featuring a traditially painted face combined with a Manet kind of minimalist setting.

    December, Work Suspended - 1940
    An early wartime scene where workers were diverted from civilian to war tasks.

    Survivors from a Torpedoed Ship - 1943
    The toll of civilian-manned cargo ships from attack by submarines was high around the time this was painted.

    Capital Ships Bombard Salerno - 1943
    Here Eurich connects with his inner Turner.

    The Argument - 1983
    Low Tide Fun - 1991
    Examples of his late work.

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    I can't tell you much about William Henry Margetson (1861-1940), an English painter, because I could not find any halfway detailed biographical information on the top few pages of a couple of Google searches of the Internet. Perhaps I didn't drill deeply enough, but what can I say? -- I'm both lazy and non-obsessive.

    What I did find were a couple of squibs such as this. Plus, there was one Wikipedia entry (here), but it's in Dutch, which is near enough to English for some readers to follow.

    The sources mention that while he painted some religious and allegorical works, he mostly did scenes featuring pretty women. I'll add that many such scenes were domestic -- around a household. Moreover, they tend to be nicely done.


    Water Sprite
    This sprite or siren falls into the allegorical category.

    On the Sands - 1900
    This lady is so perfect that she doesn't leave footprints.

    The Amulet

    Two Young Women Seated
    I'm guessing from the hair styles that this was painted during the late 1920s or early 30s. Other works done in a looser style probably were made after around 1910, but that too is a guess. Beside lacking biographical information, dates of paintings also seem to be in short supply.


    The Lady of the House

    At the Cottage Door

    Afternoon Tea

    A New Day - 1930
    This is both signed and dated. The strong colors of the garment and the outdoors are complemented by the much larger areas of drab colors.

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    Many movies will include matte shots, where part of what is viewed on the screen is filmed action and other parts are images that fill in architectural details or create a different outdoor setting. Matte work is done because it is usually much less expensive to hire some artists than it is to construct a huge movie set or find an exactly right landscape. What has changed over the last few decades is that nearly all matte work done today is via digital imaging rather than oil or acrylic paints, as was done previously.

    There are several web sites dealing with matte art, but the one I tend to follow is Matte Shot, hosted by a semi-anonymous New Zealand blogger and featuring matte work from pre-digital times.

    A recent post features Mark Sullivan, who began his career making matte paintings in the waning days of that era and now does a good deal of digital work. His web site is here.

    The Matte Shot post consists of a long interview with Sullivan and a collection of images, some of which I include below. The majority of the interview is in-group chat dealing with personalities, something of interest mostly to matte painting fans. But if you scroll down to some point in the second half, Sullivan discusses his approach to matte painting, something of interest to artists in general.

    Some matte painters such as the great Albert Whitlock usually favored a freely painted, almost impressionistic style. Sullivan paints more tightly, especially in areas near where the live action will be composited. He assumes viewers will be focusing attention here, rather than on other parts of the screen where he loosens his style.

    I find matte art fascinating because of its final effects that are divorced from the need to be accepted as Fine Art painting, yet remain impressive examples of craftsmanship carried out under severely constrained conditions.


    Ghostbusters 2 - 1989

    Hook - 1991

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 1989

    Bugsy (1991) - El Centro Avenue matte and composite

    Bugsy (1991) - Vine Street matte and composite

    Rocketeer (1991) workup and final

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    Cliff Sterrett (1883-1964) was one of those "lowly" comic strip artists whose work is worthy of attention from art historians and practitioners.

    His Wikipedia entry is here, but is skimpy regarding his personal life after getting into cartooning and sketchy about his signature strip, "Polly and Her Pals," that ran 1912-1958. However, it has its own entry here. An appreciation of his work that contains a number Sunday panels is here.

    The various links above assert that Sterrett's work was influential among members of the comic strip artist fraternity. This had to do with the bold design of his panels and the Expressionist-Deco character of setting and background details. For example, he often included somewhat sinister clumps of skewed, gabled houses that remind one of the sets used in the 1920 German expressionist movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

    Polly was one of the first of the young women comic strips that thrived in the 1920s and later, but it seems that her father eventually became the lead character even thought the strip's title remained unchanged. Below are examples of Sterrett's work. Click to enlarge.


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    Moïse (Mojżesz) Kisling (1891-1953) was born in Kraków, Austro-Hungarian Empire, but moved to France in 1910 and remained there for the rest of his life aside from a period of time in the U.S.A. around the time of World War 2. Kisling because a French citizen due to his serving in the Foreign Legion during the Great War and being wounded. These and other facts can be found in this fairly brief Wikipedia entry.

    Although Kisling maintained a base in Paris, he spent much of his time in the Riviera. He was sociable, with many friends in the School of Paris collection of artists as well as other modernists. His sociability was perhaps outshone by his wife, Renée (1896-1960), daughter of career cavalry officer Jules-Chalres-Émile Gros. She was not pretty by most standards, but compensated via her personality.

    As for his art, Kisling didn't exactly plunge into modernism. Instead, his paintings depicted real people and objects, but in the simplified yet rounded, solid style that was widely used during the 1920s and 30s. To that degree, Kisling was comparatively conservative. Moreover, his style did not evolve much during those years, finally changing a little by the 1940s as can be seen below.


    Portrait of André Salmon - 1912

    Paysage de Provence - c.1919

    Kiki de Montparnasse - 1925

    Renée Kisling - 1928

    Nu alongée sur l'herbe - c.1930

    Portrait of a Young Woman

    Self-Portrait - 1937

    Nu assis - 1942

    Sylvia Mann - 1943

    Photo of Kisling with model - c.1935

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    I surely saw some paintings by Franciszek Żmurko (1859-1910) several years ago when visiting the National Gallery in Warsaw. But with so many unfamiliar names of painters to assimilate, it was difficult for me to keep track of the interesting ones. Yes, I must have taken some notes on my gallery map, but that was tossed aside a long time ago.

    That means Żmurko is known to me mostly by images found on the Internet. There is a fairly large number of those, which makes it surprising that there is so little in the way of biographical information about the man. His Wikipedia entry in English is here. It's skimpy, but the entry in Polish is almost as brief. Nothing is mentioned in English about his personal life or why he died at the comparatively young age of 51.

    Żmurko was born in the Russian Empire and spent much of his career there, mostly in Warsaw. But he was trained largely in the Austrian Empire (Kraków and Vienna) and in Munich. The result was an ability to paint in the "finished" academic style, though he also did more freely painted works. He was prolific, and most of the images found on the Web are of attractive women. I find the paintings and their subjects impressive.


    Self-Portrait - 1895

    Zuzanna i starcy (Susanna and the Elders) - 1879
    One of Żmurko's early (and apparently unfinished) paintings. If the date is correct, he showed plenty of potential at age 20.

    Z rozhazu padyszacha (At Padishah's Order) - 1881
    He included some Orientalist subjects, popular during the late 19th century.

    Widzenie Fausta (Faust's Dream)
    I wonder if the actual painting is as spectacular as this small image found on the Web.

    In Delightful Dream

    Kobieta z wachlarzem
    Notes about this painting in my National Gallery guide suggest that the subject was someone he encountered while visiting Florence.

    Portret kobiety z Wachlarzem i papieros
    If this digital image is any guide, the original painting has a nice mix of detailed and free brushwork.

    Seated woman
    Another seemingly unfinished painting -- parts are sketchy and it is unsigned. From its looks, it might be a late painting.

    Girl wearing brown hat

    Polackt kobiety - 1910
    This was painted the year he died. The subject appears to be the same as in the image immediately above it.

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    I could find next to nothing about Donald Masefield Easton (1896-1956) on the first few pages of a Google search, and almost no examples of his work.

    The only reason I made the search and decided to write this post was because I finally discovered who illustrated one of my favorite vintage Hawaii tourist posters, the one you see above (slightly cropped from a photo I took). One of these posters was displayed in Honolulu's Royal Hawaiian Hotel along with a small plaque noting the artist's name. I had seen the poster elsewhere over the years, but without any indication of who did it.

    As for the poster itself, I like it because of its early 1930s view of Waikiki when the only major buildings were the Royal Hawaiian (left) and Moana (right) hotels, and because it features a whiff of those toned-down color schemes popular during the 1920s. Clearly a case of false-nostalgia on my part.

    Indian Smoke Signals - 1931
    Night on the Range - 1932
    Union Oil Company advertisement - 1950

    The examples shown here really aren't sufficient for a serious evaluation of Easton. Because they deal with the west (Union Oil was a West Coast firm), I'll assume for now that he was based in California, was able to make a living as a competent illustrator, but never made it to the New York - Chicago "big time" for illustrators of his generation.

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    "Mount Kilauea, The House of Everlasting Fire," painted in 1917 is the upper image above, depicting the most active of the volcanoes on the island of Hawaii. The lower image is a detail photo I took when I visited the Honolulu Museum of Art in December (my camera distorted the color for some reason, but observe the brushwork and drips).

    The main reason this painting caught my attention was that it was made by Ambrose Patterson (1877-1967), born in Australia to a well-connected family, art student in Paris in the early 1900s when Modernist "isms" were in full bloom, resident in Hawaii for several years, and eventually head of the art school at the University of Washington in Seattle. Biographical links are here and here.

    As it happened, in college I had a watercolor class by Patterson's wife, Viola. And on one occasion, with other Senior-year art students, visited their Modernist house in Seattle's upscale Laurelhurst neighborhood and met Patterson himself.

    But he was in his mid-80s while I was only 21 and grossly ignorant of things that I now know well. The fact is, I mentally dismissed him as an old geezer who it was nice to have met. Today, I would gladly schedule a whole day (or more!) with him and question him until I pumped his brain dry, getting first-hand information about art student life in Paris, the impact of Picasso, Matisse and the rest, what Nellie Melba the Australian opera singer was like, how he and other artists dealt with Modernism after the Great War (the subject of one of my e-books) and more, more, more.

    As an artist, I find Patterson competent and versatile, but too willing to explore trendy ideas. As a result, he never settled into a style that was truly his, the fate of many other artists of his generation and the next.


    Self-Portrait (La fenêtre de l'atelier) - c. 1902
    Cute idea, here. To the right is the artist in shadow, while at the center is a painting-within-a-painting showing Patterson's distinctive profile.

    La bar, St Jacques, Paris - c. 1904
    I like this riff on Manet's bar scene, especially the expressions on the bartender and barmaid.

    Young Woman in Garden
    No date for this, but probably done before 1910. Lots of impasto and bright colors, perhaps an early experiment in Modernism.

    Good Friday Procession, Madrid - 1906
    Here Patterson is in an Impressionist mood, sacrificing accurate drawing for color effects.

    Hollyhocks - 1908
    Two years later, he pulls back from Impressionism.

    Mural, Mount Vernon, Washington Post Office - 1938
    Even though Patterson was on the University of Washington faculty, he somehow got one of those make-work Depression era artist gigs from the government. For this mural, he had to be representational, though the style and feeling are typical of the time.

    Dancers - 1947
    A post-war work combining abstraction and representation. Other Seattle area artists such as Mark Tobey and Kenneth Callahan were also painting in this vein.

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    Henry Patrick Raleigh (1880-1944) was a successful, prolific illustrator in his heyday of the 1920s and early 30s, but committed suicide after illustration fashions changed and he failed to follow them. The image above is typical of the elegant lifestyle he portrayed in 1924. The latest issue (No. 43) of Illustration magazine features Raleigh in an article written by his grandson who is planning to sell his extensive collection of Raleigh's works (see announcement at his website). Other interesting information regarding Raleigh can be found here, here and here.

    Even though Raleigh would leave his drawing board for months at a time to travel the world, he could create illustrations in a matter of a few hours in many cases: he claimed to have produced thousands. He also did not make extensive use of models, basing his work on his knowledge of human anatomy along with a good memory for visual details.

    So it isn't surprising that he sometimes slipped up. I noticed a couple of cases in the Illustration article where women were shown at angles that in real life would have them toppling to the floor. (When standing erect, the center of a person's head should not be outside the zone covered by his feet.) I really like Raleigh's work, but it's still somehow comforting to know that it wasn't always perfect.

    The most obvious instance is the lady at the right.

    A borderline case here, but I vote that the gal in riding togs ought to be falling backwards. And the helmeted man in the center might fall to his left.

    The girl in front of the large man is also in an unstable pose, since she doesn't seem to be leaning against him.  (One can argue, but I judge that she is standing slightly in front of him: note the position of her left arm relative to his chest and the way his body is turned.)

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