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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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    Prudence Heward (1896-1947) suffered from ill health for much of her life and died aged 50. Biographical links are here and here. The first mentions that she came from a wealthy family and received art training in both her native Canada and Paris.

    Heward was of a generation of painters that interests me greatly because they completed training around the time that modernist painting was becoming respectable while at the same time having largely exhausted its ideological (anti-previous styles and subjects) possibilities. So there was no clear path for painters who saw themselves as being "creative," while other artists were forced to decide how much modernism they should incorporate in their work for marketing and prestige reasons. This is discussed in my book "Art Adrift."

    Below are some examples of Heward's work in chronological order followed by some commentary.


    Anna - 1927

    Girl on a Hill - 1929

    Rollande - 1929

    Farmhouse and Car - 1933

    Landscape - c.1935

    Girl in a Yellow Sweater - 1936

    Autumn Hills - c.1941

    Portrait of Mrs. Zimmerman - 1943

    Heward was appropriately conservative and Canadian in her time. The portraits made in the late 1920s are largely realistic while incorporating a dash of simplification and solidity fashionable in those days. The landscapes, done a few years later strike me as containing as dash of Group of Seven and Emily Carr, as might be expected for a painter active in the Canadian art scene. The 1936 painting of a girl in a landscape combines the characteristics of the previous images. The final painting shows a bit less simplification than her 1920s portraits and is in line with what some other artists were doing during the early 1940s. I have to rate Prudence Heward as a competent, derivative artist. But then, don't most of us fall into that category?

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    Aside from Lyonel Feininger, I find it hard to come up with the name of an important fine artist who drew comic strips. After all, comic strips are highly constrained in terms of technology, spatial requirements, marketing channel considerations and other factors that can lead to their being ignored by fine artists and even by illustrators.

    But lessons -- some, not many -- can be learned from comic strips. Consider value, the painting term referring to areas of light, dark, and intermediate shades on a painting. Value, in most cases, is the basis for an image's composition. Traditional art instruction sources suggest having one of a painting's preliminary studies deal with values, and a limited number (say, three or four) of them at that.

    Roy Crane (1901-1977) was an influential comic strip artist who, as his Wikipedia entry indicates, evolved his style to a point in the 1940s that he could make use of areas of solid black, white (the un-inked newsprint background) plus two shades of gray. Earlier, he used black, white and a single gray shade, the latter based on a uniform benday screen. He found three values to be too limiting for his taste, so later adopted Craftint. That provided two levels of shading -- the lighter one simply parallel lines and the darker one a crosshatch of other parallel lines set at a right angle to the former. This blog post deals with Craftint and its eventual demise, using Roy Crane as an example of how it was made to work.

    Artists wanting to sharpen their values awareness might consider the work of Crane and perhaps some other comic strip artists who made use of shading technology.

    The examples below are from Crane's Buz Sawyer strip. He liked cute puns for names of some of his main characters. For instance, Buz Sawer = "buz(z)saw" and Wash Tubbs = "washtub." Click on the images to enlarge.


    Buz Sawyer - December, 1944
    This strikes me as the best of the examples of Crane's Craftink work shown here. These are panels from successive daily strips. Not how he forces readers to rotate the page half a turn to display the Douglas SBD dive bombers at work.

    Buz Sawyer - November, 1949
    Buz Sawyer - January, 1950
    More daily strips from a few years later.

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    François Flameng (1856-1923) is probably best remembered -- if he's remembered at all outside France -- as a portrait artist. Maybe that is the problem. You see, Flameng was an almost exact contemporary of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), the foremost portraitist of his era, not to mention others in the portrait game at around the same time such as Anders Zorn (1860-1920), Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923), Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931), John Lavery (1856-1941) and even Phillip de Laszlo (1869-1937). So Flameng's space in the mental real estate of art historians is necessarily modest, given his competition.

    I find this unfortunate, because it seems that he was both good and versatile, as we shall see from the images below. Biographical information of a limited sort can be found in English here, and in French here.


    Zinaida Yusupova - 1894
    Portrait de Mme Meunier
    Queen Alexandra - 1908
    These three formal, commissioned portraits indicate what Flameng painted and suggest why he was hired to do so. One curiosity: Every subject is posed directly facing the artist and viewer. Makes one wonder how their noses were shaped.

    Portrait of a Young Woman
    This was either a modest commission or a painting made on the initiative of the artist. Yet another full-face view, this showing narrow-set eyes. Nevertheless, a pretty portrait of a believable lady.

    Ile Pointeaux
    Interesting sort of landscape here. It has something of the character of an illustration. That might be because Flameng actually was an illustrator as well as a fine-arts painter.

    Soldats anglais dans les vieux remparts de Péronne
    Spads [model XI] Patrolling - 1918
    La citadelle de Verdun: les casemates
    Speaking of illustration, above are some of many works by Flameng when he carried out his duties as a war artist during the Great War when he was about 60 years old.

    Portrait of Max Decugis (son-in-law of the artist)
    Probably a late work. No face-on view here, and plenty of the subject's character showing. Too bad more portraits aren't done in this sort of way.

    Riviera Promenade
    Another apparently late painting. Wish I was there (then or now!).

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    Nowadays, computer-generated images are used. But up into the 1980s, movie sets and settings were expanded to fill up the screen via paintings that sometimes were supplemented by scale models.

    The alternative would be to create expensive, full-scale sets such as the one shown above for the D.W. Griffith movie "Intolerance" from 1916. And for scenes in natural settings, the setting would have to be found, a production unit sent there and then might have to wait and wait for the correct atmospheric effect to appear. Better to build part of a set or film only a fragment of the countryside and then paint the rest. Much more convenient and usually far cheaper. As a result, most movie studios by the 1930s had teams of artists creating matte paintings. For a number of years use of matte painting was a kind of trade secret, studios fearing that audiences might feel cheated if they knew that many scenes were partly or even largely faked. Eventually, matte art became known and even honored at Oscar time.

    For me and many other observers, one of the very best matte painters was Albert Whitlock (1915-1999). Background information on him can be found here, here and here.

    Whitlock usually painted freely unless he was constrained by having to have his image merge with sound stage items with hard edges such as furniture, doorways, windows and other architectural or interior-decorative features. Another kind of constraint was that the painted part of the final image had to match the filmed part in terms of color, shadow angles and other details that, if not done with care, would reveal the painted part for what it was. Not the sort of thing most fine-art painters have to deal with. And by the way, some movies might require dozens of such paintings to be done under time constraints.

    For more about all this, I highly recommend this blog. The Whitlock images presented below were shamelessly lifted from various posts.  Click on them to enlarge.


    Day of the Locust - 1972
    Much matte work was to expand partially built sound stage interiors. This example shows the blacked-out area reserved for the action filming. This would be the part of the screen that attracted the audience's eyes, so the matte part didn't necessarily have to be crisply painted.

    Earthquake - 1974 - full painting
    Part of Los Angeles following a hugely destructive earthquake. Impossible to create as a movie set, and difficult and costly if model buildings were made.

    Earthquake - 1974 - detail from printed publication
    This shows Whitlock's free brushwork. It allowed him to create the painting more rapidly, yet the sketchiness wasn't detectable when seen in a theater.

    Frenzy - 1972
    This matte is of London's Covent Garden. Note the exaggerated perspective.

    Greystoke - The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes - 1983
    A good deal of matte work created atmospheric effects that could not be conveniently found when filming on location.

    Hindenburg - 1975 (detail)
    The airship Hindenburg was destroyed in 1937 and support facilities such as hangars are gone or have been changed since then -- so bring in Al Whitlock to create the scene.

    Tobruk - 1967
    Only the road and trucks are real in this composite.

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    I consider Andy Warhol (1928-1987) as something of a joke so far as being a Fine Arts practitioner is concerned. Like Picasso, his main talents were in sniffing out incipient changes in cultural trends and in self-promotion. As artists, I regard them as being average-professional in their abilities. (In part that's because I don't rank "creativity" as the most important consideration when evaluating art.)

    As for Warhol, back in the days before he made reproductions of photos of Marilyn, Liz and Elvis that now auction for millions of dollars, he actually drew. And he seems to have been fairly good at it.

    But those drawings were not Fine Art pieces. They were commercial art, what he studied in college (I did too). His work was good enough for him to survive in the highly competitive New York market -- no small achievement. Better yet for him, his sensitivity to the marketplace might have been a factor in taking up Fine Art just as the market for illustration was about to begin its 1960s decline.

    Here is some of Warhol's commercial work.


    Schiaparelli ad

    Record album cover - 1958
    This is in the stylistic spirit of late-1950s illustrators such as David Stone Martin, who I wrote about here and here.

    I. Miller ad - 1958

    Fashion accessories drawing - 1959

    Ad art - 1960

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    Fortunino Matania (1881-1963) was an illustrator whose technical prowess has recently gained some attention in the illustration corner of the Internet. His Wikipedia entry is here, and he is mentioned here in a Dan Dos Santos post on the Muddy Colors blog and here on James Gurney's blog.

    I strongly recommend that you read both the Dos Santos and Gurney posts which deal with Matania's extremely strong visual memory and his ability to compose an illustration on the fly, without preliminary studies. The Wikipedia biography offers background information about his career journey from Italy to France (briefly) and on to England, where he spent the rest of his life.


    Illustration for "A Princess of Mars"
    Southport poster
    First, some examples of his commercial work.

    "The Capture of the Sugar Refinery at Courcelette by the Canadians on September 15, 1916"
    Munitions factory scene
    The Last Message
    Matania seems to be best known as a war artist. He liked to paint pretty women, so the munitions factory scene is populated with them.

    London Omnibus
    This was probably painted only a few years after he moved to London in 1904. The omnibus route signs suggest that it went from the West End to northern boroughs, but here it is probably pictured near Piccadilly, to judge by the women's clothing.

    Southport Wintertime, poster
    I don't have a date for this poster, but one web site featuring it says circa 1933. There's a green car in the background with an early fastback body, so that inclines me to peg it more like 1935, but probably not much later. Note the Art Deco design on the front of the building. I seriously need to get my time machine fixed so that I can join that crowd.

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    What's going on here?

    I really wanted to feature a couple automotive cutaway illustrations by the great Yoshihiro Inomoto (b. 1932), but most of the best are under extremely heavy copyright protection for reasons I find hard to understand. Seems to me, providing plenty of web publicity for Inomoto's work would increase sales of printed images and therefore benefit the copyright holders, but whadda I know. At any rate, I think I'm safe from prison by displaying publicity materials for an Inomoto exhibition I found on a Russian web site (see above).

    Unfortunately, those materials really don't provide the full impact of an Inimoto illustration. So you need to link here for some fine (and copyright protected) images.

    The site also includes biographical information on Inomoto as well as some fascinating details regarding how he works. It seems that he begins by making freehand drawings and then refines these using traditional mechanical drawing tools such ellipse templates. An alternative he apparently rejected was to begin by constructing detailed three-view drawings and then projecting to a 3-D image using architectural perspective techniques, something aviation artists often do. Another interesting twist is that Inomoto actually distorts some of the objects in an image such as brakes or the motor to suit his emotional reaction to the vehicle he's illustrating. This sort of thing must be pretty subtle, because I never noticed it before.

    So this is about all I can do for now. Please visit the link. If what you see interests you, you can find images via a Google search.

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    It seems like I've recently been stumbling across quite a few works by artists who might be known in their home countries, yet were unknown to me (and probably many others) here in the States.

    So it is with today's subject, John Stanton Ward (1917-2007), an English portrait painter and, for a time, illustrator. Even though he was tight with the royal family, he was never knighted, so that might have helped reinforce his relative obscurity. And of course he wasn't a hardcore modernist or some species of postmodernist. In fact, he resigned from the Royal Academy in protest of the likes of Tracey Emin being featured in exhibitions at Burlington House.

    You can learn a fair amount of detail regarding Ward on his Wikipedia entry here, but perhaps even more via his obituaries in the Guardian and, as one might expect, the Telegraph.

    And yet. If Ward had no use for British postmodernism, his own work tended to be casual, though usually based on sound drawing. (However, aside from his deliberately sketchy paintings, Ward seems to have had trouble drawing subject's arms convincingly.) To some degree this was in the spirit of modernism, if only in the sense that conventions of academic painting were reacted against -- Ward's reaction being highly selective. Besides a casual style, he tended to paint thinly (obviously so when using watercolor, a favorite medium) while relying on linework to carry the image. Also of interest is his approach to composition, where elements strike me as being a bit "off" from conventional practice. All told, I find him a very interesting artist. Let's take a look:


    Ward painting Princess Anne - c.1988

    Portrait of Princess Anne

    Annabel's - 1985

    Positano - 1987


    Sir Thomas L.P. Norrington, President of Trinity College - 1967

    Sir John Ellis - 1982

    Sir Roger Bannister, Master, Pembroke College, Oxford - 1987

    The East Kent School - 1987

    Gillian - pastel - 1993

    Two Girls, Pictured Inside, with Grapevine - 1993

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    Vienna artist Carl Moll (1861-1945) committed suicide 13 April, along with members of his family, ten days before his 84th birthday, when the city was surrendered to Soviet forces in the waning days of World War 2.

    I could find no extensive biographical information on Moll on the first few pages of a Google search. But you can glimpse his career by linking here, here and here.

    As this Wikipedia entry indicates, the Vienna Secession was essentially a rejection of, or rebellion against, the academic traditions and organizations of the city. But it did not promulgate any particular replacement style: Secession artists were basically free to do what they wished.

    In Moll's case, this was to paint slightly simplified landscapes and townscapes, though his earlier paintings (and a fair number of Secession-era works) were traditional in style. He also seems to have followed his almost exact contemporary and fellow-Secessionist Gustav Klimt's landscape preference for square canvasses. Not having seen it in person, I'm not sure if I can call Moll's art great, but most of what I've found on the Web seems competently done and pleasing.


    Der Naschmarkt in Wien - 1894

    Mein Wohnzimmer (My Living Room) - 1903

    At the Sideboard - 1903

    View of Nussdorf and Heiligenstadt in Twillight - c.1905

    Winter Scene in Heiligenstadt - 1906

    View of Heiligenstadt

    Rain in Rapallo

    Tuscany Near Volterra - c.1931

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  • 01/29/14--01:00: The Mysterious Manuel Orazi
  • Manuel Orazi (1860-1934) was an Italian with a Spanish first name whose career was spent mostly in Paris doing Art Nouveau style illustration when he wasn't involved in depicting the occult. And that's pretty much all that is known about him.

    Actually, there is more. But as often seems to be the case, it is in bits and pieces scattered across the Internet. If, having seen the images below and you are curious about Orazi, link here, here, here, here and here.


    Sarah Bernhardt - c.1895

    Theatre de Loïe Fuller

    Job cigarette papers poster

    Poster for Boulevard de Clichy Hippodrome

    La Belle sans nom (The Pretty Girl Without a Name) - Le Figaro Illustré - January 1900

    Poster for La Maison Moderne (Modern Home) - 1902

    L'Atlantide poster - c.1920-21
    La reine Antinéa - L'Atlantide (Queen Antinéa) - 1920
    Le lieutenant de Saint-Avit et la mort - L'Alantide (Lieutenant Saint-Avit with Death) - c.1920-21
    These are related to the film L'Atlantide, which Orazi had a hand in besides poster work.

    Paris by Night - Dance Club in Montmartre
    A late work with no trace of Art Nouveau or the occult.

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    John Steuart Curry (1897-1946) is best known as a Regionalist or American Scene painter who, like fellow American Scene artist Thomas Hart Benton, enjoyed making turgid scenes featuring people in exaggerated poses.  Perhaps a bit more than Benton, Curry often placed lots of people on his canvasses and murals.  Both artists were most active during the 1920s and 30s when, as my e-book (shameless plug!) explains, the painting world was adrift, not really knowing how to deal with modernism.

    The Wikipedia entry for Curry is here, and a longer biographical sketch can be found here.

    Living on the West Coast, I don't get to see much of Curry's work which is mostly found in the Midwest or East Coast. Fortunately, the Huntington Library (links here and here) in San Marino, California (near Pasadena) has a nice 1929 Curry in its collection called "State Fair." Click on the images below to enlarge.


    Here is an image of the entire painting that I found on the Web. As you can see, it contains a cast of hundreds, if not thousands. The dominant colors are red and a complimentary blue-green; more on this below.

    I took this close-up photo and the one below when I visited the Huntington in November. Here you can see how Curry simplified most of the faces of his subjects. He also gave some a blue-green complexion while others have more normal pinkish skin. The most obvious examples here of the former are the boy just below the barker's hand and the gold-haired lady at the left with her back to us.

    The image of the entire painting reveals that the woman featured here was given a rather large (excessive?) pelvis area and legs. But the segment I photographed seems anatomically satisfactory. Note Curry's use of both reddish and greenish hues on the unclothed areas. I suspect that Curry found her the most interesting part of the painting to deal with because he seems to have spent the most thought and care here.

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    Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884) was short-lived, yet influential in his day and for a few years thereafter. Along with many other talented and inventive painters of the late nineteenth century, he was doomed to decades of obscurity because his style did not fit the revealed historical narrative of Modernism's march to the end-state of painting: abstraction as practiced in New York City in the 1950s.

    Bastien-Lepage's Wikipedia entry is here and examples of his work can be found via "Images" on Google or other search sites.

    Although he usually featured people as subject matter, he seems to have painted only a few formal portraits. The best-known of these is his Sarah Berhardt of 1879 (for more information on the actress click here). I stumbled across the painting not long ago while at San Francisco's Palace of the Legion of Honor to view an Anders Zorn exhibit that I posted about here. The Bernhardt is not in the museum's permanent collection, being on loan from the Anne and Gordon Getty collection.

    Guilty confession: I wrote a Molti Ritratti post on Sarah Berhardt portriats, but somehow failed to include Bastien-Lagage's version of her. I humbly attenpt to atone for this omission below.

    This is an image of the full painting that I found on the Internet. Below is a section of it it photographed at the museum.

    This isn't much of a close-up because the original painting is fairly small. But it offers better detail than the image of the entire painting. Click on this image to enlarge.

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    In a comment (by Hels) on the previous post (3 February 2014), it was asked if Bastien-Lepage painted the portrait of Sarah Bernhardt from life.

    Good question, because photography was in full flower by the end of the 1870s, and it might have been possible for him locate some reference photos and go from there.

    Fortunately, I happen to have this book by the Musée d'Orsay in my collection. On page 110, it is reported:

    Jules Bastien-Lapage éprova, durant ses séjours parisiens et londoniens, une réelle passion pour le théâtre. ....

    Ce fut le cas en juin 1879, lorsqu'il se trouva à Londres en même temps que la troupe de la Comédie Français, venue pour donner six semains de représentations. Bastien-Lepage recontra et fréquenta alors plusiers des membres de la troupe: Sophie Croizette, Jeanne Samary, ou Mounet-Sully, mais ce sont surtout ses liens avec Sarah Bernhardt, dont c'était la primiere tournée outre-Manche, qu'a retenu la postérité. Instalée à part du rest de la troupe, Sarah Berhardt logeait dans une maison au 77 Chester Square où elle reçut Bastien-Lepage. Nul doute qu'aparavant il avait visité l'exposition des oeuvres -- peintures et sculptures -- de l'actrice qui se tenait au même moment dans une galerie du 33 Piccadilly, et que tous deux évoquèrent à loisir leur untérêt commun pour le peinture et la sculpture.

    [As for the portrait of Bernhardt...] Cet hommage du peintre à la femme, actrice et sculpteur, a été peint durant les derniers mois de l’anée 1878 et au début de 1879. Ce fut d’alleurs un hommage à double sens puisque le modèle accepta de ne pas poser en costume du scène ni avec une de ses propres oeuvres, mais en tenue de ville et avec une statuette modelée par Bastien-Lepage … vers 1876. La tradition veut que les quarante-cinq séances de pose eurent lieu dans l’hôtel particulier de Sarah Berhardt, rue Fortuny, mais peut-être eurent-elles lieu aussi, quelquefois dans l’atelier de l’artiste, au 7 bis, impasse du Maine, où se trouvait le fragile modelage d'Orphée.

    Après quelques recherches graphiques et une esquisse très enlevée du seul portrait conservé à Stockholm, ... Bastien-Lepage opte pour une réresentation de profil, de type quattrocentesque "en medaille" (de "camée" diront certains commentateurs) sur un fond neutre, et vêt son modè d'une robe de soie à motifs. ....

    La réception du portrait à l'exposition [Salon des Champs-Élysées] fut presque unaniment favorable.

    It seems that Bastien-Lepage was a theater enthusiast, and Bernhardt liked painting and sculpture, so they hit it off well, the example referring to a time in June, 1879 when they both happened to be in London. But they must have become acquainted before that, because he began work on the portrait in 1878, the work continuing into 1879 with numerous sittings at her place and perhaps some at his. The article on the Bernhardt portrait also notes that copies were made by Bastien-Lepage.

    The book had images of three versions of the portrait. They are as follows:

    This is a study from 1878 now at the National Museum in Stockholm.

    The subject of this post.

    This extant copy/version (at a slightly smaller scale) by Bastien-Lepage is held by the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France.

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    A confession is in order. Back when I was in high school, I became fascinated with the 1920s along with cartoons by John Held, Jr. (1889-1958) that exemplified the Flaming Youth aspect of those times. I even used a variation of his style to decorate the high school yearbook for my Junior year. Now that I'm spilling the beans, I'll further confess that I am still fascinated with the Twenties (Thirties, too!) and Held's work.

    Held's Wikipedia entry is here, and another link that focuses more on his art is here.

    As best I can tell from casual observation, Held continues to be thought of as the master flapper era cartoonist, though I now consider his rival Russell Patterson (see link here and my post about him here) better in that vein. That said, let's view some of Held's work.


    The three images above indicate the range of Held's versatility. The New York cityscape watercolor is dated 1936, after his cartooning heyday. The engraving is one of a series of 1890s scenes published in the New Yorker magazine edited by Harold Ross, Held's high school classmate. I never liked these, but they were popular with Ross, at least. The Life cover at the bottom is atypical, but shows that Held could mimic (or satirize?) movie star magazine covers by the likes of Rolf Armstrong.

    Now to Held's cartooning that brought him fame. This is from a Life magazine cover depicting a young woman getting her tresses trimmed, completing her transition to Roaring Twenties flapperdom.

    Many of Held's cartoons were done using thin lines mixed with areas of black and (occasionally) patterns. Women were invariably slender and usually had the same sort of face. Men were usually depicted with large, rounded heads.

    Readers familiar with American or Canadian football should be able to grasp Held's joke here. For the rest of you, the best I can say is that "Hold 'em!" is what football fans sometimes call out when the opposing team is advancing towards the goal line.

    More examples of Held's spare, somewhat Art Deco-like cartoon style.

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    A while ago I wrote about how Henry Raeburn (1756-1823), one of my favorite portrait artists, tended to emphasize his subjects' crisp, white collars while usually leaving faces (normally the focus area) somewhat blurred.

    And it's true that men's dress shirt collars of the early nineteenth century were white and very crisp, creating a sharp line at their edges that was sharper than adjoining facial features. Coat and jacket collars also yielded sharp edges. So Raeburn had some reason for his practice. Yet I think he often took the facial blurring a bit far from reality. No doubt he was striving for an effect that pleased him -- and perhaps his sitters, who often were older gentlemen with the usual wrinkles and complexion defects that age brings on.

    A fairly extreme example of this is his portrait of James Watt from 1815. I included it in the post linked above. No long ago I revisited the Huntington Library in Marina, California (near Pasadena and the Caltech campus) and took more photos of the painting that I present below to further illustrate my point regarding Raeburn.

    Here is a general view of the painting as it appeared when I visited the Huntington in November. The crisp collar area and contrasting facial details are obvious.

    This is a close-up of the face. I included a bit of the frame when I snapped it to ensure that the camera's automatic focus would not get confused by the lack of sharp details on Watt's face. Note that Raeburn did include some sharp detailing for the eyes, leaving the rest of the face blurred.  So while he blurred the face, he did take care have the center of interest in sharp focus.

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    Rico Tomaso (1898-1985) was active when mass-circulation "glossy" (referring to printing stock) magazines were riding high and illustration was still king. Maybe that has to do with why he is nearly unknown today. There were plenty of illustrators at work then including many of the best ever, and while Tomaso was very good, he wasn't quite top-tier. Or perhaps his luck wasn't quite as good as some more famous illustrators who weren't as talented (I could name names, but leave that as an exercise for you readers for now).

    A side-effect is that there is little biographical information available on the Internet regarding Tomaso. His Wikipedia entry relies heavily on a tiny entry in one of Walt Reed's books on illustrators. It mentions that Tomaso was a teacher as well as an active illustrator, and that he also did fine art painting.

    Therefore, all I can do for now is present for your evaluation some images of his that I could find on the Internet.


    An Introduction

    Flamenco dancer

    Man wearing pith helmet

    Men's hat industry advertisement - 1952

    Indian Wedding
    This was one of a series depicting weddings in different parts of the world.

    Star Light, Star Bright
    Successful illustrators often had to change their style to keep up with fashions in the field. This 1940s vintage illustration reminds me of Harry Anderson's work at that time.  I like the colors and brushwork.

    Center of Attention - 1934
    Very nice early-1930s upper-crust atmosphere here. Yes, there was a Depression going on, but Hollywood, Broadway and the slick magazines didn't lose their audience when they ignored it.

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    Downton Abbey has been the hot television show for several seasons now, an addiction for many people, including my wife. I have never watched it, and lack motivation to do so.

    But I keep my eyes peeled, as a blogger should.

    For example, I've been noticing this book (described here in the Daily Mail). Actually, what I really notice is the portrait on the cover. A little Googling revealed that the painter was Lt. Col. Simon Edmund Vincent Paul Elwes (1902-1975). A usefully long Wikipedia entry about him is here.

    Elwes is yet another of those born-in-the-twentieth-century British painters I was ignorant of. From the Wikipedia entry, he was well regarded in many of the right circles. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke that nearly killed him and resulted in permanent inability to use his right hand. But he fought back, eventually learning to paint left-handed. This needs to be kept in mind when assessing his work.


    Catherine, Lady Carnarvon - 1920s
    This is the source painting for the book cover image. As usual, images from the Internet (and in print) are inconsistent as to color; I'm guessing that the book cover colors are true. The painting as a whole doesn't impress me (the background that, combined with the dress, yields a huge, nearly uniform, boring mass). What I like very much is the treatment of the face.

    Elizabeth Smiley - c. 1930

    Katherine Hariot Kinloch - 1939

    Valerie Albu - 1950
    Painted using his left hand following the 1945 stroke.

    John Munro Kerr - 1954

    The Field Marshal, Earl Wavell - 1959

    Setting aside the post-1945 paintings, I have to say that Elwes' portraits do not impress me. They tend to be too artificial looking with some not very well drawn details. Except for the one on the book cover: love the face.

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    Joshua Reynolds dominated the English portrait painting scene in the 18th century, with Thomas Gainsborough as his most serious rival. That's my 21st century impression, anyhow.

    But in those pre-photography days there was plenty of demand for portraits, and Reynolds and Gainsborough could not satisfy it by themselves. There were many other artists at work in that field, some competent, others not so much. One of the fairly competent ones was John Opie (1761-1807) who died young and was buried next to Reynolds in Westminster Abbey, a sign of the esteem he was held in his day.

    I sheepishly admit that I was ignorant of Opie until I noticed a portrait by him that was used as the cover illustration for a book published by Barnes & Noble. So I did a little research, turning up biographical information here and here. I also discovered plenty of images of his works on the Internet, a few of which are presented below.

    He tended to place his subjects against dark backgrounds, giving his portraits a dramatic quality that probably helped distract from the fact that his drawing was sometimes slightly flawed. That said, Opie was better than most of his competitors.


    Self-Portrait - 1785

    Self-Portrait - 1805

    The Murder of Rizzio - 1787

    A Country Girl

    Mary Wollstonecraft - c.1797

    Elizabeth Searle as Miranda

    Portrait of a Young Man

    Amelia Opie - 1798

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  • 02/19/14--01:00: Frank Wootton's Poster Art
  • Frank Wootton (1911-1998) is best known for his aircraft and automobile paintings and illustrations, but he also painted landscapes and illustrated travel posters, among other projects. The main biographical information I found on the Web was this obituary from the Independent that incorrectly has his birth year as 1914.

    Wootton's poster work was done in a nice, clear style that nevertheless included plenty of detail to add visual interest.  His posters for air travel tend to have compositions where the main subject matter is curiously peripheral. Well, maybe not so curious after all, because a tiny image of an airliner can be found in those big, otherwise blank skies.


    Wootton did a few posters for Britain's nationalized railway system after World War 2.

    This is his painting for a poster titled "By Rail to Wales."

    Below are some posters illustrated for BOAC, Britain's main international airline of the 1950s.

    The poster immediately above is a personal favorite because I've always liked the way Wootton handled highlights on his automobile illustrations. The scene itself seems to be imaginary, an evocation of New York-ness from a foreign perspective. The cars are also imaginary, but suggestive of General Motors styling from around 1950. Wootton chose to portray American cars as being lower than they actually were in those days.

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    As of the time I'm drafting this post, Roy Doty (1922 - ) is still alive and presumably making cartoons and illustrations, something he has been doing at a top professional level since the late 1940s. Information about him can be found here, here, here and here.

    The classic Doty style involves clean, thin lines punctuated by solid areas of black and/or other colors. Sometimes compositions are simple, yet others can be complicated crowd scenes.

    I find it interesting that illustrators who cartoon seem to have career staying-power, especially if they have a distinctive style popular with viewers. This is compared to illustrators in general, who can become victims of their signature style when it goes out of fashion or else are forced to change styles to keep commissions coming.

    Here is a Doty sampling.

    Promotional ad for Life Magazine - 1953

    Autobiography - click to enlarge

    Wordless Workshop - a comics series

    In House Beautiful - 1949

    Apparently from an Art Directors Club of New York annual

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