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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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  • 05/17/18--01:00: Max Slevogt, Secessionist
  • Max Slevogt (1868-1932) is categorized as an Impressionist, but also did some Symbolist subject paintings and other kinds of works including illustration. He became associated with the Berlin Secession, according to his Wikipedia entry. Another source filled with a confusing mix of facts, and dates is here.

    These and other sources state or imply that Slevogt was a very important German painter. That is probably so, though I can't work up much enthusiasm for his manner of sketchy brushwork and therefore don't regard him highly.

    Your taste may well vary, so here are images of some of his paintings in approximately chronological order to ponder.


    Die blonde Theres - 1896

    Totentanz (Death Dance, or Dance with Death) - 1896
    The same model seems to be in both paintings.

    Autumn Evening Mood, Neukastel - 1897

    Feierstunde The Day's Work Done - 1900

    The Dancer Marietta di Rigardo - 1904
    Around this time, Slevogt's sketchy style kicks in more noticeably.

    Dame im weissen Reitkleid zu Pferde (Lady in White Riding Clothes on a Horse) - 1910
    This might be his wife, Antonie (Nini) Finkler.

    Spring in the Palatinate - 1910

    Anna Pavlova
    More than a sketch, less than a painting.

    Unter den Linden - 1913
    Berlin's main street shortly before the Great War.

    Portrait of Dancer Antonia Mercé, Called "La Argentina" - 1926

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    A hazard of travel is getting sick. In April I was flying from London to Seattle, all the while the man in the seat behind me was coughing. Of course, a few days later I came down with a horrific cold followed by a sinus infection. And then I was off to Germany to take a tour that filled in a few gaps from previous visits.

    All this is my sorry excuse for not researching something I had planned to do in Berlin, namely track down the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. It was the headquarters of Hermann Göring's Aviation Ministry and for some reason survived Allied bombings and Russian artillery during World War 2. That is, it's the only remaining major Nazi-era building in the city -- a real curiosity. (Background information can be found here.)

    I had a free day to rattle around Berlin, visiting places I'd seen before and looking for new buildings, stores and such things that comprise a thriving city. Towards the end of the day I suddenly remembered that it would be nice to track down the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. Except I didn't know where it was other than it probably would have been near the Wilhelm Strasse, the avenue where ministries had tended to be since the Kaiser's day.


    I thought this building might be it.  It's on Mohren Strasse just off Friedrich Strasse and a block east of Wilhelm Strasse. It does look the part, having that stripped-down classical style coupled with a kind of functionalism popular in many countries in the 1930s. But it wasn't the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, as I found out once I got home and could do some research. As I write this, I still don't know anything about it. It might be a Nazi-era structure, but in that case it should have been heavily damaged during the war. Perhaps it was a Communist-era building. If any reader knows what it is, let us know in a comment.

    As I discovered once I got home, this was the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. The view is of the end facing Leipziger Strasse near the corner of Wilhelm Strasse -- the rest of it takes up most of the rest of the block. As the link above states, during DDR days it was used by several ministries and nowadays is where Germany's Finance Ministry is housed. In the arcade behind the columns is a 18 meter mural on Meissen porcelain tiles created by Max Lingner in the early 1950s. It is a Socialist Realism work of the ilk found in Russia during Josef Stalin's days. Propaganda, in other words. Below are photos I took of it.

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    Austin Cooper (1890-1964) was a Canadian-born British poster artist who, before he died, must have discovered that an automobile (the Austin Mini Cooper) was his namesake. Kidding aside, Cooper was one of a group of illustrators who created travel posters using a similar technique for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), especially during the 1930s.

    His Wikipedia entry mentions that he moved across the Atlantic a few times but finally settled in England following his service in the Canadian army in the Great War. Besides creating posters, he managed a school of commercial art in the late 1930s, then abandoned illustration in the mid-1940s to pursue fine arts. Some of his abstract paintings are in the Tate collection.


    It's not clear to me what this poster was promoting, though the smokestacks are painted Canadian Pacific colors.

    One of a series with the same theme and style.

    Probably from the late 1920s.

    He did a few posters for Indian Railways.

    For a 1931 exhibit at the V&A.

    This, from 1932.

    This is a highly unusual style for a LNER poster. It was done around the mid-1930s, judging by the woman's clothing.

    Abstraction 200/62 - 1957-1962

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    London's Victoria & Albert Museum has an exhibit titled "Ocean Liners: Speed and Style" that will be going on into June. Here is the V&S's web page for it, though it might disappear once the exhibit closes.

    It's not a large exhibit, perhaps limited by the space available for such things, so I found it a bit over-priced at 18 pounds. But I found it enjoyable because the 1920s and 1930s have always fascinated me, and most of the items on display are from those times -- especially the 1930s.

    Below are some photos I took when I was there in April.


    Collection of 1930s ocean liner furniture and décor.
    Sadly, I neglected to take a documentation photo, so cannot tell you where the items originated.

    Decorative relief, perhaps from the Queen Mary
    Very Art Deco, and might have been from almost any new French, Italian or British liner, though the airplane looks like a British de Havilland Rapide (again, I failed to document the source).

    Study for Normandie interior

    Decorations from the Normandie

    Display evocative of mid-1930s fashions for passengers in First Class ship sections. In the background is a repeating sequence from a contemporary movie. I must confess this gives me a strong sense of false-nostalgia.

    Deck chair from unidentified (by me) ship

    Now comes the Big Surprise -- for me, anyway. It's the model of the 1932 streamlined ocean liner designed by Norman Bel Geddes.

    Establishment shot to provide sense of scale

    Front quarter view

    Rear quarter view

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  • 05/31/18--01:00: Details by Detaille
  • I wrote about French military artist Édouard Detaille -- Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille (1848-1912) -- here.

    A recent visit to the Musée de l'Armée in Paris brought me back in contact with a painting by him that the museum calls Remise de ses nouveaux drapeaux et étendards à l’Armée Française sur l’Hippodrome de Longchamp, le 14 Juillet 1880 (Web site citation here).

    It is a large-scale study for a painting titled La distribution des drapeaux à Longchamp par le président Jules Grévy le 14 Juillet 1880 (link here) that Detaille chose to destroy after it had been exhibited. Apparently it hadn't been well-received, and Detaille also was somewhat dissatisfied with it. Some segments were cut out and later displayed as standalone works.

    Readers interested in painters' techniques might wish to examine the photos I took of parts of the study version in the Musée de l'Armée. Detaille included an immense number of figures in the foreground and elsewhere, and readers can see how he indicated these. Click on my photos to considerably enlarge.


    Image of the painting from the Musée de l'Armée web site.

    Establishment photo I took showing the lighting conditions as my camera chose to depict them.

    Detail photo.

    Detail photo.

    Detail photo.

    Fragment of the finished painting.

    Fragment of the finished painting.

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    Fred Taylor (1875-1963) was one of the many talented artists who created art for British railway company travel posters.

    Biographical information on him is truly sketchy. A National Railway Museum publication in my library has the following:

    "Born in London, he studied at Goldsmith's College and worked at the Waring and Gillow Studio. In 1930 he was commissioned to design four ceiling paintings for the Underwriting Room at Lloyd's and murals for Reed's Lacquer Room. He worked in naval camouflage during the Second World War. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and other galleries in London, and worked for the Empire Marketing Board, LNER, London Transport and several shopping companies."

    And that's all I could find. The above blurb essentially deals with what he did starting at age 55.

    The images below are of some of the poster art he did for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) along with a few others in the 1920s and 1930s. Some of his 1930s work for LNER is similar in style to that of Tom Purvis, a more critically acclaimed poster artist who I wrote about here. Most of his poster illustrations are made in more traditional styles. Regardless, they are skillfully done. They were also popular with the general public, if the criterion is sales of posters. Moreover, Taylor was the best-paid LNER poster artist.


    Judging by the costumes, this was probably done in the early-to-mid 1920s.

    Even though I've sailed from there, I had't realized that once upon a time Harwich was a port for steamships going to Belgium, Germany, etc. Note some items projecting beyond the frame at the left.

    A Tom Purvis style poster. Perhaps the LNER at the time was interested in consistent images.

    Petergate, in York: Minster in the background.

    Historical scene: Captain Cook's departure in 1776.

    Two railroads cited here, so I'm not sure who commissioned this.

    It seems Taylor also did some work for the GWR.

    Subtle color scheme for a travel poster, but nice.

    A city close to York, and well worth a short visit.

    Evocative Piccadilly Circus illustration. This was done in 1925.

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    Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) famously painted Postimpressionist, often Symbolist scenes of Brittany and French Polynesia using exaggerated color schemes. It took him a while to reach his signature style, and this post provides some examples of his work leading up to that point.

    Wikipedia provides an lengthy (for them) entry dealing with Gauguin here. Included is information that he began painting about 1873, but didn't do it full-time until starting around 1882-83.

    Below are images of some paintings from his earliest artistic days to when his main style emerged.


    Clearing - 1873
    A dark scene reminding me of Barbizon School art.

    Cail Factories at the Quai of Grenelle - 1875
    This is sketchier, the colors are brighter yet limited.

    The Embroiderer (Mette Gauguin) - 1878
    Here we find Impressionist-style brushwork and perhaps coloring (though this is an interior scene, not outdoor countryside).

    Geese on the Farm - 1879
    Again, quasi-Impressionist.

    Pissarro's Garden, Pontoise - 1881
    Painted while they were still friends.

    Farm in Osney - 1883
    Here Gauguin is using somewhat stronger brushwork while maintining interest in color combinations.

    Mettte Gauguin in Evening Dress - 1884
    This setting is a rarity for Gauguin.

    Four Breton Women - 1886
    A subject theme while he was in Brittany, though here his style is close-to, but not quite Gauguin.

    Martinique Landscape - 1887
    Now he has been exposed to tropical colors -- an important factor of his later work.

    Then, in 1888, Gauguin painted pictures in a wide variety of styles including the cloisonnist, strongly colored theme he became noted for.

    Paintings from 1888

    Madeleine Bernard - 1888
    A nice portrait of artist Emile Bernard's sister.

    Breton Woman and Goose by Water - 1888
    An experiment using extremely bold colors.

    Cove Opposite Pont-Aven Harbor - 1888
    Here he drops back briefly towards Impressionism.

    The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) - 1888
    This is perhaps Gauguin's earliest famous painting.

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    During the 1920s and 1930s Britain had four major privately owned passenger railway systems that operated on a largely regional basis. That is, each had a core area that it essentially dominated, but also had tendrils that were in areas of others. So there was some direct competition, but that was generally minor aside from, for instance, the London Midland & Scottish Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway (the LNER) both serving Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    Besides the relatively minor case of overlapping destinations, the greatest competition seems to have involved attracting tourists and vacationers to places within core service areas. For example, the Great Western Railway would publicize Cornwall while the LNER would be touting Scarborough, leaving potential travelers to mull over which site to select.

    To keep advertising fresh from season to season and year to year, railroad companies often used different poster designers over time instead of sticking to one artist doing multiple works for the same destination (though that was done too). This rotation was the policy of LNER.

    As an example of this, below are LNER posters for the spa city of Harrogate in Yorkshire, not far west of York.


    By Frank Brangwyn.

    By Lilian Hocknell.

    By Austin Cooper.

    By Arthur C. Michael.

    By Fred Taylor.

    By Joseph Greenup.

    By Tom Purvis.

    By Frank Newbould.

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    I hadn't known of Jes Wilhelm Schlaikjer (1897–1982) until he was featured in Illustration Magazine a few months ago.

    For one thing, he wasn't included in my go-to reference book about illustrators, Walt Reed's The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000. Another reason I hadn't noticed him was that he seldom or never appeared in major magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post or Collier's nor in some other magazines that I sometimes saw when I was young.

    His Wikipedia is here. It states that he was "most known for his recruitment and war bonds posters during World War II." The Illustration Magazine article also deals with his pulp magazine cover art and illustrations he made for the American Legion's magazine.

    What struck me was how competent Schlaikjer was in depicting people. Most illustrators of his generation were competent at doing that, but he was at least half a notch above the average of the pack.

    Sadly, his career ended when in his early 60s he contracted Parkinson's Disease which afflicted him for the rest of his long life.

    The images below can be found in the Illustration Magazine article along with many more. You can probably still order that issue (No. 59).


    Story illustration - 1924
    This is in line with illustration fashions of the time.  Reminds me of Dean Cornwell's early 1920s work, though the Illustration article does not mention any direct connection between the two men.  However, they both had training at Chicago's Art Institute and the Art Students League.

    Black Mask magazine cover - February 1929
    Pulp magazine cover.

    Black Mask magazine cover - April 1932
    Another from a few years later, this in a style he mostly used for that magazine.  He signed his pulp work with the blob seen at the bottom of the image.  The Illustration article probably correctly speculates that his was done as a career-protection tactic -- so as not to be type-cast as a pulp illustrator.

    American Legion Magazine illustration - 1939
    Again Schlaikjer uses a vignette format.  But here his depiction is far more naturalistic.

    American Legion Magazine illustration - 1940
    I find this very nicely done -- especially the seated officer in the foreground.

    World War 2 poster
    This features the famous M-1 (Garand) rifle.  I was issued one in basic training and liked it better than the later M-14 I had when stationed in Korea.

    World War 2 poster
    Schlaikjer was a Great War Signal Corps guy, so probably put extra effort into this poster.

    Washington Star newspaper photo of Schlaikjer painting a portrait of Major General Anthony C. McAuliffe - 1950
    McAuliffe led the defenders of  Bastogne during the December 1944 Battle of the Bulge and famously told the Germans "Nuts!" when asked to surrender.  Note how well Schlaikjer captured McAuliffe.

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    The first, and perhaps the most famous, science-fiction comic strip was Buck Rogers which debuted in January 1929. Others of that genre followed, the best-known of these was Flash Gordon which featured the highest quality artwork of the lot, certainly in its earliest years when Alex Raymond wielded his pen and brush.

    The only other American sci-fi strip with top-notch artwork that I'm aware of off-hand was Twin Earths (1952-1963), created by publications maestro Oskar Lebeck (1903-1966), who did the writing in the early years and Alden McWilliams (1916-1993), who did the art. I will probably write more about McWilliams in another post, but shall focus on Twin Earths here.

    The concept of Twin Earths was that there existed a totally Earth-like planet that shared Earth's orbit but at exactly the opposite side -- 180 degrees away. This meant that, as of 1952 when the strip started, there was no way we on Earth could detect Terra, as it was called. Terrans were a few hundred years ahead of Earth technologically, so could visit here using their flying saucer spacecraft. Another quirk was that their population was 90 percent female. Yet another was that they had lifespans exceeding 150 years, yet preserved youthful appearances over most of that time.

    The opening few months of panels can be found here. A Terran female agent reveals her identity to an FBI agent, the male hero of the strip. Then things flow from there.

    The Seattle Times newspaper suffered a strike in 1953, and when it ended the paper published special sections displaying all the comics that would have been printed during the time of the strike. I recently made scans of these for Twin Earths, and two of these are displayed below. At this point in the strip's development, the plotting wasn't very interesting. Mostly it was presenting the futuristic marvels of Terra, contrasting them with 1953 Earth. There was a bit of romance-related activity, but no space wars or bug-eyed monsters.

    I'll comment further in the captions, but want to stress McWilliams' artwork. Grinding out comics panels day after day can make corner-cutting tempting. Yet McWilliams didn't seem to fall into that mode very often, maintaining a commendably even strain.

    Click on the images to enlarge.


    I don't think the dialog regarding electromagnetism set readers' hearts to beating faster. But Ah! the artwork. The compositional variety. The poses of the characters, the shifting points of view. And those seriously attractive women. McWilliams could do it all.

    This set deals with Terra's contact with a planet from another solar system.

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    William Strang (1959-1921) was a Scot who spent his career in London, first as an etcher and later as a painter of portraits, mostly. A useful summary of his career is here.

    His paintings were workmanlike, but skilled -- that is, not flashy like Sargent's. Nor were his subjects usualy major aristocrats, so far as I can tell. And he was little influenced by Modernism, though there are hints of that in some of the images below.


    Vita Sackville-West - 1918
    As her extensive Wikipedia entry mentions, she was indeed aristocratic. But she also had a literary life, as did other Strang portrait subjects. Modernist simplification can be seen in this painting, though Vita's face is accurately portrayed.

    John Masefield - 1912
    A more definite literary figure, Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate in 1930.

    Sir John Fisher
    "Jacky" Fisher was First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy. His major innovations included the creation of battleship Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun ship of its kind, along with the less-successful battlecruiser line.

    Not everyone Strang painted was famous.

    Italian Girl - 1915

    The Opera Cloak - 1912
    He also painted upper-middle class genre scenes. Some modernist simplification and flattening are found here, though there is no distortion of the subjects' proportions.

    The Love Letter - 1912
    A hugely popular topic for painters for many years.

    Bank Holiday - 1912
    These are occasional three-day weekends in the United Kingdom.

    Café Bar - 1910
    The man at the right resembles Strang as seen in several of his self-portraits.

    The Feather Fan - 1910
    No sign of modernist influence here.

    Thomas Hardy - 1920
    Hardy is another important literary subject: biography here. Note the modernist background -- possibly a real painting, but might have been a Strang invention. This is one of his last works.

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    Henry Taylor Lamb (1883-1960) had almost completed his medical training when he chucked it and took up art. As mentioned here, some of his art instruction was at William Orpen and Augustus John's Chelsea School of Art. Lamb became friends with John, but his first wife's liberated ways that paralleled John's made for complicated times before the Lambs separated.

    When the Great War started, Lamb hurriedly completed his medical training and became an army medical officer serving in most of the major fronts. Then he returned to art, eventually divorced, and then married the much younger Lady Pansy Pakenham (daughter of an earl) by whom they had three children. World War 2 found him as a war artist, though most of his paintings were portraits and scenes from training areas.

    Aside from military subjects, the bulk of Lamb's paintings seem to be portraits, some of persons involved in London's literary scene. However, this source said that his attitudes about the Bloomsbury Set were not positive.

    Lamb's painting style seldom reached very far into Modernism, though he did simplify on occasion and once in a while resorted to distortion. I might characterize it as 1930-vintage not-quite-traditional.


    Lytton Strachy - 1914
    An example of Lamb's use of distortion.

    Irish Troops in the Judaean Hills Surprised by a Turkish Bombardment - 1919
    Commissioned by the Imperial War Museum.

    Withy Beds, Herefordshire
    An example of Lamb's landscape painting.

    Darsie Japp and Family - 1927

    Evelyn Waugh - 1930
    The author. I am not sure about the color, as some Internet images differ considerably.

    The Artist's Wife - Lady Pansy Pakenham - 1933

    Anthony Powell - 1934
    The author.

    Neville Chamberlain - c. 1939
    When Chamberlain was Prime Minister.

    The Dispatch Rider - 1941
    Painted while a war artist.

    The Overhaul - 1941
    That's a Westland Lysander observation aircraft.

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    Otto Soglow (1900-1975) was a successful comic strip cartoonist. His Little King character first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1930 and became a Hearst Sunday strip in 1934. Thereafter, it ran for more than 40 years until Soglow died.

    His Wikipedia entry is here, but it's brief. A much more comprehensive survey of his career can be found here.

    Soglow received some of his art training from John Sloan who, among other things, was involved in leftist politics, and helped Soglow get some cartoons published in The Liberator. Soglow also contributed work to The New Masses.

    Around the same time he was contributing to The New Masses, Soglow began having cartoons published in The New Yorker, a brand-new magazine intended for sophisticates in that city and elsewhere. Also at this time his style was evolving from the Sloan-Masses-Ashcan style to highly simplified Moderne. His Little King retained that style over its 45-year overall existence.

    It was an interesting transformation Soglow made -- from socialist content to taking William Randolph Hearst's shilling and drawing a royal cartoon character.


    A New Masses cartoon from 1926. The caption is "Iss diss a system?"

    Poster for a 1932 New Masses ball. Its style is now Moderne, like his Little King cartoons.

    A color panel. The Little King was always dressed in red. His personality was such that he didn't take kinship seriously and always did playful things.

    His new royal portrait.

    More playfulness.

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    Gustave Moreau (1826-1878) was something of a Symbolist whose later painting style is a taste I can't seem to acquire. Your reactions to him might well differ.

    Background on him and his career is here.

    The Hammer Museum in the Westwood district of Los Angeles and affiliated with nearby UCLA holds one of his most important works,"Salome Dancing to Herod." This subject, and the closely related one of John the Baptist's head, have been grist for many artists over the centuries. It can be interesting to compare their interpretations, but for the purposes of this post, the focus is Moreau's version of the dance.

    The museum had an exhibit in 2012 related to the painting, and here is the Los Angeles Times' art critic's reaction to it.

    I visited the Hammer in 2010 and took a few photos of the painting.


    This is the museum's image of the painting, I think.

    Here is my establishment shot showing how my camera captured it given the lighting conditions at the time.

    Detail view showing the main characters. Salome's dance seems pretty static, according to Moreau. Click on the image to enlarge.

    Close-up of Salome. Her headdress is oddly shaped and makes her face seem somewhat flat. I'm no expert on ancient costumes, so I don't know whether or not this was Moreau's invention. Note that the woman to the other side of the king also has a high headdress.

    My photo was slightly out of focus, as often happens when in museums using automatic mode. I tried to sharpen things, but it's not worth enlarging this because it's still a bit blurred.

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    Alden McWilliams (1916-1993) was one of those comparatively rare comics artists of his generation who could draw people convincingly. I wrote about his work on the Twin Earths comic strip here. Some biographical information can be found here and here.

    One of McWilliams' projects was creating content for Tom Corbett, Space Cadet comic books. For detailed information about those comic books, click here.

    McWilliams did cover art for eleven of those comic books, but interior art for only the first three. Those were issued February, May and August of 1952, which suggests that he did his work from the late summer of 1951 into the winter of 1952 (considering production lead-times). His Twin Earths daily comic strip debuted 16 June 1952, so he probably began working on it no later than early April of that year. Therefore, if there was any overlap for those projects aside from creating covers, it was minimal, so McWilliams could maintain the high quality of his work.  A strong possibility is that he chose to drop doing Space Cadet interior content when he got the Twin Earths gig: otherwise, he might have contunued Space Cadet.

    Tom Corbett, Space Cadet started as a television show that began airing in 1950 and later bounced around several TV networks. This meant that the comic books had to portray the characters as personified by the show's actors. That is, McWilliams was doing portrait art as part of comic book art.

    Below are some scans I made of the second and third issues of the comic book. They include the cover, one interior colored page and one page without color (the latter was always on the inside cover). Click on the images to enlarge.


    Inside cover of the August 1952 issue. It shows the leading cast members of the TV show who McWilliams had to depict convincingly in the comic books to satisfy fans.

    Cover of the May 1952 issue.

    Color page from May 1952.

    Black & white page from May 1952.

    Cover of August 1952 issue.

    August 1952 color page.

    Black & white page, August 1952.

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    Stockton Mulford (1886-1960) lost his right eye in an accident when he was seven years old, yet became an illustrator. The best source of information regarding Mulford is David Saunders' Pulp Artists blog. It mentions that it took a while for him to work into becoming a full-time illustrator: he was active from around 1920 to 1946 when he was able to retire. During the Depression he seems to have mostly produced cover art for pulp magazines of various kinds.

    Examples of Mulford's art are below. They vary in quality, the pulp art being the lowest. Perhaps because the pay was poor he put less time into those pieces. Judging from the examples below, he seems to have done his best work during the mid-1920s.

    There is one outstanding illustration that he never came close to equaling, so far as I can tell at present. Sort of like the novelist who has only one great book. You'll find it at the bottom of the scroll.


    Delineator cover - July, 1924

    Argosy cover - 2 February 1924

    Interior story illustration, American Magazine - February 1928

    The plain area at the top suggests this is cover art for a magazine or perhaps a book (it provides room for a title, etc.).

    Liberty Magazine cover - 3 June 1933

    Black Mask cover - April 1937
    An example of Mulford's pulp magazine cover art.

    Adventure Magazine cover - May 1942
    Probably painted a couple months after the Pearl Harbor attack. At that time, the only major encounter between the American and Japanese armies was in the Philippines, on Bataan Peninsula.

    The Long Call - Everybody's Magazine cover art - April 1924
    This is a fine illustration. In my opinion, only the Delineator cover art and the American story illustration come close -- but not very close. I wonder why Mulford wasn't able to consistently do this well.

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    Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) was yet another artist who abandoned a professional career track (law, in his case) for art. He also left his native country (France) for another (England) where he became a noted book illustrator. His Wikipedia entry is here, but a much more useful source for art fans is this post by Jim Vadeboncoeur that offers insights regarding how changes in printing technology worked to Dulac's advantage.

    It seems that Dulac's book illustration heyday was between 1905 and the start of the Great War -- a relatively short span. His career continued with moderate success until his death.

    Those heyday illustrations were mostly for classical fantasies, often Orientalist subjects. They are charmingly done, though today's Politically Correct crowd would probably find their usual reasons to hate them.

    Take a look at some of them below, if you dare.


    Circe the Enchantress

    The Emperor's New Clothes

    From the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

    "Open, Sesame!"

    The Fisherman and the Genie

    Princess Scheherazade

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    As regular Art Contrarian readers probably sense, I am perhaps more interested than I should be with paintings made in the 1920s and 1930s.

    This post is yet another in that vein. But I can justify it! How? It happened that Jacob Alexander Elshin (1892-1976) lived only about two miles away when I was growing up, and down the street from where one of my high school buddies lived. So how can I not write this post?

    His Wikipedia entry is little more than a placeholder. There are a few other snippets about him on the Internet such as here, where it mentions that "Jacob Elshin was born in Russia in 1892 and received his education and art training there. He fled the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Following the Revolution, he went to Shanghai where he worked as a newspaper cartoonist for three years before moving to Seattle in 1923. From then on, Elshin maintained a long and active painting career in the Pacific Northwest and became one of the region's most noted painters and teachers. He had four solo exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum in 1934, 1943, 1956 and 1965."

    Wikipedia mentions that he was an officer in the Imperial army. So was his father, as is reported here that General Alexander Jacob Elshin (1865-1951) during the First World War commanded the XX Army Corps of the Russian Imperial Army. The link suggests Elshin was a 4-star general, but in Western armies, a corps commander would normally be a Lieutenant General (three stars in the US Army). Jacob was probably at most a captain, given his age. I also speculate that the Elshins' escape from Russia was later than 1917, given that the Bolshevik Revolution didn't happen until towards the end of that year. They probably went to eastern Siberia which was controlled by White Russian forces and then moved on to China around 1920, as many anti-Red Russians did when White resistance collapsed.

    Your Humble Blogger could probably clear up such matters by reading a 1965 transcript of an Elshin interview held by the Smithsonian. But that would involve obtaining a microfilm copy, and I'm not willing to go to that much trouble researching him. The transcript is said to deal with the following: "Elshin speaks of his background in Russia and China; moving to Seattle in 1923; his work as a free-lance commercial artist and working as a greeting card artist; painting for the Public Works of Art Project; working on murals for the WPA Federal Art Project; political problems with the WPA; the destruction of some of the work that was produced by the project; some of the injustices he suffered during his years with the WPA. He recalls Robert Bruce Inverarity, Edward Rowan and Mark Tobey."

    Below are examples of Elshin's paintings.


    General Alexander Elshin and Jacob Elshin

    Marusia - 1933
    Russian scene ... from memory? ... invented?

    Grand Coulee Dam Construction Triptych
    The huge dam being built in eastern Washington State in the late 1930s.

    Mural study for the University District Post Office, Seattle - 1939
    Located less than a block from the University of Washington campus, hence the subject matter.

    Alamo Mural study for Dallas Post Office competition - 1937
    Pretty static for what one would expect to be an action scene, which might have been why Elshin didn't win the competition.

    Sawmill on Puget Sound

    Smith Cove, Seattle
    During World War 2 and many years later this was a U.S. navy terminal. Now Smith Cove is a cruise ship port.

    Mt. Baker Beach, Seattle
    On Seattle's Lake Washington. Now the site for annual hydroplane races.

    Gates to Nowhere - 1948
    Postwar, Elshin must have decided to move from a conservative version of Social Realism to a more fashionable form of Modernism.

    Flight into Egypt - 1959
    More of the same a few years later.

    Based on the images above plus some that I didn't post, my conclusion is that Elshin never came close to creating a masterpiece. At best he was a journeyman painter who managed to make a living at his trade in difficult economic times.

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    A mental game I sometimes play is trying to guess how a highway interchange or building under construction will look when completed. Yes, in many cases I could get on the Internet to find out. But that would take the fun out of it.

    A recent example is the new Apple Store in Seattle's University Village shopping center. It's less than three miles from where I live and I visit the Village at least once a day to walk around and go to a Starbucks. So I watched the construction at every stage of development. Playing my little game, I had no clue as to what store or stores the building might contain.

    Construction lasted for about a year, the foundation work being done during Seattle's summer dry season. Such timing is almost always a good idea because building a foundation in mud and glop might lead to trouble. In Apple's case, foundation construction risks were heightened by the fact that 100 years earlier the site was on low-lying, possibly marshy land a few hundred feet from the shore of Lake Washington. In 1917 the ship canal system from the lake to Puget Sound was opened and water level of the lake dropped by around nine feet, putting the shopping center safely above lake level.

    The above-ground part of the building eventually appeared and it was evident that it was not coming close to occupying the entire site. This, and the large wall areas devoted to what might be windows, became the focus of my mental game. Would there be more than one shop there? What would happen if the tenant left and the structure had to be modified for a new one? -- it didn't look easy to modify. All this contradicted conventional design practices for open-air shopping centers, of which University Village is a highly successful example.

    Two or three days before the store opened it became evident that it would be a new Apple Store, replacing the existing one a few feet away. Then it all made sense. Apple stores have very high levels of sales income to square-footage of floor space, so there was no necessity for the building to fill out the entire site. Plus, given Apple's huge amount of liquid assets, the company is unlikely to abandon the store for a long time, so the matter of renovating it for a new tenant is unlikely to happen for many years.

    Some background regarding the new Apple Store is here. It mentions that there is a basement. The basement is used for storage of inventory. And it's in that zone of low, possibly somewhat formerly waterlogged land of a century and more ago. It hope the storage area is highly waterproofed.

    Now for the architecture: two iPhone photos I took on a Sunday morning before the store opened for the day. It seems that for the last few years Apple has been building some new stores using classical modernist style, though these store are not identical. This building sits on a platform of about the same extent as the overhanging roof. Although the overall design differs, its details gives me the feeling of Mies van der Rohe's famous 1929 Barcelona Pavilion.

    Here is a photo I took of part of the rebuilt pavilion in 2010. Note the thin, square, pillar, the platform, the overhanging roof, and the floor-to-ceiling windows. All are found on the Apple Store.

    The solid projection at the left in the Pavilion photo is echoed by the projecting slab with the Apple logo at the center of this photo.

    Very elegant.  Better yet, it is unlike the nearby connected-storefronts of the Village.  I am of the opinion that International Style architecture works well only when it is contrasted by its setting -- concentrations of International are visually lethal.

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    Cigarette makers haven't been allowed to advertise in publications or broadcast media in the United States for a long time now. Before that, cigarettes were heavily advertised and a number of well-known illustrators helped put food on their tables by working on those ads.

    The glory years for this lasted from the mid-1920s into the early 1930s. After that, though some cigarette advertising was illustrated, photography had largely taken over in an effort to have readers relate better to celebrity or glamorous smokers featured in those ads.

    Although some variation in taste was possible via blending tobaccos from different sources (Egypt, Turkey, the American South), cigarettes are to a considerable extent a commodity. Therefore, most advertising themes in those days featured distinguished, older, rich-appearing people and, more often, attractive, youthful smokers in sophisticated settings. Earlier ads often used illustrations of exotic scenes from tobacco growing countries, while later ads sometimes used photos or illustrations of supposed physicians stressing that cigarettes had health benefits. Still, lifestyle themes predominated until the end.

    Here are some cigarette ads from that era.


    These first two examples are unsigned, but clearly illustrated by J.C. Leyendecker.

    Art signed by Adolph Treidler.

    Army-Navy football game theme, signed by McClelland Barclay.

    By John La Gatta.

    This is unsigned. The lady is nicely done ... not so much the man, who seems a bit strange but supposedly sophisticated.

    Now for some early 1930s ads. This is by ace fashion illustrator Eric (Carl Erickson).

    Art by Howard Chandler Christy, another case of a nicely done woman and a strange man.

    By Bradshaw Crandell who specialized in depicting pretty faces.

    A wedding theme painted by Neysa McMein.

    Another illustration by John La Gatta. Note the theme. The slogan was repeated in a series of ads.

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    Otto Koloman Wagner (1841-1918) was one of the first architects to move away from Classicism towards Modernism. His mature style was something of a geometrical version of the Art Nouveau style or Jugendstil, as it was known in German speaking countries. A brief biography is here.

    One of his noteworthy creations was the 1899 Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station in Vienna -- the Stadtbahn being the municipal railway system.

    Ten years or so ago when I was visiting Vienna, I noticed a poster dealing with the Karlsplatz station building in a display window. I continued walking for a short distance, but then turned back to the shop because I felt I had to have that poster (and I almost never buy posters).

    I know nothing about the poster's origin. It incorporates elements of architectural presentations, but might possibly be a presentation in itself created by Wagner's firm.

    Here it is: click on the images to enlarge.


    A slightly cropped photo I took of my poster.

    I find these women charmingly depicted. Whoever drew them knew what he was doing artistically.  When I was taking first-year architectural design, most renderings on display showed people as blobs with legs.

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    Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) is widely regarded as one of Finland's most significant artists. I'd put her raw talent up there with that of Albert Edelfelt and Akseli Gallen-Kallela. She was a very good representational painter with a deft brushwork touch, but began to be seduced by Modernism about the time she turned 40. Thereafter, she painted some interesting works along with a number of second-rate derivative ones.

    Her background is a little too complicated for this blog post to present, so I encourage you to link to her Wikipedia entry, these comments dealing with a Frankfurt Kunsthalle exhibit, and this rather lengthy and detailed set of observations and biographical items by a Belgian art critic.

    The key point to bear in mind is that even though she lived to age 83, Schjerfbeck had poor health for most of her life. A childhood hip injury is mentioned, so perhaps she remained partly crippled. Also mentioned is chronic lack of energy that could have had a different cause.

    Below is a chronologically arranged selection of images of her work found here and there on the Internet.


    On the Jetty - 1879
    This is the earliest painting of hers that I could find, made when she was about 17.

    Wounded Warrior in the Snow - 1880

    Dancing Shoes - 1882
    One of her best-known paintings. It sold for £3,044,500 at a 2008 Sotheby's auction.

    Portrait of a Child - 1883
    Note the brushwork.

    Funeral in Brittany - 1884
    Schjerfbeck had some art training in Paris and, like a number of other painters, spent some time in Brittany.

    Death of Wilhelm von Schwerin - 1886
    Perhaps because this kind of thing was expected in those days, she painted a scene from history.

    The Seamstress - 1903
    During the 1890s Schjerfbeck taught at a Finnish art school and apparently painted little, if what can be found on the Internet is any clue. But here, in her early 40s, we find representation starting to edge away into Modernism.

    Costume Picture II (also known as Girl with Orange, The Baker's Daughter) - 1909
    By this point, her paintings are becoming more thinly painted and the subjects simplified. I wonder how much of this was modernist influence versus whether this was somewhat due to her limited energy level.

    Self-Portrait - 1915
    About age 53.

    Girl from Eydtkuhnen - 1927
    Cubist influence. She did many paintings of women featuring simplified faces similar to what you see here.

    Angel Fragment (after El Greco) - 1928
    A slight return to her representational roots: nicely done Modernism-lite.

    Brown Eyes - 1935-37
    Schjerfbeck was aware of art trends outside Finland, but avoided the fashionable Social Realism style during the 1920s and 30s.

    Friends - 1942
    Age 80, painting very thinly.

    Self-Portrait with Red Spot - 1944
    One of her last works.

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    This post is frustrating to write. That's because I want to make a point, but have nearly zero in the way of illustrations to support it.

    This has to do with the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. The famous one "mad" King Ludwig II caused to be built that's now a major tourist attraction. I visited it perhaps 20 years ago and finally got around to seeing it again in May, this time paying more attention to its murals.

    The place is filled with murals, most dealing with German legends that Richard Wagner (who Ludwig patronized) incorporated in his operas. A sense of this is conveyed here on the part of the Neuschwanstein Web site that presents a "tour" of the castle.

    My problem? It's that I noticed that one artist who seemed especially good at conveying facial expressions -- something akin to stage actors who act even with their eyes to convey something to the audience. But the castle tour rules strongly state that no photography is permitted, so I couldn't capture images of examples. Worse, the number of images of Neuschanstein murals on the Internet is small, so only one decent example turned up. All of this meaning that it's essentially impossible to convey to you what I found on my tour of the place.

    The artist who stagecraft I noticed is August Spieß (1841-1923), a Munich-based painter about whom little can be found other than this. Worse, there are almost no images of his work on the Web other than parts of some of his Neuschwanstein murals or possibly related work.

    So the point of this post is to alert readers planning to visit Neuschwanstein to keep their eyes peeled for murals by Spieß in various rooms (they aren't all in Ludwig's bedroom).


    Ludwig's bedroom where the murals deal with Tristan and Isolde.

    This is the only example I could find regarding stagecraft: note the woman at the left. The images below are also  dealing with Tristan and Isolde, but they lack that stagecraft. For some reason, Spieß portrayed Isolde as being rather bland, undramatic.

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    A while ago I wrote about the French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens and included some period images of the rue Mallet-Stevens in Paris'16e arrondissement, a private street containing Moderne residential buildings designed by him.

    I've been both aware and curious about it for many years, so when I visited Paris in April, I made a point to track it down and take a few photos to use for this blog. It's a bit off the beaten track, about a 5-10 minute walk through a nondescript apartment neighborhood from the nearest subway stop. It's also 90 years old, but in pretty good shape, as the photos indicate. When I took the photos I didn't have reference material handy, so they don't quite match the viewpoints of photos taken when the development was new.

    A much more detailed treatment of the rue is here. Besides period images, it has recent photos of the exteriors as well as some interior views.


    View of the street - c. 1927
    That's a Voisin automobile -- very modern in those days.

    Street view - April 2018
    I happened to take this photo from a similar spot.

    Rue Mallet Stevens veille de l'inauguration
    Before the formal opening. The building on the left is Mallet-Steven's.

    Hôtel Mallet-Stevens - April 2018

    Villa de Mme. Reifenberg - c. 1927

    Villa of Mme. Reifenberg - April 2018

    Atelier frères Joël et Jon Martel, Sculpteurs - c. 1927
    Workshop and residence of brothers who were sculptors.

    Atelier Martel - April 2018

    Hôtel Dreyfus - c. 1927

    Hôtel Dreyfus - April 2018

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    Several years ago I did a Molti Riratti post on Winston Churchill.

    One of the paintings was the one in the image above, a 1954 portrait by Graham Vivian Sutherland (1903-1980), his Wikipedia entry here. This portrait was noteworthy because Churchill and his wife hated it, and as explained here, Clementine had it destroyed after Winston's death. She did the right thing.

    Even though the painting is gone, traces of it remain in the form of sketches and studies Sutherland made. Some of these can be found by Googling. There is one study that can be viewed in person if you happen to be in London.

    Here is my photo of it taken at the National Portrait Gallery in April. Click to enlarge, and you might be able to read the plaque dealing with it. Better yet, you can find a larger image by linking here to the Portrait Gallery's page dealing with the painting. The caption material can be found by scrolling down.

    Although Sutherland seems to have been highly regarded in Britain in his day, his work is not to my taste. Images of many of his painting can be found on the Internet, but I include a few below so that you can get a sense of what he was doing during his career.


    Entrance to a Lane - 1939
    During the 1930s and 1940s he favored Surrealistic and semi-abstract styles.

    Crucifixion - 1946
    He made a number of Christian-themes paintings and created works for the Coventry Cathedral replacement.

    Somerset Maugham - 1949
    A portrait painted a few years before the Churchill project.  Also anti-flattering.

    Self-portrait - 1977
    Made when in his mid-70s.