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Articles on this Page
- 06/21/18--01:00: _William Strang's Pa...
- 06/25/18--01:00: _Henry Lamb: Painter...
- 06/28/18--01:00: _Otto Soglow: From T...
- 07/02/18--01:00: _Up Close: Moreau's ...
- 07/05/18--01:00: _Alden McWilliams' T...
- 07/12/18--01:00: _One-Eyed Stockton M...
- 07/16/18--01:00: _Edmund Dulac Book I...
- 07/19/18--01:00: _Jacob Elshin: From ...
- 07/23/18--01:00: _Example of New Appl...
- 07/26/18--01:00: _Late 1920s Early '3...
- 07/30/18--01:00: _Poster: Stadtbahnst...
- 08/02/18--01:00: _Helene Schjerfbeck:...
- 08/06/18--01:00: _Neuschwanstein Mura...
- 08/09/18--01:00: _The rue Mallet-Stev...
- 08/13/18--01:00: _A Graham Sutherland...
- 08/16/18--01:00: _Who Was Illustrator...
- 08/20/18--01:00: _Some Unfinished Tho...
- 08/23/18--01:00: _Illustrator John Cl...
- 08/27/18--01:00: _Carl von Piloty, an...
- 08/30/18--01:00: _Some London Archite...
- 09/03/18--01:00: _Great War Group Por...
- 09/06/18--01:00: _Adolphe Willette's ...
- 09/10/18--01:00: _Kolo Moser: Some Gr...
- 09/13/18--01:00: _Some of Degas' Unfi...
- 09/17/18--01:00: _Zack Mosley's Chara...
- 06/21/18--01:00: William Strang's Painting of People
- 06/25/18--01:00: Henry Lamb: Painter, Physician
- 06/28/18--01:00: Otto Soglow: From The New Masses to The Little King
- 07/02/18--01:00: Up Close: Moreau's "Salome Dancing before Herod"
- 07/05/18--01:00: Alden McWilliams' Tom Corbett, Space Cadet Comic Books
- 07/12/18--01:00: One-Eyed Stockton Mulford's One Really Fine Illustration
- 07/16/18--01:00: Edmund Dulac Book Illustrations
- 07/19/18--01:00: Jacob Elshin: From Czarist Army to Seattle Murals
- 07/23/18--01:00: Example of New Apple Store Architecture
- 07/26/18--01:00: Late 1920s Early '30s Cigarette Advertisement Illustration
- 07/30/18--01:00: Poster: Stadtbahnstation Karlsplatz, Vienna
- 08/02/18--01:00: Helene Schjerfbeck: From Skilled Realism To ...
- 08/06/18--01:00: Neuschwanstein Murals by August Spieß
- 08/09/18--01:00: The rue Mallet-Stevens Then and Now
- 08/13/18--01:00: A Graham Sutherland Churchill Portrait Survivor
- 08/16/18--01:00: Who Was Illustrator August Bleser, Jr.?
- 08/20/18--01:00: Some Unfinished Thomas Lawrence Portraits
- 08/23/18--01:00: Illustrator John Clymer Artifacts, Plus a Tom Lovell Bit
- 08/27/18--01:00: Carl von Piloty, an Accessible Pompier
- 08/30/18--01:00: Some London Architecture 1912 and Recent
- 09/03/18--01:00: Great War Group Portraits Displaying Commentary
- 09/06/18--01:00: Adolphe Willette's "Parce Domine"
- 09/10/18--01:00: Kolo Moser: Some Graphic Art
- 09/13/18--01:00: Some of Degas' Unfinished Paintings
- 09/17/18--01:00: Zack Mosley's Character-Driven Smilin' Jack Comic
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.
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.
A more definite literary figure, Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate in 1930.
"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.
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.
A hugely popular topic for painters for many years.
These are occasional three-day weekends in the United Kingdom.
The man at the right resembles Strang as seen in several of his self-portraits.
No sign of modernist influence here.
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.
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.
An example of Lamb's use of distortion.
Commissioned by the Imperial War Museum.
An example of Lamb's landscape painting.
The author. I am not sure about the color, as some Internet images differ considerably.
When Chamberlain was Prime Minister.
Painted while a war artist.
That's a Westland Lysander observation aircraft.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An example of Mulford's pulp magazine cover art.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Russian scene ... from memory? ... invented?
The huge dam being built in eastern Washington State in the late 1930s.
Located less than a block from the University of Washington campus, hence the subject matter.
Pretty static for what one would expect to be an action scene, which might have been why Elshin didn't win the competition.
During World War 2 and many years later this was a U.S. navy terminal. Now Smith Cove is a cruise ship port.
On Seattle's Lake Washington. Now the site for annual hydroplane races.
Postwar, Elshin must have decided to move from a conservative version of Social Realism to a more fashionable form of Modernism.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the earliest painting of hers that I could find, made when she was about 17.
One of her best-known paintings. It sold for £3,044,500 at a 2008 Sotheby's auction.
Note the brushwork.
Schjerfbeck had some art training in Paris and, like a number of other painters, spent some time in Brittany.
Perhaps because this kind of thing was expected in those days, she painted a scene from history.
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.
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.
About age 53.
Cubist influence. She did many paintings of women featuring simplified faces similar to what you see here.
A slight return to her representational roots: nicely done Modernism-lite.
Schjerfbeck was aware of art trends outside Finland, but avoided the fashionable Social Realism style during the 1920s and 30s.
Age 80, painting very thinly.
One of her last works.
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).
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.
That's a Voisin automobile -- very modern in those days.
I happened to take this photo from a similar spot.
Before the formal opening. The building on the left is Mallet-Steven's.
Workshop and residence of brothers who were sculptors.
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.
During the 1930s and 1940s he favored Surrealistic and semi-abstract styles.
He made a number of Christian-themes paintings and created works for the Coventry Cathedral replacement.
A portrait painted a few years before the Churchill project. Also anti-flattering.
Made when in his mid-70s.
August Bleser, Jr. (1898-1966) was an illustrator active during the 1920s and 30s and probably beyond, for whom I can find no biographical information on the Internet. Well, I dug five pages into Google and was seeing a lot of extraneous items, so the odds of hitting research paydirt were getting pretty slim. About all I could find were his birth and death years.
On the other hand, Google turned up quite a few examples of his work. Information as to where his illustrations were published was skimpy, but it seems to me that he appeared in magazines a notch down from the Saturday Evening Post -- the holy grail for illustrators in his time. That's because many of his works on the Web are in color, something third and lower tier publications could seldom afford aside from cover art.
I rate Blaser as being entirely competent in the context of 1920-1940 magazine illustration. But as I've mentioned at times, there was plenty of competition, including illustrators who were slightly better and had more recognizable (and therefore salable) styles.
Here are examples of his work.
Vignette style was popular then.
This looks like it was cropped from the original at the top, but perhaps not. The bottom is okay because his signature is visible.
In the background is New York City's George Washington Bridge that crosses the Hudson River. It's not clear if the restaurant in on the Manhattan side or the New Jersey side, though I'm inclined to guess the latter. Regardless, I doubt there was such a place when Blaser made this illustration around 1940: there are no restaurants in that setting nowadays, if Google maps offers any clue. But I confess it has been decades since I got to New York a lot, so I might be mistaken.
I last wrote about Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) here.
He was a prolific portrait painter, creating works both fine and mediocre, though most were competently done. Some were never completed, and a few of those are the subject of this post.
I find unfinished works interesting because they shed light on artists' techniques and general approach to the job. In Lawrences's case, he invariably completed the face first, along with enough background to put the colors in intended context. The remainder would be very roughly indicated.
One strongly recommended approach to painting is to work the entire canvas throughout the process. This indeed makes a lot of sense when painting landscapes or still-lifes. But a portrait painter needs to be sure the subject's face is captured to his (and probably his sitter's) satisfaction. So why waste time and paint working the whole canvas if it turns out that the face isn't done right? That seems to have been Lawrence's philosophy if the paintings shown below are any indication.
This can be seen in London's National Portrait Gallery.
Also in the National Portrait Gallery. Here Lawrence sketched in more non-facial detail than usual, perhaps due to the size and shape of the canvas. He probably wanted to make sure he got the overall composition right, something not needed on more tightly focused subjects.
Painted not long before Lawrences' death, so perhaps he didn't have the time or energy to complete it.
The same hold true for this portrait of the Duke of Wellington as Prime Minister. It is a recent acquisition by the National Portrait Gallery. The caption on the painting's plaque notes that Lady Jersey, who commissioned the portrait, refused to have a studio assistant complete it following Lawrences's death.
Recently I was on a get-out-of-town jaunt and found myself driving through Ellensburg, a college town in central Washington where I noticed signs directing folks to the Clymer Museum & Gallery. I was vaguely aware that there was such a museum, but hadn't bothered to track it down. Having some free time, I finally did so.
The focus is John Clymer (1907-1989), an Ellensburg native who had a successful career as an illustrator. I posted about him here, and his Wikipedia entry is here.
I snapped a number of pictures using my iPhone, and some of them are displayed below. Click on them to enlarge.
* * * * *
Below are texts providing interesting background information about Clymer and how he worked.
Carl Theodor von Piloty (1826-1886) was a leading Munich academic painter during the third quarter of the 19th century (Wikipedia entry here). That entry and Google prefer to spell his first name as Karl -- the typical German spelling. However, the German Wikipedia entry as well as plaques for his works displayed at Munich's Neue Pinakothek use the spelling seen in this post's lead sentence. Presumably that version was his preference.
The term "pompier" used in the title was a late-19th century term a derision applied to academic painting, as explained here. True, Piloty was that for most of his career, but I find his paintings generally less stilted than many others of that ilk.
Let's take a look:
Wallenstein was a leading general during the Thirty Years War (biographical information here). Eventually he was assassinated, the inspiration for this painting.
On display at the Neue Pinakothek.
Pompier subject matter -- a scene from the Crusades. Note the strong triangular composition.
A late painting. Here the composition is a wedge at the left pointing towards the sheet covering Alexander's body.
Background on the subject matter is here. This was painted when Piloty was probably at the height of his powers. His approach is something like that of a mural painter where an important objective is to fill the real estate with detail. In other words, it's not a painting to be grasped at a glance. The viewer is expected to scan it, seeking out and savoring various details the artist has provided. I must confess that, alas, my attention span is not geared for this.
interesting. In compensation, look at the expressions on the faces of the men at the right. Also, apologies for the usual poor-quality museum setting photography.
Some European cities have chosen to keep large Modern and Postmodern buildings separated from their core areas that contain premodern architecture. Examples that come to mind are Paris (to some extent), Vienna and Prague. Other cities allow large glass-and steel structures. Berlin, for instance, has its horrible Potsdamer Platz, while Frankfurt-am-Main has hosted skyscrapers for many years now. An important reason for Frankfurt's choice besides the factor of war damage to its previous architecture is because it is the financial center of continental Europe. Lots of floor space was needed, so building up made sense.
The same applies to London, another world-class financial center that's focused in the City. The City and the Canary Wharf area downstream in the old Docklands district are where London's flashy contemporary architecture is largely concentrated. Much of the rest of the central area has preserved its old character, thank Heaven.
Aside from Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Edwin Lutyens, I find it hard to quickly come up with names of outstanding British architects. I'm sure I could do a little research and identify a few more. Nevertheless, the country lacks a reputation for outstanding architectural design when compared to other places in Europe and the USA. Some of London's new buildings were designed by architects from other countries, but the results strike me as being generally second-rate even in the Postmodern context. Makes me wonder why this characteristic persists.
To illustrate this, below are photos of two government-related building completed around 1912 along with some views along the Thames River where construction a century later appeared.
Middlesex Guildhall, home of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. It is located across the street from Westminster Abbey. A nice touch is the contrast between the dense sculpting and nearby plain surfaces.
Admiralty Arch linking The Mall and Trafalgar Square. Ornamentation is much more dense than on the contemporaneous Middlesex Guildhall. It is unusual in that it combines the features of an arch (that is usefully placed) and an office/residential building (at one time the Admiralty's First Sea Lord resided here).
20 Fenchurch Street, popularly known as the Walkie-Talkie (named after a American World War 2 communication device).
The Shard, and it's the tallest building in London. The designer is the well-known Renzo Piano. No doubt, as witnessed by the seemingly inefficient floor space, the building was intended to make a statement. I think the current building-as-sculpture fashion is not a large improvement over the rectangular box style of 1950s-1960s New York City, but it's what those independent architectural minds see fit to design these days. I think the Shard's best feature is the treatment at its top where the machinery area is screened by latticework.
London's National Portrait Gallery has been using the centenary of the 1914-1918 Great War as a theme for presentations in some of its rooms. Among the paintings I saw there in April were three huge works commissioned by Sir Abraham Bailey who Wikipedia describes as a "South African diamond tycoon, politician, financier and cricketer."
These are group portraits of generals, admirals and statesmen. One is just simply that, so far as I can tell. But two of them seem to incorporate commentary, as I explain below in captions.
The images of entire paintings below are via the National Portrait Gallery, London. Click on images to enlarge.
Wikipedia identifies them here. Most of the most senior officers (French, Haig and Robertson) are placed slightly to the right of center, but as best I can tell, Sargent and perhaps Bailey had no particular point to make in the form of placement of the subjects.
Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope - 1921
This is not the case so far as admirals are concerned. At the far right is Sir John Jellicoe who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland, the most important naval battle of the war and then became First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy (the top position for a serving officer). So why is he pushed off the an extreme side of the canvas while his successor, David Beatty, is shown at the center, his admiral's sleeve stripes prominent? Because of Royal Navy and British government politics. Jutland, or a similar battle, was expected by many in government and in the population at large to be another Trafalgar, where the enemy fleet was to have been destroyed. As it happened, the battle was something of a standoff, where the Royal Navy sustained the greater losses while the German High Seas Fleet pretty much stayed in port for the rest of the war -- strategically defeated. Many blamed Jellicoe for the mixed outcome while Beatty, who made some questionable decisions during the battle, was regarded as a hero. Given existing Royal Navy doctrine and weather conditions when the battle was fought, Jellicoe might have done better, but didn't do badly (in my opinion). But Beatty prevailed in the battle post-mortems, and was First Sea Lord when the painting was made. I suspect Bailey desired Jellicoe's placement at the far edge and Beatty's at the center.
Guthrie was a "Glasgow Boy" near the end of his career when this painting was made. I wrote about him here. Depicted men are identified here. Interestingly, Prime Minister (1908-1916) H.H. Asquith is shown seated below the standing/gesturing Arthur Balfour, and Prime Minister (1916-1922) David Lloyd George is seated third from the left. One might think PMs would be more prominent. But the featured statesman is Winston Churchill, highlighted and facing the viewer. Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty (1911-1915), Minister of Munitions (1917-1919) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (treasury secretary) 1924-1929 -- essentially the time the painting was made. While he was an important statesman in those days, he was probably not the most important. Again, I think Bailly influenced how he was depicted.
This is a photo I took at the Portrait Gallery showing Guthrie's depiction of Churchill in greater detail. He is looking directly at the viewer, while the others are not, thus also attracting further attention to him. And as it turned out, he proved to be the most important one shown in light of future history.
If you happen to be interested in the Paris art scene from around, say, 1880 into the 1920s, a museum well worth a visit is the Musée de Montmartre. It's located on grounds containing a vineyard and the main building was once home to artists such as Raoul Dufy, Suzanne Valadon, and her son Maurice Utrillo.
Perhaps the best-known painting in its collection is the large canvas by Adolphe Léon Willette (1857-1926) titled in Latin "Parce Domine" (refering to the antiphon "Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo -- Spare, Lord, spare your people." It was first housed in Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat), a famous late 19th century cabaret. It depicts a fantasy Parisian bohemian scene.
I can't find a satisfactory overall image of it on the Internet, though there are some decent detail images. So I might as well add to that pile with some of my own photos taken in 2015 and earlier this year. That's because Parce Domine has a lot of content, much of it both charming and interesting. Click on images to enlarge.
Koloman Moser (1868-1918) was one of the key players in the Vienna Secession movement, active in a variety of media as I posted here. Biographical information can be found here and here.
He was very good at everything he did except, perhaps, painting. Below are examples of his graphic art -- posters, Ex Libris stickers, book covers and the like.
"Early Spring" poems by Rilke.
I enjoy posting about unfinished paintings because I am curious as to how various artists went about their work, and unfinished paintings reveal intermediate levels of that process. For more on this, here is an interesting link to Christie's.
This post's subject is Edgar Degas (1834-1917) who left many unfinished paintings. In some cases he signed them, perhaps signifying that he considered them complete enough to his satisfaction.
Examples are shown below. Interestingly, those I found on the Internet had women as subjects. But then, that is true of the majority of his paintings.
I found this in Munich's Neue Pinakothek, which prompted me to write this post. The image is very slightly cropped around the edges. The face seems to be completed. Note the two versions of her left arm and the muddled right hand. His signature is at the lower right.
Essentially monochrome aside for the foliage in the background. The subject's face isn't much more developed than the rest of the painting. Hands are roughly indicated. He signed this.
Not much more than a sketch, yet it has his signature.
Note his working out the room's perspective (it's not quite correct). Again the hands seem to be saved for later development.
Like most other portrait painters Degas chose to complete the face before expending time and materials on the rest.
If this is indeed a study (the title was as I found it on the Web), then it's not really an unfinished painting. I include it here to show Degas' brushwork and use of color.
This was painted later than the others and features his more familiar mature style. Interestingly, whereas it's largely "flat" Degas includes a table that provides as sense of depth by its shape and position.
In the 1930s most American adventure-type comic strips lacked illustrator-quality artwork. One example I used here was the Buck Rogers strip drawn by Dick Calkins. There were a few comic strips that featured convincing depictions -- especially those by Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon) and Hal Foster (Tarzan, and Prince Valiant).
So quality artwork was not necessary for popular appeal, as there were a number of strips in those days that were as successful as Raymond's and Foster's. Those other adventure strips tended to feature adequate depictions given the constraints of the size of panels as they appeared in print and the need to crank out artwork at a pace necessary for daily and sometimes daily-plus-Sunday publication. That is, corners had to be cut even though a successful strip allowed the main artist to hire one or more assistants to help out.
But the main reasons for an adventure strip's success were plotting and characters. Readers had to be pulled along by the action, anticipating each day what might happen next. And the characters had to be interesting enough that readers didn't lose interest in them.
An example of this was the long-lived (1933-1973) comic strip Smilin' Jack by Zack Mosley (1906-1993). A detailed appreciation worth reading is here.
Smilin' Jack was an adventure strip featuring airplanes, one of several in the 1930s and later. Mosley included drawings of planes as much as he could, placing a tiny one in the background if he couldn't find an excuse to make it more prominent. His drawings of people were marginal. They were simply done, useful for rapid production and appearance in comparatively small space on newspaper pages. But their anatomy -- especially for shapely women -- was distorted. In later decades he tended to make heads and faces too large compared to the rest of bodies. Perhaps that was due to shrinking publication size and a need to somehow compensate.
The strip had a limited set of consistently-appearing characters. This was true of most adventure comics. But the Smilin' Jack cast might have been a little smaller than average around the end of the '30s. Most prominent were Jack himself, a heavy Polynesian named Fat Stuff (or Fatstuff) and Downwind Jaxon, another pilot who often stole the show from Jack.
As the second link above describes it, Mosley wanted to add a character who was really handsome and more successful attracting women than Jack himself (some of the plots dealt more with love life than flying). But he couldn't draw a really handsome face to his satisfaction. So that character, Downwind, was always shown is a pose where his face was averted (usually) or hidden by an object or a speech balloon (sometimes).
(Aside for non-aviation buffs: the term "downwind" has highly negative implications for pilots. One should, if at all possible, never take off or land downwind -- with the wind blowing the same direction as the airplane. That's because airspeed (the speed at which the craft is encountering the air) is lower than its apparent ground speed. For example, a given plane's stalling speed is 100 miles per hour. If it is on final approach for a downwind landing traveling at 110 MPH ground speed but has a 20 MPH tailwind, its airspeed is only 90 MPH. That's below its stalling speed, so the airplane will crash rather than accomplish a normal landing.)
Below are some Smilin' Jack panels taken from the Internet. Click to enlarge.