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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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    Bernhard Wilhelm "Bernd" Reuters (1901-1958) is best known for his illustrations in Volkswagen brochures of the 1950s, the subject of this post. There seems to be little biographical information about him on the Internet, though here is his German Wikipedia entry.

    Reuters, a year or so too young to serve in the Great War, began to hit his professional stride during the Weimar years with his clean, somewhat Art Deco style illustrations for various products. His reputation was sealed as a depicter of automobiles, working for many car makers. This seems unusual, given that to some degree brand imaging might become somewhat blurred with different brands using the same artist with his distinctive (though popular) style. Apparently Weimar German marketing worked a bit differently than here in the States.

    Following World War 2 and the rise of Volkswagen in the late 1940s, Reuters began a five or six year run of producing striking, distinctive brochure images for the firm, some of which continued to be used following his death from a heart attack. Had he lived, it is likely that his VW career phase would have wound down during the 1960s as advertising illustration was replaced by photography.

    The images below come from various sources including some scans I made from VW brochures in my collection. Click on them to enlarge.


    Graham, an American car maker, used Reuters to promote that it would have a stand at a German car show: 1931.

    This 1937 illustration for Adler has the same spirit as his later VW work.

    A 1938 illustration for Opel, General Motors' German brand.

    Volkswagen brochure cover from the 1950s. Below are scans from various VW brochures of mine.

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    Robert Mallet-Stevens (1886-1945) was born in Paris, but had strong Belgian roots. For instance, he was related to painter Alfred Stevens. This French Wikipedia entry on Mallet-Stevens has more detail than does the one in English, so I suggest you to have your computer translate it if your French is weak.

    Most of the important work by "Rob." -- as he was referred to in France -- was done roughly 1923-1932. Considering the novelty of what Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Phillip Johnson (in their book and Museum of Modern Art exhibit of 1932) named International Style, Mallet-Stevens was kept suprisingly busy with many commissions. Besides architecture, both residential and commercial, he did interior design and designed sets for a number of films.

    Although his architecture avoided explicitly decorative ornamentation (something verboten by modernists), his most important buildings exhibited a good deal of variation in forms of wings and other appendages. That makes them interesting and not as stark as some of the more pure examples of the style. Which is perhaps why the Wikipedia entry notes "L'apport de Mallet-Stevens n'a été pleinement apprécié que longtemps après sa mort. Même au-delà des années 1970, les historiens de l'architecture le considèrent comme un dandy ou un couturier."


    Villa Cavrois in Croix (1929-1932).

    Villa Cavrois, aerial view showing the park.

    Villa Cavrois and reflecting pool after restoration.

    Villa Noailles, Hyères on the Côte d'Azur (1923-27).

    Villa Noailles, jardin.

    Set for 1924 movie L'Inhumaine.

    Bally store, Paris - 1929.

    Hôtel et Casino La Pergola, Saint-jean de Luz - 1929.

    Rue Mallet-Stevens, early street view with Voisin automobile. This was a private street in the 16th Arrondissement, not far from the Musée Marmottan Monet.

    Villa frères Martel, rue Mallet-Stevens, 1927.

    Villa de Mme Reifenberg, rue Mallet-Stevens, ca. 1927. Villa Martel is at left.

    Tamara de Lempicka studio, 1929. Example of Mallet-Stevens' interior design.

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    Santiago Rusiñol i Prats (1861-1931) was a highly skilled Catalonian painter who had the advantage of coming from a wealthy family. His Wikipedia entry stresses his paintings of gardens and includes some images of those. Much more comprehensive is his Catalan entry (link to it from the English version) that goes into considerable detail on his literary and theatrical work. The English entry notes that he was influenced by Modernism and Symbolism, though the paintings below show little or no such influence: Rusiñol was fundamentally representational until fairly late in his career.

    Although trained in Spain, Rusiñol made sure to spend a few years in Paris for seasoning. Other Catalonian painters including Ramon Casas, Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa and Ignacio Zuloaga did the same in those days.

    Here are examples of Rusiñol's work.


    Carretera en otoño - 1888
    An autumn scene.

    Casa de penhores - 1889
    He did a few courtyard paintings as well.

    La cuisine du Moulin de la Galette
    Kitchen of the famous Montmartre night-spot.

    La morfinómona - 1894
    He had another painting of the same setting titled "Before the Morphine.".

    Miguel Utrillo - 1890-91
    Utrillo was probably the father of cityscape modernist Maurice Utrillo, whose mother most certainly was model and painter Suzanne Valadon.

    El Bohemi, Erik Satie al seu estudi - 1891
    That's Erik Satie the modernist composer.

    Romanza - 1894
    And here he is with Suzanne Valadon, with whom he had perhaps his only serious affair.  For some reason Rusiñol has Suzanne at the piano (so far as I know, she didn't play piano) and piano-playing Satie as the observer.

    Interior con Figura Femenina

    Patio de la Alberca, El Generalife Granada
    What it looks like without the usual mobs of tourists.

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  • 04/09/18--01:00: Binary Stoplights
  • The typical stoplight or traffic light or traffic signal (these are alternative names for the same thing) has three lenses of different color. The one at the top in a vertically-oriented unit shines red when lighted. Below that is an orange light, and the one at the bottom signals in green. For more information that you will likely want or need, link to this Wikipedia entry.

    But there was a time when stoplights were binary -- only red and green lenses were mounted. I remember seeing them here in Seattle when I was very young. Don't believe me? Then take a look at this:

    This fuzzy color photo taken in the summer of 1941 is of an intersection in downtown Seattle. Note the stoplight at the upper-left corner.

    It can be pretty hairy driving along when all of a sudden that green light switches to red when you're driving 25 miles per hour and are less than 100 feet from the intersection. You have no choice but to continue on through, hoping that cars getting the green light don't immediately enter the intersection. How it probably worked was that when the signal changed from red to green, drivers would hesitate stepping on the accelerator, realizing that cars could still be approaching on the cross-street.

    At the time I first became aware of stoplights, Seattle was transitioning from binary to the triple-lens variety, and binary lights were long gone by the time I learned to drive.

    All-in-all, this is an instance of human factors being neglected in design work: The problem should have been recognized much earlier.

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    One of the minor themes of this blog is my contempt for political art -- paintings or drawings manifestly espousing a political point of view. I contend that this subject matter degrades artistic quality most of the time (there might be a few exceptions, so I included the word "most" in this sentence).

    An example of this is the famous Mexican painter and muralist Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez (AKA Diego Rivera, 1886-1957). Some biographical information is here and more detail regarding his early career is here.

    Rivera came from a well-to-do family and was able to study art both in Mexico and in Spain. From Spain he went to Paris to joint the modernist art scene there. By the early 1920s his politics had solidified into Marxism. He was became a Communist Party member, but was cut loose because his sympathies were with Leon Trotsky rather than Stalin. However, he remained a strong "fellow traveler" for the rest of his life.

    Below are examples of Rivera's painting over his career. Some of the stylistic evolution was due to normal maturation -- sloughing off earlier styles for different ones. Also, his work was influenced by stylistic fashions of the inter-war years. Whereas he experimented with abstract art in Paris, by the time he returned to Mexico Rivera had settled into a slightly stylized form of representational art suited for his propaganda murals.

    For what it might be worth, I prefer the pre- Great War art to his later works.



    Vista de Toledo - 1912
    This is a nice painting: note the triangular element of the composition.

    The Adoration of the Virgin - 1913
    A touch of cubist faceting here on the figures, but it works well.

    The Mathematician - 1918
    The whiff of distortion adds interest to this portrait.

    Subterranean Forces - 1926-27
    Rivera had a good command of the human figure when he chose to use it. The pose of the central figure is unusual, but effectively done.

    Portrait of Natasha Zakólkowa Gelman - 1943
    Stylized, and very 1940s. A far cry from his paeans to the proletariat: Rivera must have been bought one way or another here.


    The Uprising - 1931
    A stereotypical propaganda scene.

    Night of the Rich - 1928
    The lower part would have made a nice 1928 Vanity Fair magazine cover illustration.

    Detroit Industry mural - north wall segment - Detroit Institute of Arts - 1933
    Little overt propaganda here, but this represents the mature Rivera style.

    Glorioso Victoria - 1954
    A late mural-on-canvas dripping with antiAmerican hostility and general ugliness typically found in political art.

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    Walter Gotschke (1912-2000) is considered by many automobile art fans as one of the very best in that field. Some background regarding him can be found here and here. I wrote about him here, but might have overstated things when I asserted that he was self-taught. Gotschke was trained in architecture, so must have received some basic training in drawing and watercolor (the latter commonly used for presentations in those days).

    His career until he went blind in his early 70s was as a commercial illustrator specializing in automotive subjects. Some of this was for advertising, other works were commissioned as editorial material for magazines. The latter were usually racing scenes created with pen, watercolor and gouache (as best I can tell), often done in an impressionistic, almost slapdash manner.

    Below are some examples that appeared in Automobile Quarterly, a horizontal format hardbound publication (Volume 15, No. 4, 1977). Gotschke's work was in conjunction with an article about the Adler, an automobile company based in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.

    Due to AQ'a horizontal format (chosen because cars are wider than they are tall, so are best presented that way) combined with my scanner's capabilities, most of the images below are either partial or fragmented. Much of this was because Gotschke's illustrations were splashed across the "gutter" over two facing pages.


    Eröffnung der Autobahn Frankfurt-Darmstadt (opening of the first Autobahn section), 1935. A lineup of Adlers is seen here.

    Right-hand segment of the same illustration showing Der Führer behind the Mercedes in the foreground.  The "gutter" line can be seen towards the left side of this scan.

    Start of the 1937 race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. The red cars are Alfa-Romeos, the ones in the foreground painted blue are Delages, and the two white cars are Adlers.

    Scene featuring an Adler at the 1937 race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

    Adler streamline rennwagen during a nighttime pit stop at 24 Heures du Mans, 1937. At the left is Mme Anne-Cécile Rose-Itier who co-drove an Adler Trumpf with Huschke von Hanstein, later Porsche's racing director.

    Right side of same illustration. Adler is the German word for eagle, and an eagle symbol is on the car's grille.

    Adler Trumpf 1.5-liter racing car of the type shown in the previous images. Note Gotschke's treatment of reflections on the shiny body of the car.

    1938 Adler 2.5-liter limousine. His handling of color and reflections is even more impressive in this illustration fragment.  Note how he combines cool blue-gray sky reflections with the warm brown/tan body color.

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    Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) permanently moved the the USA from his native Germany when he was in his early 50s and by the mid-1930s had established his own art school that was highly influential in terms of the mid-century New York milieu of modernist painting. The list of former students is impressive, as can be seen in his Wikipedia entry. Useful information regarding him can be found here, and a Web site devoted to Hofmann is here.

    Hofmann was a convinced modernist who stressed respecting the flat picture plane, among other articles of the modernist faith. His ideas regarding color might have been more useful for artists in general.

    Below are examples of Hofmann's work, mostly over the last 30 years of his long career. Details on the Internet are sketchy, but it seems he was in Paris when the Great War broke out and was unable to return to Germany. Being an enemy alien, it is likely his life was circumscribed in some way, but I have no information regarding that. What one of the above sources mentions is that his paintings in Germany were lost, so there is little to document his early career. Oddly, I could not find much from the post-war German period either.

    However, Hofmann was prolific, and there are paintings from the mid-1930s when he was doing his influential teaching that inspired many painters who became Abstract Expressionists in the 1940s and 1950s.


    Self-Portrait - 1902
    This is the only early Hofmann painting I found on the Internet.

    St. Tropez - 1928
    A drawing with a jumbled-up view of the Riviera port, part of which is indeed on a hill.

    Japanese Girl - 1935
    Now we are in the zone when he was teaching in New York City and Provincetown on Cape Cod.

    Lighthouse - 1936
    Cade Cod landscape of sorts.  Hofmann often painted fairly thinly: Was the price of paint a factor during the Great Depression years?

    Table with Teakettle, Green Vase and Red Flowers - 1936
    Hofmann is said to have been influenced by Matisse, and this painting tends to suggest just that.

    Untitled No. 30A - 1937
    Here is a work that is fully abstract with lots of brushstroke expression. I imagine that this would have influenced those who later became the Abstract Expressionist school in New York.

    Untitled (Provincetown) - 1941
    He did not totally abandon representation until a few years later.

    The Painter - 1941
    Again, vigorous brushwork, striking use of color and almost total abstraction.

    Untitled - 1949
    The New York school of Abstract Expressionism was well into its ascendency when Hofmann painted this vaguely cubist work.

    Deep within the Ravine - 1965
    One of his last paintings. Very strong colors and composition. I'm not a big fan of Modernism, but I like this one.

    The Castle - 1965
    During the 1960s Hofmann made a number of paintings that included rectangles. Perhaps he was interested in adding opposition to less-structured parts of these paintings.

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    The woman is the portrait detail above is Rebecca H. (Harbert?) Whelan (1877? - 1950?), about whom little seems to be known, if Googling the Internet is any indication. It seems that her father (can't get a Google hit on him, either) was a trustee of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where the painter, Thomas Pollock Anshutz (1851-1912) taught. Here is the entire painting:

    A Rose - 1907

    The painting can be seen at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the museum's Web page devoted to the painting is here.

    I wrote about Anshutz here, wondering if the woman who posed for "The Rose" was the same one depicted in "The Incense Burner." It turns out she was the same model. Moreover, Anshutz portrayed her more than twice.

    Below are paintings by Anshutz where Rebecca was either definitely the model or quite possibly was.


    The Incense Burner - c. 1905
    From about the same time as "The Rose."

    Tanagra - 1909
    This is the largest image I could find of this painting. Rebecca is known to be the model.

    Figure Piece - 1909
    I'm not sure if this is Rebecca. The complexion is too ruddy compared to other Anshutz depictions, but the hair, nose and eyebrows suggest it might be her.

    Portrait of Rebecca H. Whelan - c. 1910

    Woman Reading - c. 1910
    Another "maybe" portrait. This is the largest image I could locate while assembling this post: a larger one might offer a closer look at the nose which then could be compared to the profile in "Tanagra." The nose seems somewhat like Rebecca's and ditto the eyebrows and chin, though the position of the head makes comparisons difficult.

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  • 04/26/18--01:00: Max Ernst After Surrealism
  • Max Ernst (1891-1976), as this fairly lengthy Wikipedia entry mentions, was involved in the Dada and Surrealist movements.

    Despite -- or perhaps because -- Surrealism having entered middlebrow American culture by the early 1940s (several movies had Surrealist "dream sequences") avant-garde painters in the USA moved on to various kinds of abstract art after World War 2.

    So did Ernst, though his post-surrealist paintings are not as well known as his Dada and Surrealism. Some examples of his later paintings are below.


    Napoleon in the Wilderness - 1941
    An example of Ernst's Surrealism.

    A Sunny Afternoon - 1957

    Migration - 1963

    A Double Life - 1964

    Homage to Velazquez - 1965

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    André Derain (1880-1954) was a noted modernist who, like Picasso, changed styles at many points in his career. Unlike Picasso, perhaps because his paintings are less famous, Derain's paintings can be fairly hard to identify as being his. For example, I posted here about his landscapes, many of which bear little stylistic relationship to how he painted other subjects.

    Derain is best known for being a founder of Fauvism, along with Henri Matisse. He also was involved in the brief post- Great War return to classicalism by modernists, but beyond that point, he didn't involve himself with later movements such as Dada and Surrealism, and so far as I know never did abstract painting.

    For some information regarding his career, go here.

    Due the the lack of a strong Derain style, I cannot guarantee that all the paintings below are his or that they are correctly dated. I had to rely on captions for them found on the Web in a more naïve manner than I prefer.


    Pichet, verseuse tripode ou La chocolatière - 1899-1900
    A strongly painted still-life not far removed from some Hans Hofmann abstractions of 60 years later.

    Le bal Suresnes - 1903
    A fairly naturalistic scene with a few hints of Fauvist coloration.

    Henri Matisse - 1905
    Fauvist portrait of a fauvist.

    Charing Cross Bridge - 1906
    Fauvist cityscape. Parliament towers are the green stuff above the bridge.

    Still Life - 1910
    Assuming this is by Derain (no visible signature), this seems to be about as close to Cubism as he could manage.

    The Last Supper - 1911
    Hints of Cubist faceting here.

    Alice Derain - 1921
    A example of his postwar return to representational art, though there is a little modenrst-inspired simplification.

    Harlequin et Pierrot - 1924
    Probably Derain's best-known non-fauvist work. Distortion of some proportions and perspective.

    Mme van Leer - 1929
    Continuing towards 1930 with a few modernist whiffs.

    The Painter and his Family - 1939
    Flatness and simplification creep in here as well as in some other paintings from around this time.

    Vue de Donnemarie-en-Montois - c.1942
    But not in this landscape painted a few years later.

    Self-Portrait - 1953
    This is one of very few post- World War 2 Derain paintings I noticed on the Internet.

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    Christina's World - 1948

    Andrew Newell Wyeth (1917-2009), son of famed illustrator N.C. Wyeth, was a sickly lad who in 1951 had part of a lung removed, yet lived 91 years and attained fame perhaps surpassing that of his father. "Christina's World," shown above, is his most iconic work and resides in New York's Museum of Modern Art, of all places.

    Wyeth's Wikipedia entry is here, and an interesting timeline can be found on the Web site devoted to him.

    I'll probably get around to posting about the disdain his work provoked amongst modernist-oriented observers at some point. For now, let's focus on how quickly Wyeth evolved his signature style that, with some variation, he practiced for some 60 years. Because his work was so commercially successful and so far removed from trendy art movements of his time, he had no reason to follow that aspect of the art market.


    Spring Landscape at Kuerners - 1933
    The sky is slightly cropped in this image. It was painted in oils when Wyeth was about 16. He switched to watercolors and tempera not long after he made this.

    Lobsterman - 1937
    Wyeth was about 20 when this watercolor was painted.

    Frog Hunters - 1941
    He was still using bright colors at this point: that would soon change.

    Public Sale - 1942
    By about age 25 Wyeth was settling into colors and techniques that he would largely follow for the rest of his career.

    Winter fields - 1942

    Oil Lamp - 1944
    Another wartime painting. Wyeth's health made him unfit for military service.

    Wind from the Sea - 1947
    Painted when he was about 30.

    Trodden Weed - 1951
    Completed soon after his lung operation.

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    I posted a "Towards the End" topic dealing with Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and his post-1950 paintings here. I concluded: "To my eye, there was no real stylistic progression or sense of direction over the 20 years [ca. 1950-1970] covered by the example images.... This ties into the thesis of my e-book "Art Adrift" that once the elements of modernist painting had been established by around 1920, aspiring modernists and even established ones such as Picasso had no real sense of what to do next."

    My benchmark for that analysis was his Dora Maar au chat of 1941 that not many years ago was auctioned at a very high price. So my point was that he seemingly had largely run out of creative fuel by the time he was around 60 years old.

    Which leads us to the present post that deals with some of his paintings from the late 1920s into the early 1940s. His stylistic changes are shown with an eye towards both his previous and future work.


    Painter and His Model - 1928
    Very flat, largely primary colors with black lines on a nearly-white background. These features are Piet Mondrian- like, absent the rigid geometry. The "model" at the left has three eyes arranged vertically, a fairly early example of his radical repositioning of his subjects' elements. In a sense, this is an extension of cubist practice, but without so much clutter.

    Seated Woman - 1930
    More flat colors, but thinner lines and attention to overlapping areas.

    Crucifixion - 1930
    More flatness along with not-quite-human subjects.  An exception is the tiny Dalí-like lancer on his horse at center-left.

    Woman with a Flower - 1932
    Picasso is concerned with patterns here as well as ways of distorting the human figure. Returning is some modeling atop otherwise flat areas.

    Woman's Head - 1934
    He continues his exploration of distortions and rearrangements. Fortunately for Picasso, his fame had long since reached the point where his signature on a painting would almost guarantee its sale regardless of its quality.

    Minotaur with a Dead Horse in Front of a Cave Facing Girl in a Veil - 1936
    He also took some time-outs to return a little closer to representation.

    Dora Maar - 1937
    Portrait of his mistress at the time he painted his famous "Guernica." Flat areas of 1930 vintage are gone while he continues playing with post-cubist rearranging.

    Weeping Woman - 1937
    Here he tries leaving a segment in monochrome where a handkerchief might be.

    Woman with Cockerel - 1938
    Continuing his exploration of distortion, rearrangement.

    Dora Maar - 1939
    A return to flatter areas and heavy lines. I wonder what Dora thought of this one.

    Seated Dora Maar - 1941
    Two years later, Dora is still around, and so are Picasso's late-1930s concepts.  To me it seems that he had largely run out of new stylistic ideas by that time and was settling into the long period mentioned in the link above.

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    Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) often returned to the same kind of subject over his career. One of the subjects that occasionally crops up is marketplace scenes. Some are "establishment shots," where the market square is seen from a distance. Others are closeups, with sellers and buyers in the foreground and crowds in the background.

    Shown below are five such "closeup" scenes. My knowledge of Pissarro is sketchy, so I relied on Internet sources for captions reporting the paintings' subject markets and dates. Assuming that information is correct, Pissarro made them from time to time over nearly a decade.


    Poultry Market, Pontoise - 1882

    Poultry Market - 1885

    Market at Gisors (unfinished) - 1889

    Market, Gisors - 1891

    Poultry Market, Pontoise - 1892

    Market at Gisors - 1899

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    A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach - 1885

    Stanhope Alexander Forbes (1857-1947) painted scenes in Brittany and elsewhere in England, but his focus was Cornwall, at Britain's western tip. A fairly lengthy Wikipedia entry for Forbes is here. I wrote about the painting shown above here. It is perhaps his best-known work and the excellent brushwork is best appreciated in person, though you normally need to visit the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery to view it.

    Below are some other Cornish scenes painted by Forbes.


    The Health of the Bride - 1889
    This indoor Cornish painting was part of the original Tate collection.

    A Cornish Village - 1903
    More of a sketch than a finished work, thought Forbes signed it.

    The Seine Boat - 1904
    Forbes did much plein air painting, but this had to be mostly or entirely studio-made.

    At the Moorage - 1906

    Gala Day at Newlyn, Cornwall - 1907

    The Inner Harbour, Abbey Slip - 1921
    Not long ago, local folks helped keep this painting from being removed from Cornwall (some details here).

    The Fisherman's Expedition - 1923

    Causewayhead, Penzance - 1943
    A late painting done in wartime: note several British solders along the street.

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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.