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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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    The title of this post might cause a sharp reaction for many American readers. That's because John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was the sixth president of the Untied States, and not at all an Österreicher, let alone a portrait painter.

    Of course we are dealing here with another John Quincy Adams. This one was a descendent of the President and lived 1874-1933. He became an Austrian because he was born in Vienna (and died there), the son of a Boston-born opera singer. He did spend time in the USA at various points in his life, but considered himself Austrian. His career is sketched here, but it's in German and you might have to have your computer translate.

    There aren't many images of Adams' work on the Internet. A large share of them are in black and white -- presumably photos of paintings that were lost due to World War 2 or are otherwise untraceable. The images I selected for presentation are all in color.

    One image I would love to have included is a fine portrait of Sara Sherman Wiborg, later the wife of businessman and artist Gerald Murphy, both famed for their 1920s French Riviera lifestyle (Wikipedia entry here). But so far as I know, it hasn't yet turned up on the Web.

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    Dame mit Schwartzem Kleid und Hut (Alice Hauser) - 1901
    In English, "Woman with Black Clothes and Hat."

    Portrait einer jungen Dame - 1908

    Kaiser Franz Joseph I. in der Dienstuniform eines österreichischen Feldmarschalls - 1914
    That's "Emperor Franz Joseph I in the service uniform of an Austrian field marshal."

    Kitty Baronin Rothschild - 1916

    Countess Michael Karoly - 1918

    Girl with Flower Branch

    Luise Eisner, later Princess Odescalchi - 1926

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  • 09/25/17--01:00: Some Hard Female Faces
  • Part of what keeps this blog chugging along (we're now at more that 1,000 posts) is that I seem to have a modest knack for finding associations, for making comparisons. One of those occasions happened a few weeks ago while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I viewed two paintings that I was already familiar with with, noticed a similarity, then recalled a photograph that struck me in the same way.

    The painters were Thomas Anshutz, who I wrote about here, Thomas Hart Benton, whose early career I covered here, and the was photographer Walker Evans, Wikipedia entry here.

    The nature of the subject matter is young women with "hard" expressions on their faces. They are surprisingly similar.

    Gallery

    A Rose (detail) - 1907 - Thomas Anshutz
    The subject is Rebecca H. Whelen, daughter of a Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts board member. Anshutz taught there for many years. This is an unusual pose for that time and place: a more tranquil expression would have been expected.

    City Activities with Dance Hall (detail) - 1930 - Thomas Hart Benton
    From a panel of Benton's America Today mural, now prominently displayed at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The subject is Elizabeth England, future wife of Charles Pollock, older brother of the more famous painter Jackson Pollock. The Pollock brothers studied under Benton, hence the connection.

    Girl in Fulton Street (cropped) - 1929 - Walker Evans
    From one of Evans' New York street scene photos of the late 1920s.

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    When I was in New York City last year, my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was rather hurried, so I didn't have time to track down Thomas Hart Benton's "America Today" mural, installed at the Met in 2014. This month, I had more time and found it.

    The Met's website discusses America Today here, and here is a link to their publication dealing with the mural: very useful. I discussed Benton's early career here.

    The mural was commissioned for the board room of The New School for Social Research's 1931 building designed by Joseph Urban. It was later purchased by Equitable, an insurance company in New York and displayed in linear fashion along a hallway. Then it was donated to the Met which restored it (with some difficulty: read the publication noted above) and displayed in a setting corresponding to the space of the New School boardroom where it initially appeared.

    Below are a few photos I took, giving you an impression of how the mural is displayed at the Met. Not all panels are shown -- you can find plenty of images on the Internet. My purpose here is to remind you that the mural is there to be enjoyed when vising New York and the Met.

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    When entering the gallery where America Today is housed, the panel Instruments of Power confronts you.

    Panning to the right, we find Changing West.

    Continuing to the right past Changing West are Midwest, Deep South, and City Activities with Subway.

    Here is the door to enter the display.  At the left is City Activities with Subway.  Above the door is Outreaching Hands, and to the right is City Activities with Dance Hall.  To my mind, the City Activities panels are the most interesting of the lot.

    Continuing the pan to the right, we have City Activities with Dance Hall, City Building, and Steel.  Farther to the right and not shown is Coal.

    City Building, and Steel.

    At detail from City Activities with Dance Hall. The woman with the red hat is Elizabeth England, Jackson Pollack's future sister-in-law. The woman at the lower left is Benton's wife Rita. Benton includes himself at the far right.

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    Henry Young Alison (1889-1972) both lost an eye and was captured by the Germans during the Great War. By the late 1920s he was an instructor at the Glasgow School of Art and for a brief period was its interim Director. That information, plus a bit more, can be found on this page of the school's web site. There might be more information regarding Alison, but it didn't turn up during my brief Google search.

    He painted many landscapes, but I'll feature works below showing people, as I consider that a stronger test of an artist's abilities.

    As you will see, Alison was no Modernist, at least not well into the 1930s. His paintings of people are strongly done, solid works.

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    Cliffs and Rocks
    An example of his landscape painting to show that even in this genre he could paint strongly.

    Elspeth Galloway - 1914

    Highland Chief

    Elizabeth Payton

    Self-Portrait - 1920s

    Lilly Jamieson - c. 1931

    Youth - c. 1936
    Here Alison combines landscape and portrayal.

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    I previously wrote about early paintings by Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) here. I visited the Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida again this May and noticed that on display were a number of paintings from his pre-Surrealist career.

    I took digital snapshots of many of them for the purpose of this post, which is to further document his beginner's path. As usual, photos taken in museums vary in quality form mediocre to absolutely rotten trash, so take the images below as rough indicators of the actual works. You can click on them to enlarge.

    What I found interesting are two things. First, apparently Dalí kept most of what he painted, not throwing away early items as many artists would be tempted to do. Second, I was impressed by how many different modernist styles he tried from his early teens into his early twenties before settling on the carefully rendered depiction style he is known for in his paintings. Many artists took a longer time to settle on their main style and tried fewer alternatives in the process.

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    Vista de Cadaqués con la sombra del Monte Paní - 1917
    Dalí was about 13 years old when he painted this oil-on-burlap scene.

    Huerto de Es Llaner, Cadaqués - 1918-19
    It's a little hard to see it at this resolution (try enlarging), but this small work is very thickly painted. He was 14 or 15 when he did this.

    Autorritrato (Figueres) - 1921
    Age 17. Perhaps more fantasy that an accurate portrayal.

    El camino de Port Lligat con vistas sobre el Cap de Creus - 1922-23
    At age 18 or 19 he tried this more traditional/impressionist approach.

    Cadaqués - 1923
    Now Dalí is around 19 and picks up on the retreat from Cubism to somewhat classical elements of early 1920s modernism.

    Retrato di mi hermina - 1923
    From about the same time he did this interesting playing-card format portrait of his sister. The museum has it hung with the more modernist end at the top. I am not sure of Dalí's intensions in this regard.

    Retrato di mi hermina (flipped, detail)
    Detail of the more traditional style segment.

    Tieta, ritrato de mi tia, Cadaqués - 1923-24
    Same vintage, but now Postimpressionist Divisionism. His aunt's face is mostly a color blob.

    Naturaleza muerto: Sandía - 1924
    At age 20 we have this Cubist-inspired still life.

    Estudio de un desnudo feminino - 1925
    Now about 21 years old, Dalí is experimenting with another variety of brushwork.

    Cesta de pan 1926
    Finally, about 22 years of age, we find him approaching the expected Dalí style in this painting of bread in a breadbasket. All this was a fast, wild, art-style ride.

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    Lucien Joseph Simon (1861-1945) was not born in Brittany, though his artistic career was centered there. He was born into an upper-middle class family in the Saint-Sulpice quarter of the 6th arrondissement, probably not far from my favorite Paris hotel.

    It seems that Simon was well known and well regarded in his day, and I am ashamed that he escaped my painter radar for so long. Another item I missed was that he was part of a small movement called le Bande noir(Black Band), a group also unknown to me.

    A brief English Wikipedia entry on Simon is here, and a much longer one in French (that your computer should be able to translate) is here.

    It seems that Simon acquired his interest in Brittany via his wife, also an artist, who had Breton roots.

    Below are examples of Simon's work in approximate chronological order.

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    Jeunes Bigoudènes assises vues de dos - c. 1898

    Procession in Penmarch - 1901

    Fin de repas à Kergaït - 1901

    La mascarade - 1904

    Le balcon de theatre

    Le goûter - c. 1906

    Place au Beurre, Quimper

    Visit of Aman-Jean to Sémaphore - 1917
    Sémaphore was the Simon house in Brittany, and Edmond Aman-Jean was an artist and contemporary of Simon.

    The Music Lesson

    Après la guerre - c. 1919

    Famille à Sémaphore - 1923

    Atelier aux champs, la gare de Chaville - 1930

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  • 10/12/17--01:00: More Early Duchamp Paintings
  • Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) did a lot of damage to western culture and art. Or so I think. But if it hadn't been Duchamp, someone (or, more likely, several someones) would have done the same thing not long later. Biographical information on him can be found here.

    Duchamp had a comparatively brief career as a painter before drifting over to other activities including his passion for chess. His most famous painting, "Nude Descending a Staircase" was a mix of Cubism and Futurism. I mention it and an early, more naturalistic painting here.

    I revisited the Ringling Art Museum in Sarasota, Florida in May and found the portrait of his sister-in-law that I featured in the link above, and also found several other early Duchamp paintings. As often happens when photographing paintings in museums, images of two of those paintings were too blurred to post here. The others are presented below. Click on them to enlarge.

    The point I make with these images is that while the early Duchamp painted in a modernist vein, it was a conservative variety of modernism.

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    Sur la Falaise - 1905
    Duchamp was about 18 years old when he did this landscape.

    Portrait d'Yvonne Duchamp-Villon, née Bon - 1907
    An establishment photo I took in 2012 that also can be found in my older Duchamp post.

    Detail. He was about 20 when he did this. Although it is signed, the sketchy treatment of Yvonne's hand gives the painting an unfinished appearance. The rationalization for this probably would have something to do with the idea that the hand was an irrelevant detail.

    An even closer view. I find it interesting that Duchamp essentially washes out the subject's mouth and to a lesser extent her eyes while emphasizing (comparatively) her nose. Note the limited color palette. Altogether, a nice pierce of work for one that age.

    Maison Paysanne, Yport - 1907
    A peasant's cottage painted the same year, but in quite a different style.

    Detail of the above, showing how thickly Duchamp painted here.  Or perhaps this was an over-painting of a previous work that used thick paints: I'm not expert enough to be sure which possibility is correct.

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    Henry Salem Hubbell (1870-1949) is considered an American Impressionist even though many of his works were conventional in style -- especially portraits that necessarily had to satisfy their subjects. Although his reputation might be rising, as this lengthy article about him contends, he remains so obscure that Wikipedia has not received an entry on him as of the time this post was drafted (early June, 2017). A shorter take on Hubbell can be found here.

    He had ability, and studied at Chicago's Art Institute and Paris' Académie Julian under Bouguereau, as well as under Whistler elsewhere. Time was spent with the American contingent in Giverny, where Monet was based. After returning to the USA, Hubbell practiced his trade in the Northeast, but eventually settled in Miami Beach, Florida -- an unlikely place for an artist in his day.

    Like many artists he made much of his living doing portraits, but his favorite subject matter was attractive, elegant young women in genteel settings.

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    The Orange Robe - 1908

    Tea Time

    By the Fireside - 1909

    Ladies having tea

    Luminous Reflection
    Interesting thinly painted background contrasted with heavy brushwork on the costumes, but not the faces.

    Girl in a Green Dress
    This looks like a Giverny-era work in the spirit of Richard E. Miller and Frederick Frieseke.

    Seated woman
    From the subject's dress and hair, this might have been painted in 1920 (plus or minus five years).

    Franklin D. Roosevelt - 1935
    Hubbell painted more than one portrait of Roosevelt. Comparing the coloring of the face and hand, I question the quality of this image found on the web.

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    Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) was one of the most important American illustrators from around the time of the Great War into the 1950s (short biography here). But, as I posted here, like Edwin Austin Abbey and John Singer Sargent, Cornwell was seduced by the concept that murals were the road to artistic immortality (think Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling).

    So in the later 1920s Cornwell spent time studying mural painting under Frank Brangwyn. Some of this style rubbed off on his illustration work, as I pointed out here.

    When the city of Los Angeles had a new Public Library built, part of the concept was to include a good deal of interior art, as mentioned here. Included was a set of murals by Cornwell. The library's web site has a page dealing with him and his murals, including mention of critical appraisals.

    Not long ago I came across some photos I took of the murals back in 2010. I used some tools on my iMac to enhance what were images of dubious quality. The better results are presented below. Because I fiddled with brightness, contrast, sharpness and the colors themselves, I suggest you pay more attention to Cornwell's compositions and drawing than to colors.

    Gallery

    This is the setting I had to work with ... murals mounted high with bright sunlight nearby.






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    Franklin Booth (1874-1948) is best known for his highly skilled, distinctive, pen-and-ink illustrations. I posted his portrait of Theodore Roosevelt here. Some biographical information on Booth is here.

    Even though he was largely type-cast as a pen-and-ink illustrator, Booth was able to do some work in color. One noteworthy example is illustrations for the 1913 edition of the rhymed play "Flying Islands of the Night" by James Whitcomb Riley. The publisher was Bobbs-Merrill of Indianapolis, the city where Riley lived for much of his adult life. Bobbs-Merrill had a 1892 edition (linked here) that apparently was not illustrated. In 1913 they published a new edition that incorporated illustrations by Booth (link here, but omits illustrations).

    His illustrations appear to have pen-and-ink linework with little or none of his usual hashing. Color areas seem to be in watercolor or perhaps colored inks.

    I find it interesting that Booth used a composition format that he frequently applied in his regular work: Subjects depicted small, towards the bottom of the panel, with tall background features occupying central and upper areas.

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    Here is an example of Booth's pen-and-ink work. Note the composition.








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    William Cumming (1917-2000) was a Seattle area artist who knew the nationally acclaimed "Northwest Mystics" Mark Tobey, Morris Graves and the rest, but was not considered part of that group at the time. When I was in high school and college, Bill Cumming was mentioned so rarely by my mentor circles that I wasn't aware of him. Nowadays, his local reputation is much higher. My take on Cumming can be found here.

    Recently I was at an opening at the Woodside / Braseth Gallery where, in addition to the featured painter, there was displayed a rediscovered WPA-era mural that Cumming painted in 1941 for the Burlington High School, some 60 miles north of Seattle.

    Background regarding the mural can be found here and here.

    I am not a fan of Cumming's art, though I respect him for not falling fully into the clutches of abstraction, as so many of his generation did. And even though the second mural-related link suggests the mural might be worth a six-digit sum (were it salable), it does not impress me.

    What interests me about it is that it shows some Cumming traits that he still practiced almost 60 years later. One is the lumpy depiction of human forms. Another is Cumming's reluctance to include his subject's faces.

    Here is the mural. Note that only one complete face is shown. Detail views are below.





    This is a painting made in 1998, also displayed at the gallery. It is an example of the artist's late style.

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  • 10/30/17--01:00: Artists Versus the Landscape
  • I think I've mentioned that there are cases where the appearance of a landscape is so powerful that differences in artists' styles can get largely washed away. That is the case for many parts of California. Some artists currently active are making paintings that have their character similar to those of the California Impressionists of the early decades of the 20th century.

    Then there are painters who impose their style on whatever landscape comes before them. This can be a bit difficult in a California environment, because California's visual character can get diminished in the process.

    What got me to thinking about this again was a visit to Seattle's Woodside / Braseth Gallery where an opening party was being held for landscape artist Lisa Gilley. She represents the case of an artist imposing style upon subject matter. Her paintings are strongly done, oil-on-board. I note that the settings she chooses to depict have clear skies and little or no forestation. That is, even though she lives in western Washington, there was no painting showing lots of fir trees and gray, misty skies. Her style cannot easily accommodate that.

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    Franz Bischoff - Evening Glory: Santa Barbara Mountains
    First, some examples of California Impressionism.

    Edgar Payne - Canyon Mission Viejo, Capistrano
    Payne's coloring is not quite the same as Bischoff's, but the influence of Southern California mountains strongly affects both works.

    Edgar Payne - Sierra Lake and Peaks
    Here Payne deals with the rugged part of the Sierras.

    William Wendt - Where nature's God hath Wrought - 1925
    Wendt's take on California mountains showing bare rock.

    Now for some Lisa Gilley paintings. This one's subject is the Chugash Range in Alaska.

    A Grand Canyon scene.

    Joseph Canyon,in Oregon

    Yakima River, in Washington. In all four cases, her landscapes seem more designed than depicted.

    Gilley's paintings are somewhat in the spirit of Lawren Harris, leader of the Group of Seven painters in Canada. This is a painting of Mt. Lefroy (1930), one of many in which he imposed his own style and concepts on nature.

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    William Ernest Reynolds-Stephens (1862-1943), that is, Sir William Reynolds-Stephens was both a painter and sculptor. And despite having been knighted, seems virtually unknown nowadays. For example, aside from one web site that requires registration to view, biographical information on the internet is sketchy as of the time this post was drafted (mid-June, 2017). There also are very few examples of his paintings to be found.

    What I do know is that he was born in Detroit to British parents, soon moved to Canada and then on to England. He was trained as an engineer, but took up art in his early twenties, studying in England and Germany. By the time he was 40 he had essentially transitioned from painting to sculpture, and it seems that, to the extent he is known today (in England, anyway), it is for that phase of his career. And that's pretty much it, aside from this contemporary appreciation.

    Given what I wrote above, how did I manage to "discover" Reynolds-Stephens? Well, I saw one of his paintings, "Roman Courtship" (ca. 1900) at the Ringling Art Museum in Sarasota, Florida in May. Here is what a museum docent has to say about it.

    And I took photos, a few of which are displayed below (click on them to enlarge).

    I found the painting to be strikingly composed and well-executed.  However, lacking a classical education, the symbolism escaped me at the time. Symbolism aside, it can be appreciated on its merits as well as being a fine example of late-Victorian painting.

    Gallery




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    Joseph Clement Coll (1881-1921) died at too young an age, of appendicitis. A cynic might call that tragic event "a smart career move" because Coll's pen-and-ink+brush style would rapidly fall out of illustration fashion during the 1920s. On the other hand, he did produce some illustrations in other media that were competently done. That competence plus his sense of portraying dramatic action might have stood him well had he lived longer.

    His brief Wikipedia entry is here. A more personal appraisal by Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. is here, and a Muddy Colors post about him by Greg Ruth is here.

    Coll produced a huge amount of illustrations during his comparatively short career, so there naturally was variation in quality. Below I present a collection of what I consider his better work. Most of his illustrations were vignettes or non-framed full-page illustrations with plenty of white space. When he did framed illustrations or illustrations of night scenes, the results were usually murky looking -- an effect hard to avoid given his preferred medium.

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    Strong composition.

    A confrontation with Fu Manchu.

    Fu Manchu again.

    Another striking composition.

    A "King of the Khyber Rifles" illustration from 1916 (Kelly collection) that's so cluttered and murky that some of the action is lost.

    A "framed" illustration, also from the Kelly collection, where the penwork works against the subject matter again.

    Here we find penwork augmented by spots of bold brushwork.

    Another example of Coll's brushwork-plus-line. There might be some water-thinned ink or ink washes here too, but one would have to view the original art to be sure.

    A fine example of Coll's brush+line.

    I wonder if some of this was scratchboard. It's framed, but not as heavy as in some examples above. At the top of the image appear to be U.S. Cavalry troopers, and the female might be Victory. Perhaps the 1916 Mexican incursion rather than the Great War.

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    Robert Henri (1865-1929) was an important American painter and teacher in the decades around the turn of the 20th century (Wikipedia entry here).

    Among his works were two versions of the Biblical character Salome, the dancer. I wrote about various interpretations of her here.

    According to this and other sources, Henri got caught up with something of a Salome craze. The link states: "Robert Henri was a cognoscenti of modern music, dance, and theater. When New York audiences were scandalized by Richard Strauss’s 1907 opera ‘Salome’, based upon Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name, the opera performance inspired the intrepid artist to invite Mademoiselle Voclexca to perform the notorious ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ in his studio."

    I Googled on Mademoiselle Voclexca, but turned up nothing of interest. Clearly, it's a stage name, and her being active a century or more ago, references are probably buried in decaying newspaper file morgues or yellowing theatre programs.

    I visited the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida in early May and took a few photos of their version of Salome that offer closeup views of Henri's brushwork. Click on the images for enlargements showing details of Henri's style.

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    The Salome at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts. It seems sketchier than the Ringling version.

    The Ringling Salome -- image found on the internet.

    My photo showing the upper part of her body and costume.

    Mademoiselle Voclexca's face.

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    Joseph Clement Coll (1881-1921) died age 40 of an appendicitis. I recently posted about him here and mentioned that his pen-and-ink+brush style would have become unfashionable during the 1920s decade and wondered if he would have been able to adjust his style to the new times.

    The present post presents examples of Coll's work in color including some illustrations where linework is largely abandoned while colored ink washes or watercolors are used to model his subject matter. This suggests that he could have maintained his career, though perhaps at the price of losing some individuality compared to other illustrators using the same media.

    Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. offers some background on Coll here.

    Gallery

    This is an example of Coll's regular pen-and-ink style.



    Above are three covers of a Sunday supplement magazine distributed to various American newspapers. They are promoting a serialized Arthur Conan Doyle book.

    Artwork for the first cover shown above. Note that in this instance Coll was not using line plus color fills, but instead is using color to help model surfaces of the subject matter.

    Detail of "Astro the Seer and Valeska." Another example where linework is minimized.

    Probably an interior illustration for Sir Nigel. This uses line and color fill.

    No information about this detail of a study. This demonstrates that Coll wouldn't have had much trouble migrating to 1920s illustration style fashions had he lived longer.

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  • 11/16/17--01:00: Up Close: Reginald Marsh
  • Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) was an illustrator and painter of blue-collar life who himself attended the very best schools (Lawrenceville and Yale). I wrote about him here, in a post subtitled "Yalie Gone Slumming."

    The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida has a large Marsh painting in its collection titled "Wonderland Circus, Sideshow Coney Island," a 1930 work of tempera on canvas stretched on masonite. I visited the museum in May and took some photos of the painting, two of which are shown below. The original of the lowest image is fairly large, so click on it to enlarge and view details of Marsh's style.

    Regarding style, aside from supports and media, his paintings and illustrations are similar in general appearance.

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    The painting via the museum's web site.

    A closer view. Marsh's signature and date are at the bottom.

    The blue-eyed blonde staring at you, the viewer, strikes me as being the focus of the painting. She is holding hands with a stereotypical swarthy Italian, an occasional real-life happening that Marsh must have hoped would set-off WASPy viewers in his day.  Click on the image to enlarge.

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    Alexandre Roubtzoff (1884-1949) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and trained in art there. However, shortly before the Great War he visited Tangiers and transitioned to Orientalist painting, spending most of his career in Tunis. His French Wikipedia entry is here, but at the time this post was drafted it was criticized as not being up to Wikipedia standards.

    Not all his post-Russia works were set in North Africa. There are at least two dealing with mid-1920s Paris high life.

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    Bédouine à la couverture (Zohra et Salha)
    First of two examples of Roubtzoff's Orientalist work.

    Alia Sitting and Grinding Vegetables

    Impressions de Paris - 1926
    There are at least two paintings, seemingly with the same title, showing jumbled details of Jazz Age Paris. Here is one.

    Impressions de Paris - 1926
    This is the other one I am aware of. The original is large, but this is the biggest image of the whole thing I could find on the Internet. However, I did find a large reproduction in a French automobile magazine, spreading over two pages. I scanned each page segment separately, and those images are below. Click on them to enlarge.

    Both paintings contain many of the same elements, but they are placed differently. My guess is that the first image above was a study for or an earlier version of this painting.

    Details include Metro signs, plenty of cars, newspapers ranging from the leftist L'Intransigeant to the rightist Le Figaro, many faces of young women (but few men's faces), and plenty of women's legs revealed by Flapper dresses. Very witty and fun.

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    I've mentioned more than a few times that I'd rather see prosperous artists than starving ones. Posthumous fame and high auction prices don't compare well to an unrewarded lifetime.

    Leading American illustrators enjoyed financial success, at least while their work remained in demand. And their fame could lead to other sources of income. One case would be appearing in advertisements.

    This post features two examples.

    First, we see Jon Whitcomb in 1952, painter of gorgeous gals, claiming he loved Fatima cigarettes, a second-tier brand in those days. A biographical snippet on Whitcomb is here, and here is a link with examples of his work.

    Melbourne Brindle was less famous than Whitcomb, but well-known nevertheless. He was a "car guy," indeed owning that 1916 Crane-Simplex with boating features shown in the upper part of the Gulf ad from the 1950s (click on the image to enlarge). During the late 1940s he illustrated ads for Packard and in the 1950s did the same for Chevrolet.

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    For some reason I've been interested in 1920s and 30s art, architecture, design, movies and other cultural things for most of my life. Some of that might be because there were remainders of those times still rattling around when I was growing up.

    This isn't to say that I think what that interwar period produced was outstandingly good, though some of it was, especially the commercial architecture from, say, 1924 to 1932. And as I've mentioned in this blog and in my Art Adrift e-book, painting during those times was in a fascinating state. Modernism (anti-traditionalism, really) had finished 30-50 years of experimentation, an effort so complete that there was little left to innovate. So modernists didn't quite know what to do next, and other painters didn't know quite what to do with all those concepts modernists had come up with in the years before the Great War.

    George Telfer Bear (1874-1973) was a long-lived Scottish painter who seems to have spent most of his career there aside from a few years in the Canadian prairies. There is almost nothing about him on the Internet: the two most revealing links are here and here.

    Bear accepted some modernist ideas, but like many others in those days he did so cautiously. For instance, he did little or nothing in the way of distorting the proportions of his subjects. On the other hand, he did "flatten" his picture planes a little (reduced depth effects), and simplified his subjects slightly. As a result, most of the paintings shown below are clearly from the 1920s even though only one has a date.

    His work strikes me as being not especially distinctive in the context just mentioned. To my mind they are simply representative of his times and their artistic fashions.

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    The White Cottage
    He painted outdoor scenes and still lifes as well as portraits of women.

    La Jeunesse
    This might be from the 1930s.

    Girl with a Fan - 1931
    More poster-like than usual for Bear.

    seated woman
    Yet another woman in a yellow costume -- could they be the same person?

    Portrait with Still Life
    Perhaps Bear's best-known work.

    The Red Hat
    A very 1920s style.

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    Lionello Balestrieri (1872-1958) received honors in his day, but now seems to be considered a minor figure. For instance, although he was an Italian, there is no Italian language Wikipedia entry for him as of mid-September when I'm drafting this post. The entry in English is here, and there also is one in French offering other details regarding his life and career.

    Balestrieri experimented with various styles, but most of his images seen on the Internet seem to be from the years around the turn of the 20th century when he hadn't strayed very far from traditional painting. That is, he didn't distort the proportions of his subjects, but his brushwork varied.

    Music seemed to be a passion, and he painted many works dealing with the music scene.

    Gallery

    Il bacio

    The Painter and Pianist

    Beethoven (Kreutzer Sonata) - 1900
    Beethoven is the bust in the background.

    Woman on a Paris Street at Night

    Chopin Triptych: Chopin and George Sand - c.1905

    Chopin Triptych: Death of Chopin - c.1905

    Andando a teatro - c.1910

    Giovane donna che sorseggia il tè - 1910-14

    Autoritratto in piedi - 1929

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  • 12/04/17--01:00: Drafting Board Cities
  • Planned cities are nothing new: perhaps the first one, Mohenjo-Daro in present-day Pakistan, was created around 4,500 years ago. Usually such planning is little more than platting a grid pattern for streets. Here in the United States, large, early examples include Philadelphia in the 1680s and the grid layout established for New York in 1811.

    Not all planned cities consisted of pure street grids. Philadelphia's plan included some squares for parks, and Savanna, Georgia has many such squares. At some point, vistas, focal points, circles and other details became fashionable concepts for planners slaving over their drawing boards. I suspect that there were times that a plan was proposed and accepted simply because it looked attractive as a graphic layout -- an extension of the plan-based studies 19th century architectural students had to produce.

    Such street patterns might have seemed nice when displayed on a wall, but often were somewhat defective when implemented. Let's take a look.

    Gallery

    Brasilia
    This image and the following one are from this collection of space views of planned cities. Brasilia features a sort of arrow or wing motif. I've never been there so can't offer an opinion, through I've read that inhabitants were not fully pleased with its layout.

    Canberra
    I've never been to Canberra, either. Its designer, Walter Burley Griffin, was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, so the plan has an "organic" feeling to it.

    Longview, Washington
    Longview is a small city planned in the late 1920s. The lake on the left side of this image from Bing is artificial, part of the plan. There are a few diagonal streets, holdovers from the thinking shown in the following images.

    Chicago, Burnham Plan of 1909
    Little of the Burnham Plan was implemented as designed. The grid-layout central area (the Loop) was too well established to be altered. (It's the area the river bends around in this view where the top of the image faces west, away from Lake Michigan.) In addition to some formal layouts by the lake, the street plan features diagonal avenues, circles, focal points and a civic center square from which many of the diagonals radiate. None of that was built.

    Washington Plan of 1800
    One such plan that largely came to be is the L'Enfant-Ellicot Plan for Washington, D.C., capital of the USA.

    Washington, D.C.
    Here is how the street layout looks today viewed from above. Perhaps those angled streets bouncing off various circles and small squares handled horse-and-buggy traffic adequately in the early days.
    But when I was in the army stationed nearby in the early 1960s I found it a hassle to work my way to the Mall on those diagonal avenues even on a quiet Sunday morning. (Though there were plenty of parking spots on the Mall when I got there.) A pure grid pattern might have been better for traffic flow. Furthermore, despite all those diagonals, squares and circles, there are few impressive vistas once one leaves the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue (running from the Capitol to near the White House).

    Paris: central area
    Paris with its boulevards by Baron Haussmann and others works better than Washington. That's because Paris' street layout is essentially unplanned, having grown from pre-Roman days through the Dark and Middle ages to the point where creating boulevards was necessary for traffic circulation. Note how irregular is the "background" to the dark boulevard pattern in this view from above.

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    The book whose cover is shown above is about illustrator/cartoonist John Cullen Murphy (1919-2004) and fellow cartoonist friends living in or near Fairfield County Connecticut during the early 1950s and beyond. It was written by his son Cullen Murphy who for many years worked with his father on the Prince Valiant comic strip. Some links dealing with Murphy are here and here.

    A few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal had a favorable review of the book. Having grown up during the final glory decades of continuity and adventure comic strips, I almost immediately ordered a copy from Amazon. When it arrived, I read the whole thing in a single five-hour shot.

    I was aware of John Cullen Murphy, but never followed his Big Ben Bolt strip or Prince Valiant, created by Hal Foster who transitioned it to Murphy starting in 1971. The reason is that both strips were from Hearst's King Features distribution syndicate, whereas my parents subscribed to the Seattle Times, and not to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the local Hearst rag.

    It turns out that John Cullen Murphy was an impressive man. He was good at portraiture even in his mid-20s, could have made a good career in commercial illustration had he not been diverted into the comic strip trade, and was knowledgeable and sophisticated even though his academic education ended with high school. As for the latter point, it's further proof that real education can happen once one has left school -- provided one has the will and wits to learn on one's own.

    Murphy was raised in New Rochelle, New York, in the county immediately north of New York City. Nearby lived famous illustrators J.C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell. Rockwell even used teen-aged Murphy as the subject of a Saturday Evening Post cover (shown in the book). During World War 2 he was attached to Douglas MacArthur's staff and remained friends with Mrs. MacArthur (whose portrait he painted) for many years thereafter.

    Besides Murphy family lore, the book provides many interesting details regarding well-known cartoonists who lived nearby. Also included are fascinating insights on the comic strip trade including Hal Foster's thoughts on treating continuity for strips appearing only on Sundays.

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    There are a few artists whose personal lives are more interesting than their work: Frieda Kahlo immediately comes to mind. Then there are others where paintings and biographies come close to striking a balance. Salvandor Dalí is a famous example. A less well-known example is Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938), whose biography is lightly sketched here. For some, she is best known for being the mother of Maurice Utrillo, a more famous Montmartre painter.

    A while ago I visited the Montmartre museum housed in a building where she had her apartment and studio for a number of years. I took photos and posted about it here and here. Probably as a result of those posts the publisher of "Renoir's Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon" by Catherine Hewitt sent me a review copy. The book, already available in England, is due to be published in the USA late February: Amazon link here.

    The image on the cover is of probably the most famous painting for which she modeled. It's by Renoir (hence the book's title), who depicted women in something approaching a uniform style. That's why the young lady doesn't resemble Valadon as closely as it might. During her modeling days, she slept around a lot, probably the reason for the book's subtitle. As for modeling, other famous artists she worked for included Puvis de Chevannes and Toulouse-Lautrec. The latter encouraged her drawing efforts (she was a "natural"), but it was the prickly Degas who was most responsible for giving her confidence and help.

    I have a tattered 1959 edition of "The Valadon Drama: the Life of Suzanne Valadon" by John Storm (link to recent reprint here). I skimmed through it before reading Hewitt's book so as to have a mental yardstick for evaluation. There are other Valadon biographies out there, given her colorful life.

    So why another Valadon biography? The author, who has a doctorate, set her goal as providing a well-researched treatment that would be accessible to the general public. Did she succeed?

    Well, the bibliography is extensive, even referencing dozens of newspaper articles and web sites as well as the expected books and journal articles. She provides suitable background information on Valadon's various living environments as well as on the famous and not so well-known people in her life. This should be useful for readers who have little knowledge of the 1880-1935 Paris art scene or even France in general during that time. Hewitt mentions many of Valadon's paintings during the course of the book along with paintings and drawings made of her by famous artists for whom she posed (and sometimes more!). My review copy has no color images of such works nor a contents reference to any. However, the English edition has color inserts, so presumably there will be the same for the American edition. After all, it can be frustrating to read about paintings without being able to see them, so that is good. Paintings mentioned, but not in the book, can often be found via the internet, if a reader is especially curious.

    The main substantive difference from Storm's book is the he insisted that she was never legally married to Paul Moussis, whereas Hewitt makes it clear that she was indeed married to him.

    My main complaint about Hewitt's treatment is that she fairly often mentions the mental and emotional states of Suzanne, her mother, and some others that are not documented in the many footnotes. That is, she is making educated guesses. I assume that to keep the narrative flowing for her target audience, she does not qualify these statements. For example, she might have written "Suzanne was probably most worried about Maurice's latest drunken spree." I invented that sentence, but if it had appeared in the book, the word "probably" would not be found. My stripped-down review copy has no author introduction, so if there is one in the published version, perhaps Hewitt will mention her reasoning regarding this policy.

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    Sir Walter Westley Russell (1867-1949) is yet another competent English painter I am including on this blog: the supply of same seems inexhaustible.

    A brief biography is here. Even though Russell is not well known these days, he was noteworthy enough in his time to be knighted.

    Like many English contemporaries, his style changed little over his career. Based on images found on the Internet, he tended to make paintings with a warm (in the color sense) feeling, though there are some that differ. It seems he liked to portray women. A quirk in many of those portraits was his use of backgrounds with green-blue wallpaper containing many small elements in other colors. Besides similar or identical background wallpaper, Russell usually included framed pictures hanging on those walls. Doubtless these details were from his house or studio.

    Gallery

    Dover
    Russell did some landscape painting.

    Joseph Crawhall
    Crawhall was one of the Scottish "Glasgow Boys" group of painters.

    Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding - 1942
    "Stuffy" Dowding was in charge of aerial defenses during the Battle of Britain.

    Camilla - c. 1910
    A carefully done background, but no wallpaper in this comparatively early work.

    The Blue Dress - 1911
    Still no wallpaper, but there are pictures on the background wall, so we're getting closer.

    Amelia - c. 1937
    A late portrait with wallpaper and pictures.

    Girl in a Muslin Dress
    I don't have a date for this, but the background is archetypical Russell.

    Marion
    Again.

    Cordelia - c. 1930
    And again.

    Isabella
    Here Russell adds a mirror, but the standard background remains.