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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here are some cigarette ads from that era.

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

    Art signed by Adolph Treidler.

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

    By John La Gatta.

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

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

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

    By Bradshaw Crandell who specialized in depicting pretty faces.

    A wedding theme painted by Neysa McMein.

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

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

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

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

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

    Here it is: click on the images to enlarge.

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    A slightly cropped photo I took of my poster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Wounded Warrior in the Snow - 1880

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

    Portrait of a Child - 1883
    Note the brushwork.

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

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

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

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

    Self-Portrait - 1915
    About age 53.

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

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

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

    Friends - 1942
    Age 80, painting very thinly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hôtel Mallet-Stevens - April 2018

    Villa de Mme. Reifenberg - c. 1927

    Villa of Mme. Reifenberg - April 2018

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

    Atelier Martel - April 2018

    Hôtel Dreyfus - c. 1927

    Hôtel Dreyfus - April 2018

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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    August Bleser, Jr. (1898-1966) was an illustrator active during the 1920s and 30s and probably beyond, for whom I can find no biographical information on the Internet. Well, I dug five pages into Google and was seeing a lot of extraneous items, so the odds of hitting research paydirt were getting pretty slim. About all I could find were his birth and death years.

    On the other hand, Google turned up quite a few examples of his work. Information as to where his illustrations were published was skimpy, but it seems to me that he appeared in magazines a notch down from the Saturday Evening Post -- the holy grail for illustrators in his time. That's because many of his works on the Web are in color, something third and lower tier publications could seldom afford aside from cover art.

    I rate Blaser as being entirely competent in the context of 1920-1940 magazine illustration. But as I've mentioned at times, there was plenty of competition, including illustrators who were slightly better and had more recognizable (and therefore salable) styles.

    Here are examples of his work.

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    The Casino - 1927
    Vignette style was popular then.

    Commercial art studio scene - 1930

    In the Office - 1932

    Meeting at the Train
    This looks like it was cropped from the original at the top, but perhaps not. The bottom is okay because his signature is visible.

    Night Bridge

    Surprise Attack - 1932

    A Reflective Moment - 1936
    Graveside scene.

    Candlelight dinner scene
    In the background is New York City's George Washington Bridge that crosses the Hudson River. It's not clear if the restaurant in on the Manhattan side or the New Jersey side, though I'm inclined to guess the latter. Regardless, I doubt there was such a place when Blaser made this illustration around 1940: there are no restaurants in that setting nowadays, if Google maps offers any clue. But I confess it has been decades since I got to New York a lot, so I might be mistaken.

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    I last wrote about Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) here.

    He was a prolific portrait painter, creating works both fine and mediocre, though most were competently done. Some were never completed, and a few of those are the subject of this post.

    I find unfinished works interesting because they shed light on artists' techniques and general approach to the job. In Lawrences's case, he invariably completed the face first, along with enough background to put the colors in intended context. The remainder would be very roughly indicated.

    One strongly recommended approach to painting is to work the entire canvas throughout the process. This indeed makes a lot of sense when painting landscapes or still-lifes. But a portrait painter needs to be sure the subject's face is captured to his (and probably his sitter's) satisfaction. So why waste time and paint working the whole canvas if it turns out that the face isn't done right? That seems to have been Lawrence's philosophy if the paintings shown below are any indication.

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    King George IV, When Prince of Wales - c. 1814
    This can be seen in London's National Portrait Gallery.

    Maria, Lady Callcott - 1819

    William Wilberforce - 1828
    Also in the National Portrait Gallery.  Here Lawrence sketched in more non-facial detail than usual, perhaps due to the size and shape of the canvas.  He probably wanted to make sure he got the overall composition right, something not needed on more tightly focused subjects.

    John Frederick Campbell, 2nd Baron Campbell and 1st Earl Cawdor - 1829
    Painted not long before Lawrences' death, so perhaps he didn't have the time or energy to complete it.

    Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington - c. 1829
    The same hold true for this portrait of the Duke of Wellington as Prime Minister.  It is a recent acquisition by the National Portrait Gallery.  The caption on the painting's plaque notes that Lady Jersey, who commissioned the portrait, refused to have a studio assistant complete it following Lawrences's death.

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    Recently I was on a get-out-of-town jaunt and found myself driving through Ellensburg, a college town in central Washington where I noticed signs directing folks to the Clymer Museum & Gallery. I was vaguely aware that there was such a museum, but hadn't bothered to track it down. Having some free time, I finally did so.

    The focus is John Clymer (1907-1989), an Ellensburg native who had a successful career as an illustrator. I posted about him here, and his Wikipedia entry is here.

    I snapped a number of pictures using my iPhone, and some of them are displayed below. Click on them to enlarge.

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    Clymer illustrations for his high school yearbook. Very good for teenager work.

    Early example of his commercial work. My father had a .22 that was the same or quite similar to the one illustrated. I used it to shoot at tin cans, my father supervising.

    When the USA entered World War 2, not-young Clymer and fellow illustrator Tom Lovell enlisted in the Marine Corps.

    Here are the artist jarheads (as we Army types fondly called them).  Lovell is on the left, Clymer on the right.  I posted about Lovell here.

    Clymer at work during his Corps years.


    Two of Clymer's pallettes.

    Part of a Clymer family display. He pictured family members in the Post cover illustration shown.

    * * * * *

    Below are texts providing interesting background information about Clymer and how he worked.





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    Carl Theodor von Piloty (1826-1886) was a leading Munich academic painter during the third quarter of the 19th century (Wikipedia entry here). That entry and Google prefer to spell his first name as Karl -- the typical German spelling. However, the German Wikipedia entry as well as plaques for his works displayed at Munich's Neue Pinakothek use the spelling seen in this post's lead sentence. Presumably that version was his preference.

    The term "pompier" used in the title was a late-19th century term a derision applied to academic painting, as explained here. True, Piloty was that for most of his career, but I find his paintings generally less stilted than many others of that ilk.

    Let's take a look:

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    Seni in front of Wallenstein's Body - 1855
    Wallenstein was a leading general during the Thirty Years War (biographical information here). Eventually he was assassinated, the inspiration for this painting.

    Christopher Columbus - 1865
    On display at the Neue Pinakothek.

    The Taking of Jerusalem by Godfrey de Bouillon 1099 - c. 1855-60
    Pompier subject matter -- a scene from the Crusades. Note the strong triangular composition.

    Death of Alexander the Great - c. 1885
    A late painting. Here the composition is a wedge at the left pointing towards the sheet covering Alexander's body.

    Thusnelda at the Triumph of Germanicus - 1873
    Background on the subject matter is here. This was painted when Piloty was probably at the height of his powers. His approach is something like that of a mural painter where an important objective is to fill the real estate with detail. In other words, it's not a painting to be grasped at a glance. The viewer is expected to scan it, seeking out and savoring various details the artist has provided. I must confess that, alas, my attention span is not geared for this.

    The painting is huge. Note the youngsters at the lower right of my Neue Pinakothek photo that provide some scale.

    Here is a part of the painting featuring Thusnelda. For some reason I don't find her very
    interesting. In compensation, look at the expressions on the faces of the men at the right. Also, apologies for the usual poor-quality museum setting photography.

    Another close-up. This is of the soldier at the lower right shown riding a bear. Again, note the facial expressions: well painted.

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    Some European cities have chosen to keep large Modern and Postmodern buildings separated from their core areas that contain premodern architecture. Examples that come to mind are Paris (to some extent), Vienna and Prague. Other cities allow large glass-and steel structures. Berlin, for instance, has its horrible Potsdamer Platz, while Frankfurt-am-Main has hosted skyscrapers for many years now. An important reason for Frankfurt's choice besides the factor of war damage to its previous architecture is because it is the financial center of continental Europe. Lots of floor space was needed, so building up made sense.

    The same applies to London, another world-class financial center that's focused in the City. The City and the Canary Wharf area downstream in the old Docklands district are where London's flashy contemporary architecture is largely concentrated. Much of the rest of the central area has preserved its old character, thank Heaven.

    Aside from Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Edwin Lutyens, I find it hard to quickly come up with names of outstanding British architects. I'm sure I could do a little research and identify a few more. Nevertheless, the country lacks a reputation for outstanding architectural design when compared to other places in Europe and the USA. Some of London's new buildings were designed by architects from other countries, but the results strike me as being generally second-rate even in the Postmodern context. Makes me wonder why this characteristic persists.

    To illustrate this, below are photos of two government-related building completed around 1912 along with some views along the Thames River where construction a century later appeared.

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    This shows the entrance area of Middlesex Guildhall, home of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. It is located across the street from Westminster Abbey. A nice touch is the contrast between the dense sculpting and nearby plain surfaces.

    Looking upwards the effect is reminiscent of entrances to Gothic cathedrals. Perhaps the intention was to relate the building to the nearby Abbey.

    This is Admiralty Arch linking The Mall and Trafalgar Square. Ornamentation is much more dense than on the contemporaneous Middlesex Guildhall. It is unusual in that it combines the features of an arch (that is usefully placed) and an office/residential building (at one time the Admiralty's First Sea Lord resided here).

    The dark, shaded structure to the left is a wall of The Tower of London. The classical facade beyond the park belongs to 12 Trinity Square. And the large, Postmodern structure in the distance is 20 Fenchurch Street, popularly known as the Walkie-Talkie (named after a American World War 2 communication device).

    The Walkie-Talkie and other new City buildings as seen from across the Thames.

    A little farther upstream towards London Bridge we find this view. the tall structure is called The Shard, and it's the tallest building in London. The designer is the well-known Renzo Piano. No doubt, as witnessed by the seemingly inefficient floor space, the building was intended to make a statement. I think the current building-as-sculpture fashion is not a large improvement over the rectangular box style of 1950s-1960s New York City, but it's what those independent architectural minds see fit to design these days. I think the Shard's best feature is the treatment at its top where the machinery area is screened by latticework.

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    London's National Portrait Gallery has been using the centenary of the 1914-1918 Great War as a theme for presentations in some of its rooms. Among the paintings I saw there in April were three huge works commissioned by Sir Abraham Bailey who Wikipedia describes as a "South African diamond tycoon, politician, financier and cricketer."

    These are group portraits of generals, admirals and statesmen. One is just simply that, so far as I can tell. But two of them seem to incorporate commentary, as I explain below in captions.

    The images of entire paintings below are via the National Portrait Gallery, London. Click on images to enlarge.

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    General Officers of World War I - John Singer Sargent - 1922
    Wikipedia identifies them here. Most of the most senior officers (French, Haig and Robertson) are placed slightly to the right of center, but as best I can tell, Sargent and perhaps Bailey had no particular point to make in the form of placement of the subjects.

    Naval Officers of World War I - Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope - 1921
    This is not the case so far as admirals are concerned. At the far right is Sir John Jellicoe who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland, the most important naval battle of the war and then became First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy (the top position for a serving officer). So why is he pushed off the an extreme side of the canvas while his successor, David Beatty, is shown at the center, his admiral's sleeve stripes prominent? Because of Royal Navy and British government politics. Jutland, or a similar battle, was expected by many in government and in the population at large to be another Trafalgar, where the enemy fleet was to have been destroyed. As it happened, the battle was something of a standoff, where the Royal Navy sustained the greater losses while the German High Seas Fleet pretty much stayed in port for the rest of the war -- strategically defeated. Many blamed Jellicoe for the mixed outcome while Beatty, who made some questionable decisions during the battle, was regarded as a hero. Given existing Royal Navy doctrine and weather conditions when the battle was fought, Jellicoe might have done better, but didn't do badly (in my opinion). But Beatty prevailed in the battle post-mortems, and was First Sea Lord when the painting was made. I suspect Bailey desired Jellicoe's placement at the far edge and Beatty's at the center.

    Statesmen of World War I - James Guthrie - 1924-1930
    Guthrie was a "Glasgow Boy" near the end of his career when this painting was made. I wrote about him here. Depicted men are identified here. Interestingly, Prime Minister (1908-1916) H.H. Asquith is shown seated below the standing/gesturing Arthur Balfour, and Prime Minister (1916-1922) David Lloyd George is seated third from the left. One might think PMs would be more prominent. But the featured statesman is Winston Churchill, highlighted and facing the viewer. Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty (1911-1915), Minister of Munitions (1917-1919) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (treasury secretary) 1924-1929 -- essentially the time the painting was made. While he was an important statesman in those days, he was probably not the most important. Again, I think Bailly influenced how he was depicted.

    Statesmen of World War I - detail
    This is a photo I took at the Portrait Gallery showing Guthrie's depiction of Churchill in greater detail.  He is looking directly at the viewer, while the others are not, thus also attracting further attention to him.  And as it turned out, he proved to be the most important one shown in light of future history.

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    If you happen to be interested in the Paris art scene from around, say, 1880 into the 1920s, a museum well worth a visit is the Musée de Montmartre. It's located on grounds containing a vineyard and the main building was once home to artists such as Raoul Dufy, Suzanne Valadon, and her son Maurice Utrillo.

    Perhaps the best-known painting in its collection is the large canvas by Adolphe Léon Willette (1857-1926) titled in Latin "Parce Domine" (refering to the antiphon "Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo -- Spare, Lord, spare your people." It was first housed in Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat), a famous late 19th century cabaret. It depicts a fantasy Parisian bohemian scene.

    I can't find a satisfactory overall image of it on the Internet, though there are some decent detail images. So I might as well add to that pile with some of my own photos taken in 2015 and earlier this year. That's because Parce Domine has a lot of content, much of it both charming and interesting. Click on images to enlarge.

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    Slightly cropped version of the entire painting. In the upper right are words and music of the antiphon.

    Zooming in towards the left.

    Zooming further.

    Panning to the right.

    Zooming to the lower central part of that image.

    And towards the right.

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  • 09/10/18--01:00: Kolo Moser: Some Graphic Art
  • Koloman Moser (1868-1918) was one of the key players in the Vienna Secession movement, active in a variety of media as I posted here. Biographical information can be found here and here.

    He was very good at everything he did except, perhaps, painting. Below are examples of his graphic art -- posters, Ex Libris stickers, book covers and the like.

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    Study and the final, printed version of "Allegory of Spring" from around 1896.

    Full book cover design -- back, spine and front -- for a book of German poetry.

    Poster for exhibit of German art and decoration.

    Ex Libris sticker.

    Poster for a Secession event.

    Vorfrühling - Illustation zum gleichnamigen Gedicht von Rainer Maria Rilke - 1901
    "Early Spring" poems by Rilke.

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    I enjoy posting about unfinished paintings because I am curious as to how various artists went about their work, and unfinished paintings reveal intermediate levels of that process. For more on this, here is an interesting link to Christie's.

    This post's subject is Edgar Degas (1834-1917) who left many unfinished paintings. In some cases he signed them, perhaps signifying that he considered them complete enough to his satisfaction.

    Examples are shown below. Interestingly, those I found on the Internet had women as subjects. But then, that is true of the majority of his paintings.

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    Woman Ironing - c. 1869
    I found this in Munich's Neue Pinakothek, which prompted me to write this post. The image is very slightly cropped around the edges. The face seems to be completed. Note the two versions of her left arm and the muddled right hand. His signature is at the lower right.

    Madame Théodore Gobillard - Berthe Morisot's older sister - 1869
    Essentially monochrome aside for the foliage in the background. The subject's face isn't much more developed than the rest of the painting. Hands are roughly indicated. He signed this.

    Ballet Dancer with Crossed Arms - 1872
    Not much more than a sketch, yet it has his signature.

    Woman Seated on Balcony - 1872
    Note his working out the room's perspective (it's not quite correct). Again the hands seem to be saved for later development.

    Woman with an Umbrella - Berthe Jeantaud - 1876
    Like most other portrait painters Degas chose to complete the face before expending time and materials on the rest.

    Study of a Girl's Head - late 1970s
    If this is indeed a study (the title was as I found it on the Web), then it's not really an unfinished painting. I include it here to show Degas' brushwork and use of color.

    Combing the Hair - 1895
    This was painted later than the others and features his more familiar mature style. Interestingly, whereas it's largely "flat" Degas includes a table that provides as sense of depth by its shape and position.

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    In the 1930s most American adventure-type comic strips lacked illustrator-quality artwork. One example I used here was the Buck Rogers strip drawn by Dick Calkins. There were a few comic strips that featured convincing depictions -- especially those by Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon) and Hal Foster (Tarzan, and Prince Valiant).

    So quality artwork was not necessary for popular appeal, as there were a number of strips in those days that were as successful as Raymond's and Foster's. Those other adventure strips tended to feature adequate depictions given the constraints of the size of panels as they appeared in print and the need to crank out artwork at a pace necessary for daily and sometimes daily-plus-Sunday publication. That is, corners had to be cut even though a successful strip allowed the main artist to hire one or more assistants to help out.

    But the main reasons for an adventure strip's success were plotting and characters. Readers had to be pulled along by the action, anticipating each day what might happen next. And the characters had to be interesting enough that readers didn't lose interest in them.

    An example of this was the long-lived (1933-1973) comic strip Smilin' Jack by Zack Mosley (1906-1993).  A detailed appreciation worth reading is here.

    Smilin' Jack was an adventure strip featuring airplanes, one of several in the 1930s and later. Mosley included drawings of planes as much as he could, placing a tiny one in the background if he couldn't find an excuse to make it more prominent. His drawings of people were marginal. They were simply done, useful for rapid production and appearance in comparatively small space on newspaper pages. But their anatomy -- especially for shapely women -- was distorted. In later decades he tended to make heads and faces too large compared to the rest of bodies. Perhaps that was due to shrinking publication size and a need to somehow compensate.

    The strip had a limited set of consistently-appearing characters. This was true of most adventure comics. But the Smilin' Jack cast might have been a little smaller than average around the end of the '30s. Most prominent were Jack himself, a heavy Polynesian named Fat Stuff (or Fatstuff) and Downwind Jaxon, another pilot who often stole the show from Jack.

    As the second link above describes it, Mosley wanted to add a character who was really handsome and more successful attracting women than Jack himself (some of the plots dealt more with love life than flying). But he couldn't draw a really handsome face to his satisfaction. So that character, Downwind, was always shown is a pose where his face was averted (usually) or hidden by an object or a speech balloon (sometimes).

    (Aside for non-aviation buffs: the term "downwind" has highly negative implications for pilots. One should, if at all possible, never take off or land downwind -- with the wind blowing the same direction as the airplane. That's because airspeed (the speed at which the craft is encountering the air) is lower than its apparent ground speed. For example, a given plane's stalling speed is 100 miles per hour. If it is on final approach for a downwind landing traveling at 110 MPH ground speed but has a 20 MPH tailwind, its airspeed is only 90 MPH. That's below its stalling speed, so the airplane will crash rather than accomplish a normal landing.)

    Below are some Smilin' Jack panels taken from the Internet. Click to enlarge.

    Gallery

    This features Downwind. The other character is Jack himself.

    Fat Stuff: his shirt buttons are continually popping off, so Mosley eventually added a chicken that likes to eat them.

    The "Dixi" in the final scene refers to a previous girlfriend of Jack's.

    Some panels from 1939. In the lower two a photographer snaps a picture of Downwind's face and what happened next.

    The April 20, 1940 Sunday strip featuring Fat Stuff and Downwind.-- and an airplane.

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    The 1890s were a time of secession movements in German-speaking countries, wherein groups of artists broke away from current exhibition organizations in order to set up their own. The most famous of these from our current perspective was the Vienna Secession.

    But the first was the Munich Secession. Like the others, one of the founding issues had to do with artistic style and subject matter. This tended to take the form of increased openness to non-Academic works, though the impact was not nearly so strong as the early-1900s Modernist "isms" that shook the art world and led to today's chaotic scene. (By the way, in my opinion the link above tends to overstate the Munich Secession: its golden years were only from 1892 to around 1912.)

    The first president of the Munich Secession organization was Bruno Piglhein (1845-1894), a professor at Munich's Academy of Fine Arts. His Wikipedia entry is brief. But then, Piglhein's life was fairly brief -- he died aged 46. The entry mentions that it took a while for his career to develop. He had to resort to making pastels of attractive women to earn a living before he was given the project of creating a panorama of Christ's crucifixion that was later destroyed in a fire.

    That project solidified his career for the next and final seven or eight years of his life, including his appointment to the Academy's faculty. Perhaps due to his short career and his teaching duties, it's likely that Piglhein's production of paintings was fairly small. At any rate, not many can be found via a Google search. Below are some of the images I did find.

    Gallery

    Girl with Hat and Fan - pastel

    Woman from the Alban Hills - pastel
    Examples of the pastel depiction of women.

    Im Wartezimmer - Frau Piglhein - Mrs. Piglhein in the Waiting Room

    Schwerttänzerin - Sword Dancer

    Orientalischer Frauenakt - Oriental Female Nude
    The same model was used for both images.

    Madonna with Child
    The title is what I found on the Web.  But the female figure's costume is suggestive of that of a Catholic Sister.  The circular wording appears to be in Cyrillic (also possibly with other alphabets, including Greek) and beyond my ability to translate.

    Blinde in Mohnfeld - Blind Woman in Poppy Field - 1889
    Perhaps Piglhein's best-known painting.

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    Willard Mullin (1902-1978) is considered by many, including me, to be the best-ever American sports cartoonist. He's likely to hold that informal title for a long time because sports cartooning is essentially extinct in these days of shrunken newspapers that still manage to have huge color photos on their front pages and a correspondingly deficit of words. Oh, well ....

    Mullins' New York Times obituary is here. But a more interesting link is here: besides many examples of Mullin's cartoons it includes a step-by-step set of photos showing how he worked.

    Mullin apparently had little or no formal art instruction. That didn't stop him from gaining a good deal of knowledge about human and animal anatomy -- skeletal and muscular -- to be able to depict subjects both accurately or in hugely exaggerated ways. Many of his cartoons were of the exaggerated kind, but he fairly often would include a realistic portrait of a sports personality. These he usually derived from photographs using a pantograph. But he didn't slavishly trace his reference photos. Instead, as he once put it, he used the pantograph as a sketching tool.

    Although he worked in other places on his way to sports fame, Mullin's best-known work was done for the New York World-Telegram evening newspaper, those cartoons usually focusing on New York City teams.

    Click on the images below to enlarge.

    Gallery

    This shows the characters he created representing pre-1958 New York baseball teams. From left to right are New York Giants (National League), New York Yankees (American League) and Brooklyn Dodgers (National League). The Giant is a bumbling hulk, the Yankee is a coldly efficient athlete, and the Dodger is Mullins' most famous creation, the Brooklyn Bum.

    Here the Brooklyn Bum discusses Willard Mullin.

    A panel dealing with Yankee shortstop Phil Rizutto that combines a portrait with cartoons.

    The New York Yankee infield caricatured.

    I'm not sure what this is, given all the whited-over text.  The general subject seems to be baseball Spring Training.  It includes a rare (for Mullin, who usually dealt with men's sports) female.

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    Hans Thoma (1839-1924), according to some sources Germany's most popular artist around the turn of the 20th century, is difficult to characterize. Well, it's difficult for me. I used the label Pre-Raphaelite in the title of this post mostly because the feeling of a number of his works echoes that of the English group. But other works, especially those dealing with religious themes, might be termed Symbolist. Yet Pre-Raphaelite paintings often had large doses of what later became classed as Symbolism. Sigh: I find this taxonomy stuff frustrating, and should learn to leave that to professional art critics and curators.

    Thoma's English Wikipedia entry is here, but for more information I suggest you click on the left-hand panel, select Deutsch, and have it translated if you don't know German. Otherwise, a bit more biographical information in English is here.

    He was born in a small town in the Black Forest, far from from Munich and other art centers, and more than 30 years before Bismarck created a unified Germany. Yet he was able to work his way up from decorating cuckoo clocks (an important Black Forest product then and now) to eventually becoming a professor at the Grand Ducal Art School in Karlsruhe and director of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, the state art museum there.

    Gallery

    Self-Portrait with Love and Death - 1875
    I suppose he had a reason for showing red paint on his brush, because almost no red can be found otherwise.

    Self-Portrait - 1899
    Painted when he was 60.

    Taunus Landscape - 1890
    The man and his dog in the foreground are overwhelmed by the rest of the painting, including much sky and its clouds.

    Spätsommertag im Schwarzwald - Late Summer in the Black Forest - 1892
    Here he was capturing the darkening leaves.

    Spring - 1894
    There are sheep with their owner's mark painted on them, a woman in the distance apparently doing some work, and some young people in the foreground.  These latter are jammed at the bottom of the canvas, the girl's dress and feet being clipped off, as is the left foot of the boy playing a fife.  Those figures and their activities (such as they are -- the girl seems bored) are somewhat hard to explain other than they might have been dragged there by the distant women and ordered to entertain themselves until she was done with whatever she was doing.

    Diana Under the Tree
    Diana was the goddess of animals as well as of hunting.

    Frau mit Kind in der Hängematte, (Cella Thoma mit Nichte/Adoptivtochter Ella; das Motiv ist älter als das Bild) - Woman and Child in a Hammock (Cella Thoma with Adopted Daughter Ella; a Scene That Took Place Years Before) - 1896

    Uncle Ludwig Maier - 1898
    Interesting contrast between the craggy face and the smooth background.

    The Flight into Egypt
    Thoma painted a number of religious-themed works.

    The Temptation of Christ

    Hell

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    Some older American colleges and universities have a springtime Ivy Day tradition that, among other activities, involves placing a stone plaque on a building and perhaps planting ivy nearby. They were doing that at Penn when I was there, though as a grad student I wasn't involved. Penn still has its Ivy Day, but I don't know if any ivy is still planted.

    Ivy is not physically kind to building exteriors and camouflages a building's architecture. It's my impression that actual ivy is disappearing from Ivy League buildings and elsewhere: correct me if I'm wrong.

    One example of disappearing ivy is the famous Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Once upon a time it was covered with ivy, and now it has none.

    Gallery

    The Empress as seen from a ship in the mid-1920s. The dark areas are ivy.

    A view from the 1940s. The hotel got its final major enlargement in 1928 and much of that part is ivy-covered.

    A July, 1948 photo with, in the background, the north side of the hotel (at the left in the previous image) covered with ivy.

    A photo of the Empress I took in 2013. The north (left) part of the hotel is now ivy-free, but plenty remains on the original section.

    A photo I took recently, following the hotel's latest renovation. There's no ivy to be seen. A big improvement, in my opinion.

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    Wilhelm Maria Hubertus Leibl (1844-1900) was enough of an influence on some well-known late-19th century German painters that the label Leibl-Kreis (Leibl Circle) was coined.

    However, as noted here, Leibl himself was greatly influenced by Gustave Courbet. One possible result of this was his usual practice of composing paintings on the fly rather than doing a lot of careful preparatory work as academicians would do. (James Gurney had a short post about Leibl's technique here.)

    This did not prevent Leibl from painting a subject more than once. So while each work might have been done extemporaneously, collectively they might be considered studies. Examples of his depiction of one subject are included below.

    In general, his paintings as found on the Internet tend to be free, sketchy. But he was quite capable of working in a more precise manner.

    Gallery

    Die drei Frauen in der Kirche - Three Women in Church - 1881
    This seems to be Leibl's most famous painting. It is carefully done ... not spontaneous.

    Porträt des Malers Paul v. Szinyei-Merse - Paul von Szinyei-Merse, Painter - 1869
    This early portrait is sketchy indeed. Might it actually be a study?

    Rosine Fischler Gräfin Treuberg - Rosine Fischler, Countess Treuberg - c. 1877
    Another carefully-done work.

    Rosine Fischler Gräfin Treuberg - Rosine Fischler, Countess Treuberg - c. 1877-79
    Whereas this portrait of the same subject seems to be a study: note, for example, an alternative right arm and the apparent lack of a signature.

    Portrait of Maria Ebersberger - artist's housekeeper
    No date on this Sketch. She seems to be the subject of the following two or three images -- and quite possibly the nearest of the three women in church shown above.

    Farm Girl
    That is the title attached to the image as I found it on the Web, but it's clearly Maria Ebersberger.

    Peasant Girl - 1880
    Again, the Internet title -- but also Maria (compare the ear as well as other features to the images above).

    In Erwartung - Waiting / Anticipation - 1898
    The Internet date is 1898, whereas the above images of Maria Ebersberger seem to be from around 1880. Nevertheless, this seems to be Maria shown at about the same age.

    Miesbacher Bäuerin - Miesbach Farm Girl - 1896
    A later portrait sketch.

    Strickende Mädchen auf der Ofenbank - Girls Knitting - 1892-95
    And another of Leibl's later paintings.

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  • 10/08/18--01:00: Kerry Ury's Nighttime Scenes
  • Let's call it a mini-genre. Maybe even a micro-genre. I'm thinking of urban nighttime scenes -- exteriors and interiors. Many artists depicted these sorts of things on occasion, but few devoted sizable amounts of their careers to it. Toulouse-Lautrec's cabaret work might qualify. Another artist, and one who is known for dealing with the night, is Leo Lesser Ury (1861-1931).

    Ury's Wikipedia entry is here, and from there you can link to a slightly longer German version. The latter mentions that Ury feuded with Max Liebermann, and Liebermann's entry (which seems to be taken from an online translation, given its awkward phrasing) notes that Liebermann and Lovis Corinth also were feuding. Note to self: I need to learn more about Liebermann 'cause he sounds interesting.

    As for Ury, his career received boosts from Adolph Menzel and Corinth. His personality seems to have been that of a loner, and I found no note of him ever marrying. But his art was well-regarded in his day, and I noticed that one of his pastels was auctioned for more than $200,000 a while ago.

    Ury's style doesn't much appeal to me. That said, I find his oils and pastels interesting due to their subject-matter. That's probably because the period of European history that I study the most is from around 1860 to the end of World War 2. I'd love to hop into the nearest time machine and visit Berlin circa 1910.

    Gallery

    Unter den Linden - 1922
    Unter den Linden is Berlin's main street. At one end is the Brandenburg Gate, the other is just short of the Museum Island, and between are such items as a university, some embassies, and the Adlon Hotel. The view above seems to be from on the north side near Pariser Platz, looking east.

    Brandenburger Tor - Brandenburg Gate - mid-1920s
    Looking west on Unter den Linden in Pariser Platz. I include these daytime scenes to show another side of Ury's work.  Now to the night stuff ....

    Parisian Boulevard by Night - 1880s

    Im Café Bauer, Berlin - 1888-89

    Abend im Café Bauer - Evening in Café Bauer - 1898

    Im Café Victoria, Berlin - 1904

    Couple in a Café - pastel - 1910

    Reading Newspapers in a Café - pastel - 1913
    A café scene, but in daytime. I include it because of the depiction of reflected light on the tabletops.

    Café de la Paix bei Nacht, Paris - 1920
    Hard to tell the point of view, but the background is most likely Avenue de l'Opéra even though it seems too brightly lighted.

    Vor dem Café (Berlin bei Nacht) - By the Café / Berlin at Night - 1920s

    Rainy Night, Berlin - 1920s

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    Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (1863-1935) was a Danish artist (Wikipedia entry here) who painted a surprising number of similar scenes.

    Those scenes were interiors with similar windows and furnishings populated by a young woman. Superficially, this is similar to a number of the known works by the famed Dutch artist Johannes (Jan) Vermeer where there was a window towards the left side of the painting, one or a few human subjects (usually female), and varying room décor.

    Holsøe painted other subjects -- often different interiors -- but I thought it would be fun to present a set of his paintings that portray essentially the same sort of thing. Besides paned windows, some on French doors, nearly every painting contains a tall, narrow mirror. Titles are omitted in the Gallery below.

    Gallery

    The general setting without a young woman.








    Finally, Holsøe provides The Old Switcheroo -- the woman is outside.

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    Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848-1936), Wikipedia entry here, specialized in mural painting. He was successful at that, winning a number of major commissions: the link has a list of many of these.

    Blashfield studied engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a while, then left to pursue art. An inheritance allowed him to go to Paris in 1869 where he studied under Léon Bonnat. He remained in France until 1881.

    Although his time in France coincided with the rise of French Impressionism, his style remained traditional, but not strictly Academic. This worked well for him as a muralist, because American government-funded murals in the decades around 1900 tended to have uplifting themes often manifested by symbolic characters.

    The examples of Blashfield's work shown below are mostly not murals because those could be huge, often integrated into a building's architecture, and hard to photograph. Instead, I feature easel paintings and drawings. I should add that some of his best-known easel paintings are quite large -- almost mini-murals.

    Gallery

    Photo of Blashfield and assistants working on dome mural for Wisconsin's capitol building.


    Photo of Wisconsin capitol mural "Resources." The men at its base provide its scale.


    The Musician - 1874
    From his Paris days.

    First Court of Temple of Ramses III, Medinet Aboo - 1887
    Blashfield traveled a good deal, and this is an oil sketch made in Egypt.

    Portrait of Evangeline Blashfield, the Artist's Wife - 1889


    The Festival of Spring - c. 1890

    Three Muses

    Terpsichore - drawing for Adolph Lewisohn residence - 1894

    Dance - hall panel for Adolph Lewisohn - 1899
    Probably destroyed when the West 57th Street house was altered or, later, demolished: I wonder what it actually looked like in color.

    Angel with the Flaming Sword

    The Call of Missouri Trumpet (Missouri Watching the Departure of Her Troops) - 1918
    A Great War painting. Trumpeters from historical times are at the left, a doughboy trumpeter in the distance.