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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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    Bernd Steiner (1884-1933) was an Austrian illustrator and artist best known (though he is far from famous) for his posters. The only biographical information I could find on a quick Google search was this Wikipedia entry in German. The translation feature for once yielded a text that largely made sense in English. Unfortunately, the entry is brief. Basically, Steiner was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army during the Great War and had his right hand (presumably the one he drew using) badly injured. Regardless, he was able to continue his career, and most of the images of his work on Google are post-war.

    By the late 1920s he was living in Bremen, Germany, doing posters for the North German Lloyd steamship company and teaching art. But he returned to Austria, dying in Vienna aged 49.

    As the title of this post indicates, Steiner had no recognizable style. On one hand, this meant he could stay current with changing illustration fads and fashions. On the other, this probably contributed to his lack of the fame that the likes of A.M. Cassandre and Ludwig Hohlwein attained in the poster field.


    We begin with two examples of Steiner's painting. I don't have information of the first one, but the once immediately above is titled "Oberwölz" (1921).

    Here are two posters using the same format from the early 1920s.

    Another Vienna poster from the same period. I'm not sure what "Red Monday" refers to other than a name for the event being publicized -- presumably nothing political. The women emerging from a tomato plant is odd, yet interesting.

    Postcard illustration.

    North German Lloyd poster from around the mid-1920s advertising North Sea destinations.

    Nice illustration of elegant first-class passengers heading to South America on Norddeutscher Lloyd steamer Sierra.

    Norddeutscher Lloyd announced two very large, fast liners for the North Atlantic run via posters such as this.

    Steiner is now using a simplified style fashionable around 1930. This poster advertises three spring sailings to the Mediterranean.

    Another North German Lloyd "To South America" poster. This shows Rio in the background.

    A polar sailing to Iceland, Spitzbergen and Norway on the "Stuttgart" steamer with two (!!) propellers -- I'm not sure why this fact was featured other than to suggest that the ship had some substance and was less likely to become immobilized if a singe propeller shaft went bad.

    This poster is dated 1933, the year of Steiner's death. It features an Austrian lake along with an apparent shift in his style.

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  • 08/28/17--01:00: Alma-Tadema, Miniaturist
  • Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) was both popular and financially successful in his day. Then Victorian-era art went seriously out of fashion after his death. Times change, pendulums swing, and if your grandparents had sprung for one of his paintings in 1945 and willed it to you, it might be worth several -- perhaps even tens of -- millions today. More about him here.

    About six years ago I wrote about Alma-Tadema and his 1894 painting "Spring" that is a public favorite at the Getty in Los Angeles. I visited the Getty again in April and took more photos of it and its details.

    When seen in art books, his paintings tend to give the impression of being large. Some are, but many are surprisingly small. And some of his larger paintings contain many small elements. Such is the case with Spring. Below are a few detail photos I took. Click on them to enlarge.


    This is an image of Spring found on the internet for general reference.

    Here is my establishment photo. Spring is by no means Alma-Tadema's largest painting, but it isn't small. You can get a sense of its size by comparing it to the information plaque at the right. What is small are most of the people and related details pictured in the painting.

    This segment is near the painting's center. It shows people in the background of the scene.  Many of the heads are about one centimeter high, some even smaller.

    The lower part of the painting, edges slightly cropped. Those flowers are a little larger than the letters in the plaque's caption text.

    Closer, and slightly to the left of the previous image. On my desktop iMac, what's shown here appears about the same size as in Tadema's painting.

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    The subject painting for this post isn't an early one, because Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873) was about 38 years old when he painted it. But it (and one other of the same subject) has a different feeling that those made before and after.

    The painting is "Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn" (1843), described here on the J. Gaul Getty Museum web site.

    And here is Winterhalter's Wikipedia entry. It mentions that he made a highly successful career as a court portraitist. One result, according to the entry, was that his work is difficult to categorize in terms of the various movements of his day. Another is that he was looked down upon by other artists.

    Setting that aside, let's turn to Leonilla's portrait and a few other Winterhalters to provide context. Included are two photos I took in April at the Getty that you might want to click on to enlarge.


    Elisabeth, Margravine of Baden - 1831
    An early example of Wilterhalter's court paintings.

    Queen Victoria - 1842
    Painted a year before our subject painting.

    Barbe Dmitrievna Mergasov, Madame Rimsky-Korsakov - 1864
    One of Winterhalter's best-known works.

    Sascha von Metzler - 1872
    One of his last paintings.

    Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn - 1843
    The subject painting as seen by my camera at the Getty.

    Closer photo.  Unlike the other examples of Winterhalter's work, this painting is hard-edge with slightly simplified forms hinting at the Art Deco / Moderne style of around 1930. His subject does not quite seem real.

    Princess Leonilla of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn - 1840s
    I found this image on the Web. It was dated vaguely as being from the 1840s, but appears to have been made about the same time as our subject. It, too, has the same stylistic spirit. However, the Wikipedia entry on Leonilla has it that its date was around 1836 and painted in Italy along with a portrait of her husband (that I could not find via a Google search). I'm doubtful regarding this claim, given the similarity in painting style and her hair style in both paintings, but could easily be mistaken. Also, I could find no photos of her in a brief Google search, so can offer no other evidence of Leonilla's appearance. She lived to be 101, by the way.

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  • 09/04/17--01:00: Some Frans Hals Brushwork
  • This post is mostly intended for readers who paint or are interested in technique. The subject is a work by Frans Hals (c.1582-1666) -- extensive Wikipedia entry here -- titled "Saint John the Evangelist" (1625-28).

    I came across it when visiting the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in April. The Getty's Web site deals with the painting here.

    It was painted long after St. John's time, so Hals either created an imaginary image or, more likely, got someone to pose and represent the Evangelist. What interest me most about the painting is how Hals treated the hands. Click on that photo to enlarge.


    An image of the painting via the Getty Web site. I brightened it slightly.

    Establishment view from my camera of the painting as displayed.

    Closeup view of the part of the painting that interested me the most, the treatment of the hand holding the pen.

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    Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859-1891) was a founder of the color-dot technique of Pointillism and is best known for his paintings in that style. As this mentions, he had a few years of formal art training before his military service, and then went on to his brief career as a painter.

    Also mentioned is that Seurat did a good deal of preparation before making his large, Pointillist paintings -- understandable, given their subject matter, composition and coloring. Part of this preparation involved smaller studies. And before that phase of his career he did paint many small works that had an impressionist feeling.


    Un dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte - 1884-86
    This is the painting Seurat is most famous for.

    Head of a Girl - 1879
    Here is the earliest Seurat that I could locate. Done while attending the École des Beaux-Arts.

    Sunset - c. 1881
    An early post-Army painting. Wispy and not nearly as solidly conceived as most of this later works, but at this point, he was probably just experimenting with Impressionist ideas.

    Banlieue - 1881-82
    A mix of a few well-defined and ill-defined forms. Brushwork is nondescript.

    Landscape in the Ile-de-France - 1882
    Brush strokes here are more obvious.

    Fishing in the Seine - 1883
    Stronger brushwork for the riverbank, similar to what is found in the following images.

    Man Painting a Boat - c. 1883
    A good deal of hatching brushwork in the vegetation.

    The Stone Breakers, Le Raincy (c. 1882)
    I found this at the Norton Simon in Pasadena. It's a small study (compare its size to the information plaque). The museum's web site deals with it here.

    Detail photo. Again we see short, strong brush strokes at different angles. An exception is the human figures who are rendered in a different manner. Note that on the stone pile, Seurat was careful to paint thick-over-thin, a concept he surely learned at the Beaux-Arts if not before. Click on the image to enlarge.

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    People with only a casual exposure to art history -- perhaps an introductory college class on the subject -- might think that painters used tight brushwork and hard edges up to the time of the French Impressionists. They would be largely correct. Mediaeval, Renaissance and Academic paintings are mostly rather solid-looking affairs.

    And yes, they might be aware of a few exceptions such as Frans Hals. But they might not realize that, by the late 1700s, several important painters were not making totally solid paintings. That was because subjects of portraits looked crisp and carefully done (this is what viewers mostly focused on -- faces, etc.). What tends to be ignored are other parts of the same painting that were not painted with the same exactitude.

    This post considers Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) and his painting Portrait of Anne, Countess of Chesterfield (1777–1778) that resides in the Getty in Los Angeles.

    Biographical information on Gainsborough can be found here, and the Getty's web page on the painting is here.

    Let's take a look.


    First, another Gainsborough portrait, The Blue Boy (1770), found across town at the Huntington in Pasadena. Note how sketchy the background is.

    Here is the Getty web site's image of the Countess that I brightened somewhat to set the stage for the following photos I took in April (click on them to enlarge).

    An establishment shot showing the scale of the painting: compare it to the information plaque to the right. Lighting in the galley partly washes out the upper part of the painting, but that's the way it often is when you photograph paintings in such settings.

    Here is Gainsborough's treatment of Anne's costume. Plenty of visible brushwork here. Note the lack of detail for her hand and how the arm is outlined. Far from Academic painting, but then, Gainsborough never attended an academy school.

    And here is some of Anne's setting.  Gainsborough began his career as a landscape painter, yet even here his treatment isn't detailed. At this late date it's hard to tell if he sketched in the background for aesthetic reasons or because additional care would have taken so much extra time that the effort wouldn't have been commensurate with the fee he charged. There also is the possibility that details such as the treatment of costume and setting was stipulated in his contract or agreement before work was started.

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    George Spencer Watson (1869-1934) is yet another Royal Academy painter active early in the last century who was competent, made a decent living, and is now largely forgotten. He mostly made portraits, but also turned out some very nice paintings of nudes, and painted some landscapes and religious scenes. A brief Wikipedia entry on him is here.

    This post mostly deals with his portraits. Stylistically, he was not influenced by Modernism until perhaps near the very end of his career. Some unfinished works are shown that might interest readers who paint and others interested in how artists go about their business.

    Office viewing warning: The nudes are at the bottom of the image stack, so scroll carefully.


    Lady in White (unfinished)
    This probably dates from around 1900. I failed to notice any earlier works by Watson via Googling.

    Hilda and Maggie - 1911
    A portrait of Watson's wife in the Tate collection.

    A Lady in Black - 1922
    Also in the Tate collection.

    Portrait of a Lady (unfinished)
    I'll guess that this was painted after 1920, possibly not long before he died. If the subject's costume were more finished and the hair style more visible, dating would be easier.

    The Orange Dress
    This might be Mary, the artist's daughter.

    The Cottage Garden - 1928
    An example of Watson's landscape work.

    Miss Beaton - 1934
    This too is probably unfinished: note the date and the sketchy brushwork in the lower part of the painting. The subject is Barbara Beaton, a sister of Cecil Beaton, the famous photographer (though before finding a detailed caption, I was guessing that she was Nancy Beaton, her more famous sister).

    Nude - 1927
    I find the unconventional pose interesting.

    Sunlight Nude
    I like this painting a lot, partly because of the (again) slightly different-from-the-usual pose and setting. But the best part, to my way of thinking is Watson's treatment of color. This was probably painted in the mid-to-late 1920s, before high-quality color photography was available. So he had to do this without that kind of photographic reference.

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    I previously wrote about J. Allen St. John (1875-1957) here, mostly dealing with his color illustrations for books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950). Background information on St. John can be found here and here.

    St. John is considered by many to be highly influential to later generations of illustrators dealing in Science Fiction and, especially, Fantasy art. That is probably more to do with establishing certain conventions than his abilities as an illustrator. In the post cited above I mentioned "reproductions of his paintings often strike me as having too-fussy brushwork." I think this tendency carries over to his monochrome illustrations, especially those rendered in pen-and-ink.

    To demonstrate my point about St. John's dithering penwork, compare those illustrations to that of master pen-artists Franklin Booth (1874-1948) and Joseph Clement Coll (1881-1921). Some of the difference might be chalked up to the quality of paper used for printing their works. Book illustrations on the same kind of paper as the text couldn't support fine penwork. On the other hand, some books from the early decades of the 20th century had glossy paper tip-ins that allowed for much more detail and subtlety in the artwork. In such instances St. John would abandon pen-and-ink for charcoal or wash drawings.

    Interesting fact: All the men mentioned above were near-contemporaries.


    From Tarzan and the Golden Lion
    Here St. John does a better job on the lion than he does with Tarzan.

    From Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar
    Some illustrations from another Tarzan book.

    From Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar

    From Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar
    Here the depiction of Tarzan's body comes off fussier than that of the foliage.

    From Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar
    This seems to have some wash or diluted ink work. Still, the pen strokes are largely haphazard, resulting in lack of clarity for the scene depicted.

    From Mastermind of Mars
    Illustration for one of the John Carter of Mars novels. The background shading blends too closely to the definition of the subjects, reducing clarity.

    From Swords of Mars
    This illustration was intended for slick paper, but St. John's use of shadows again hurts the composition.

    From Tarzan the Terrible
    All the images thus far, including this one, are probably scans from old books. This one seems to be from a slick tip-in, but it's hard to be certain what medium St, John used.

    From Tarzan the Terrible
    My previous St. John post included a reproduction of this image from a book, whereas what we see here looks like a scan of the original artwork. So far as I am concerned this wash drawing is his most successful illustration ever. The fussiness seen in the other images is absent. Why? I have no idea.

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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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


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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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.