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A blog about about painting, design and other aspects of aesthetics along with a dash of non-art topics. The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished -- just put in its proper, diminished place.
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    The woman is the portrait detail above is Rebecca H. (Harbert?) Whelan (1877? - 1950?), about whom little seems to be known, if Googling the Internet is any indication. It seems that her father (can't get a Google hit on him, either) was a trustee of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where the painter, Thomas Pollock Anshutz (1851-1912) taught. Here is the entire painting:

    A Rose - 1907

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

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

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

    Gallery

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

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

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

    Portrait of Rebecca H. Whelan - c. 1910

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

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

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

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

    Gallery

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

    A Sunny Afternoon - 1957

    Migration - 1963

    A Double Life - 1964

    Homage to Velazquez - 1965

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

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

    For some information regarding his career, go here.

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

    Gallery

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

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

    Henri Matisse - 1905
    Fauvist portrait of a fauvist.

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

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

    The Last Supper - 1911
    Hints of Cubist faceting here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Christina's World - 1948

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

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

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

    Gallery

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

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

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

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

    Winter fields - 1942

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

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

    Trodden Weed - 1951
    Completed soon after his lung operation.

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

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

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

    Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Gallery

    Poultry Market, Pontoise - 1882

    Poultry Market - 1885

    Market at Gisors (unfinished) - 1889

    Market, Gisors - 1891

    Poultry Market, Pontoise - 1892

    Market at Gisors - 1899

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    A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach - 1885

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

    Below are some other Cornish scenes painted by Forbes.

    Gallery

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

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

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

    At the Moorage - 1906

    Gala Day at Newlyn, Cornwall - 1907

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

    The Fisherman's Expedition - 1923

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

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  • 05/17/18--01:00: Max Slevogt, Secessionist
  • Max Slevogt (1868-1932) is categorized as an Impressionist, but also did some Symbolist subject paintings and other kinds of works including illustration. He became associated with the Berlin Secession, according to his Wikipedia entry. Another source filled with a confusing mix of facts, and dates is here.

    These and other sources state or imply that Slevogt was a very important German painter. That is probably so, though I can't work up much enthusiasm for his manner of sketchy brushwork and therefore don't regard him highly.

    Your taste may well vary, so here are images of some of his paintings in approximately chronological order to ponder.

    Gallery

    Die blonde Theres - 1896

    Totentanz (Death Dance, or Dance with Death) - 1896
    The same model seems to be in both paintings.

    Autumn Evening Mood, Neukastel - 1897

    Feierstunde The Day's Work Done - 1900

    The Dancer Marietta di Rigardo - 1904
    Around this time, Slevogt's sketchy style kicks in more noticeably.

    Dame im weissen Reitkleid zu Pferde (Lady in White Riding Clothes on a Horse) - 1910
    This might be his wife, Antonie (Nini) Finkler.

    Spring in the Palatinate - 1910

    Anna Pavlova
    More than a sketch, less than a painting.

    Unter den Linden - 1913
    Berlin's main street shortly before the Great War.

    Portrait of Dancer Antonia Mercé, Called "La Argentina" - 1926

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    A hazard of travel is getting sick. In April I was flying from London to Seattle, all the while the man in the seat behind me was coughing. Of course, a few days later I came down with a horrific cold followed by a sinus infection. And then I was off to Germany to take a tour that filled in a few gaps from previous visits.

    All this is my sorry excuse for not researching something I had planned to do in Berlin, namely track down the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. It was the headquarters of Hermann Göring's Aviation Ministry and for some reason survived Allied bombings and Russian artillery during World War 2. That is, it's the only remaining major Nazi-era building in the city -- a real curiosity. (Background information can be found here.)

    I had a free day to rattle around Berlin, visiting places I'd seen before and looking for new buildings, stores and such things that comprise a thriving city. Towards the end of the day I suddenly remembered that it would be nice to track down the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. Except I didn't know where it was other than it probably would have been near the Wilhelm Strasse, the avenue where ministries had tended to be since the Kaiser's day.

    Gallery

    I thought this building might be it.  It's on Mohren Strasse just off Friedrich Strasse and a block east of Wilhelm Strasse. It does look the part, having that stripped-down classical style coupled with a kind of functionalism popular in many countries in the 1930s. But it wasn't the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, as I found out once I got home and could do some research. As I write this, I still don't know anything about it. It might be a Nazi-era structure, but in that case it should have been heavily damaged during the war. Perhaps it was a Communist-era building. If any reader knows what it is, let us know in a comment.

    As I discovered once I got home, this was the Reichsluftfahrtministerium. The view is of the end facing Leipziger Strasse near the corner of Wilhelm Strasse -- the rest of it takes up most of the rest of the block. As the link above states, during DDR days it was used by several ministries and nowadays is where Germany's Finance Ministry is housed. In the arcade behind the columns is a 18 meter mural on Meissen porcelain tiles created by Max Lingner in the early 1950s. It is a Socialist Realism work of the ilk found in Russia during Josef Stalin's days. Propaganda, in other words. Below are photos I took of it.





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    Austin Cooper (1890-1964) was a Canadian-born British poster artist who, before he died, must have discovered that an automobile (the Austin Mini Cooper) was his namesake. Kidding aside, Cooper was one of a group of illustrators who created travel posters using a similar technique for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), especially during the 1930s.

    His Wikipedia entry mentions that he moved across the Atlantic a few times but finally settled in England following his service in the Canadian army in the Great War. Besides creating posters, he managed a school of commercial art in the late 1930s, then abandoned illustration in the mid-1940s to pursue fine arts. Some of his abstract paintings are in the Tate collection.

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    It's not clear to me what this poster was promoting, though the smokestacks are painted Canadian Pacific colors.

    One of a series with the same theme and style.

    Probably from the late 1920s.





    He did a few posters for Indian Railways.


    For a 1931 exhibit at the V&A.

    This, from 1932.

    This is a highly unusual style for a LNER poster. It was done around the mid-1930s, judging by the woman's clothing.

    Abstraction 200/62 - 1957-1962

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    London's Victoria & Albert Museum has an exhibit titled "Ocean Liners: Speed and Style" that will be going on into June. Here is the V&S's web page for it, though it might disappear once the exhibit closes.

    It's not a large exhibit, perhaps limited by the space available for such things, so I found it a bit over-priced at 18 pounds. But I found it enjoyable because the 1920s and 1930s have always fascinated me, and most of the items on display are from those times -- especially the 1930s.

    Below are some photos I took when I was there in April.

    Gallery

    Collection of 1930s ocean liner furniture and décor.
    Sadly, I neglected to take a documentation photo, so cannot tell you where the items originated.

    Decorative relief, perhaps from the Queen Mary
    Very Art Deco, and might have been from almost any new French, Italian or British liner, though the airplane looks like a British de Havilland Rapide (again, I failed to document the source).

    Study for Normandie interior

    Decorations from the Normandie

    Display evocative of mid-1930s fashions for passengers in First Class ship sections. In the background is a repeating sequence from a contemporary movie. I must confess this gives me a strong sense of false-nostalgia.

    Deck chair from unidentified (by me) ship

    Now comes the Big Surprise -- for me, anyway. It's the model of the 1932 streamlined ocean liner designed by Norman Bel Geddes.


    Establishment shot to provide sense of scale

    Front quarter view

    Rear quarter view

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  • 05/31/18--01:00: Details by Detaille
  • I wrote about French military artist Édouard Detaille -- Jean-Baptiste Édouard Detaille (1848-1912) -- here.

    A recent visit to the Musée de l'Armée in Paris brought me back in contact with a painting by him that the museum calls Remise de ses nouveaux drapeaux et étendards à l’Armée Française sur l’Hippodrome de Longchamp, le 14 Juillet 1880 (Web site citation here).

    It is a large-scale study for a painting titled La distribution des drapeaux à Longchamp par le président Jules Grévy le 14 Juillet 1880 (link here) that Detaille chose to destroy after it had been exhibited. Apparently it hadn't been well-received, and Detaille also was somewhat dissatisfied with it. Some segments were cut out and later displayed as standalone works.

    Readers interested in painters' techniques might wish to examine the photos I took of parts of the study version in the Musée de l'Armée. Detaille included an immense number of figures in the foreground and elsewhere, and readers can see how he indicated these. Click on my photos to considerably enlarge.

    Gallery

    Image of the painting from the Musée de l'Armée web site.

    Establishment photo I took showing the lighting conditions as my camera chose to depict them.

    Detail photo.

    Detail photo.

    Detail photo.

    Fragment of the finished painting.

    Fragment of the finished painting.

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    Fred Taylor (1875-1963) was one of the many talented artists who created art for British railway company travel posters.

    Biographical information on him is truly sketchy. A National Railway Museum publication in my library has the following:

    "Born in London, he studied at Goldsmith's College and worked at the Waring and Gillow Studio. In 1930 he was commissioned to design four ceiling paintings for the Underwriting Room at Lloyd's and murals for Reed's Lacquer Room. He worked in naval camouflage during the Second World War. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and other galleries in London, and worked for the Empire Marketing Board, LNER, London Transport and several shopping companies."

    And that's all I could find. The above blurb essentially deals with what he did starting at age 55.

    The images below are of some of the poster art he did for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) along with a few others in the 1920s and 1930s. Some of his 1930s work for LNER is similar in style to that of Tom Purvis, a more critically acclaimed poster artist who I wrote about here. Most of his poster illustrations are made in more traditional styles. Regardless, they are skillfully done. They were also popular with the general public, if the criterion is sales of posters. Moreover, Taylor was the best-paid LNER poster artist.

    Gallery

    Judging by the costumes, this was probably done in the early-to-mid 1920s.

    Even though I've sailed from there, I had't realized that once upon a time Harwich was a port for steamships going to Belgium, Germany, etc. Note some items projecting beyond the frame at the left.

    A Tom Purvis style poster. Perhaps the LNER at the time was interested in consistent images.

    Petergate, in York: Minster in the background.

    Historical scene: Captain Cook's departure in 1776.

    Two railroads cited here, so I'm not sure who commissioned this.

    It seems Taylor also did some work for the GWR.

    Subtle color scheme for a travel poster, but nice.

    A city close to York, and well worth a short visit.

    Evocative Piccadilly Circus illustration. This was done in 1925.

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    Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) famously painted Postimpressionist, often Symbolist scenes of Brittany and French Polynesia using exaggerated color schemes. It took him a while to reach his signature style, and this post provides some examples of his work leading up to that point.

    Wikipedia provides an lengthy (for them) entry dealing with Gauguin here. Included is information that he began painting about 1873, but didn't do it full-time until starting around 1882-83.

    Below are images of some paintings from his earliest artistic days to when his main style emerged.

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    Clearing - 1873
    A dark scene reminding me of Barbizon School art.

    Cail Factories at the Quai of Grenelle - 1875
    This is sketchier, the colors are brighter yet limited.

    The Embroiderer (Mette Gauguin) - 1878
    Here we find Impressionist-style brushwork and perhaps coloring (though this is an interior scene, not outdoor countryside).

    Geese on the Farm - 1879
    Again, quasi-Impressionist.

    Pissarro's Garden, Pontoise - 1881
    Painted while they were still friends.

    Farm in Osney - 1883
    Here Gauguin is using somewhat stronger brushwork while maintining interest in color combinations.

    Mettte Gauguin in Evening Dress - 1884
    This setting is a rarity for Gauguin.

    Four Breton Women - 1886
    A subject theme while he was in Brittany, though here his style is close-to, but not quite Gauguin.

    Martinique Landscape - 1887
    Now he has been exposed to tropical colors -- an important factor of his later work.

    Then, in 1888, Gauguin painted pictures in a wide variety of styles including the cloisonnist, strongly colored theme he became noted for.

    Paintings from 1888

    Madeleine Bernard - 1888
    A nice portrait of artist Emile Bernard's sister.

    Breton Woman and Goose by Water - 1888
    An experiment using extremely bold colors.

    Cove Opposite Pont-Aven Harbor - 1888
    Here he drops back briefly towards Impressionism.

    The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) - 1888
    This is perhaps Gauguin's earliest famous painting.

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    During the 1920s and 1930s Britain had four major privately owned passenger railway systems that operated on a largely regional basis. That is, each had a core area that it essentially dominated, but also had tendrils that were in areas of others. So there was some direct competition, but that was generally minor aside from, for instance, the London Midland & Scottish Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway (the LNER) both serving Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

    Besides the relatively minor case of overlapping destinations, the greatest competition seems to have involved attracting tourists and vacationers to places within core service areas. For example, the Great Western Railway would publicize Cornwall while the LNER would be touting Scarborough, leaving potential travelers to mull over which site to select.

    To keep advertising fresh from season to season and year to year, railroad companies often used different poster designers over time instead of sticking to one artist doing multiple works for the same destination (though that was done too). This rotation was the policy of LNER.

    As an example of this, below are LNER posters for the spa city of Harrogate in Yorkshire, not far west of York.

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    By Frank Brangwyn.

    By Lilian Hocknell.

    By Austin Cooper.

    By Arthur C. Michael.

    By Fred Taylor.

    By Joseph Greenup.

    By Tom Purvis.

    By Frank Newbould.

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    I hadn't known of Jes Wilhelm Schlaikjer (1897–1982) until he was featured in Illustration Magazine a few months ago.

    For one thing, he wasn't included in my go-to reference book about illustrators, Walt Reed's The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000. Another reason I hadn't noticed him was that he seldom or never appeared in major magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post or Collier's nor in some other magazines that I sometimes saw when I was young.

    His Wikipedia is here. It states that he was "most known for his recruitment and war bonds posters during World War II." The Illustration Magazine article also deals with his pulp magazine cover art and illustrations he made for the American Legion's magazine.

    What struck me was how competent Schlaikjer was in depicting people. Most illustrators of his generation were competent at doing that, but he was at least half a notch above the average of the pack.

    Sadly, his career ended when in his early 60s he contracted Parkinson's Disease which afflicted him for the rest of his long life.

    The images below can be found in the Illustration Magazine article along with many more. You can probably still order that issue (No. 59).

    Gallery

    Story illustration - 1924
    This is in line with illustration fashions of the time.  Reminds me of Dean Cornwell's early 1920s work, though the Illustration article does not mention any direct connection between the two men.  However, they both had training at Chicago's Art Institute and the Art Students League.

    Black Mask magazine cover - February 1929
    Pulp magazine cover.

    Black Mask magazine cover - April 1932
    Another from a few years later, this in a style he mostly used for that magazine.  He signed his pulp work with the blob seen at the bottom of the image.  The Illustration article probably correctly speculates that his was done as a career-protection tactic -- so as not to be type-cast as a pulp illustrator.

    American Legion Magazine illustration - 1939
    Again Schlaikjer uses a vignette format.  But here his depiction is far more naturalistic.

    American Legion Magazine illustration - 1940
    I find this very nicely done -- especially the seated officer in the foreground.

    World War 2 poster
    This features the famous M-1 (Garand) rifle.  I was issued one in basic training and liked it better than the later M-14 I had when stationed in Korea.

    World War 2 poster
    Schlaikjer was a Great War Signal Corps guy, so probably put extra effort into this poster.

    Washington Star newspaper photo of Schlaikjer painting a portrait of Major General Anthony C. McAuliffe - 1950
    McAuliffe led the defenders of  Bastogne during the December 1944 Battle of the Bulge and famously told the Germans "Nuts!" when asked to surrender.  Note how well Schlaikjer captured McAuliffe.

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    The first, and perhaps the most famous, science-fiction comic strip was Buck Rogers which debuted in January 1929. Others of that genre followed, the best-known of these was Flash Gordon which featured the highest quality artwork of the lot, certainly in its earliest years when Alex Raymond wielded his pen and brush.

    The only other American sci-fi strip with top-notch artwork that I'm aware of off-hand was Twin Earths (1952-1963), created by publications maestro Oskar Lebeck (1903-1966), who did the writing in the early years and Alden McWilliams (1916-1993), who did the art. I will probably write more about McWilliams in another post, but shall focus on Twin Earths here.

    The concept of Twin Earths was that there existed a totally Earth-like planet that shared Earth's orbit but at exactly the opposite side -- 180 degrees away. This meant that, as of 1952 when the strip started, there was no way we on Earth could detect Terra, as it was called. Terrans were a few hundred years ahead of Earth technologically, so could visit here using their flying saucer spacecraft. Another quirk was that their population was 90 percent female. Yet another was that they had lifespans exceeding 150 years, yet preserved youthful appearances over most of that time.

    The opening few months of panels can be found here. A Terran female agent reveals her identity to an FBI agent, the male hero of the strip. Then things flow from there.

    The Seattle Times newspaper suffered a strike in 1953, and when it ended the paper published special sections displaying all the comics that would have been printed during the time of the strike. I recently made scans of these for Twin Earths, and two of these are displayed below. At this point in the strip's development, the plotting wasn't very interesting. Mostly it was presenting the futuristic marvels of Terra, contrasting them with 1953 Earth. There was a bit of romance-related activity, but no space wars or bug-eyed monsters.

    I'll comment further in the captions, but want to stress McWilliams' artwork. Grinding out comics panels day after day can make corner-cutting tempting. Yet McWilliams didn't seem to fall into that mode very often, maintaining a commendably even strain.

    Click on the images to enlarge.

    Gallery

    I don't think the dialog regarding electromagnetism set readers' hearts to beating faster. But Ah! the artwork. The compositional variety. The poses of the characters, the shifting points of view. And those seriously attractive women. McWilliams could do it all.

    This set deals with Terra's contact with a planet from another solar system.

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    William Strang (1959-1921) was a Scot who spent his career in London, first as an etcher and later as a painter of portraits, mostly. A useful summary of his career is here.

    His paintings were workmanlike, but skilled -- that is, not flashy like Sargent's. Nor were his subjects usualy major aristocrats, so far as I can tell. And he was little influenced by Modernism, though there are hints of that in some of the images below.

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    Vita Sackville-West - 1918
    As her extensive Wikipedia entry mentions, she was indeed aristocratic. But she also had a literary life, as did other Strang portrait subjects. Modernist simplification can be seen in this painting, though Vita's face is accurately portrayed.

    John Masefield - 1912
    A more definite literary figure, Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate in 1930.

    Sir John Fisher
    "Jacky" Fisher was First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy. His major innovations included the creation of battleship Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun ship of its kind, along with the less-successful battlecruiser line.

    Bacchante
    Not everyone Strang painted was famous.

    Italian Girl - 1915

    The Opera Cloak - 1912
    He also painted upper-middle class genre scenes. Some modernist simplification and flattening are found here, though there is no distortion of the subjects' proportions.

    The Love Letter - 1912
    A hugely popular topic for painters for many years.

    Bank Holiday - 1912
    These are occasional three-day weekends in the United Kingdom.

    Café Bar - 1910
    The man at the right resembles Strang as seen in several of his self-portraits.

    The Feather Fan - 1910
    No sign of modernist influence here.

    Thomas Hardy - 1920
    Hardy is another important literary subject: biography here. Note the modernist background -- possibly a real painting, but might have been a Strang invention. This is one of his last works.

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    Henry Taylor Lamb (1883-1960) had almost completed his medical training when he chucked it and took up art. As mentioned here, some of his art instruction was at William Orpen and Augustus John's Chelsea School of Art. Lamb became friends with John, but his first wife's liberated ways that paralleled John's made for complicated times before the Lambs separated.

    When the Great War started, Lamb hurriedly completed his medical training and became an army medical officer serving in most of the major fronts. Then he returned to art, eventually divorced, and then married the much younger Lady Pansy Pakenham (daughter of an earl) by whom they had three children. World War 2 found him as a war artist, though most of his paintings were portraits and scenes from training areas.

    Aside from military subjects, the bulk of Lamb's paintings seem to be portraits, some of persons involved in London's literary scene. However, this source said that his attitudes about the Bloomsbury Set were not positive.

    Lamb's painting style seldom reached very far into Modernism, though he did simplify on occasion and once in a while resorted to distortion. I might characterize it as 1930-vintage not-quite-traditional.

    Gallery

    Lytton Strachy - 1914
    An example of Lamb's use of distortion.

    Irish Troops in the Judaean Hills Surprised by a Turkish Bombardment - 1919
    Commissioned by the Imperial War Museum.

    Withy Beds, Herefordshire
    An example of Lamb's landscape painting.

    Darsie Japp and Family - 1927

    Evelyn Waugh - 1930
    The author. I am not sure about the color, as some Internet images differ considerably.

    The Artist's Wife - Lady Pansy Pakenham - 1933

    Anthony Powell - 1934
    The author.

    Neville Chamberlain - c. 1939
    When Chamberlain was Prime Minister.

    The Dispatch Rider - 1941
    Painted while a war artist.

    The Overhaul - 1941
    That's a Westland Lysander observation aircraft.

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    Otto Soglow (1900-1975) was a successful comic strip cartoonist. His Little King character first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1930 and became a Hearst Sunday strip in 1934. Thereafter, it ran for more than 40 years until Soglow died.

    His Wikipedia entry is here, but it's brief. A much more comprehensive survey of his career can be found here.

    Soglow received some of his art training from John Sloan who, among other things, was involved in leftist politics, and helped Soglow get some cartoons published in The Liberator. Soglow also contributed work to The New Masses.

    Around the same time he was contributing to The New Masses, Soglow began having cartoons published in The New Yorker, a brand-new magazine intended for sophisticates in that city and elsewhere. Also at this time his style was evolving from the Sloan-Masses-Ashcan style to highly simplified Moderne. His Little King retained that style over its 45-year overall existence.

    It was an interesting transformation Soglow made -- from socialist content to taking William Randolph Hearst's shilling and drawing a royal cartoon character.

    Gallery

    A New Masses cartoon from 1926. The caption is "Iss diss a system?"

    Poster for a 1932 New Masses ball. Its style is now Moderne, like his Little King cartoons.

    A color panel. The Little King was always dressed in red. His personality was such that he didn't take kinship seriously and always did playful things.

    His new royal portrait.

    More playfulness.

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    Gustave Moreau (1826-1878) was something of a Symbolist whose later painting style is a taste I can't seem to acquire. Your reactions to him might well differ.

    Background on him and his career is here.

    The Hammer Museum in the Westwood district of Los Angeles and affiliated with nearby UCLA holds one of his most important works,"Salome Dancing to Herod." This subject, and the closely related one of John the Baptist's head, have been grist for many artists over the centuries. It can be interesting to compare their interpretations, but for the purposes of this post, the focus is Moreau's version of the dance.

    The museum had an exhibit in 2012 related to the painting, and here is the Los Angeles Times' art critic's reaction to it.

    I visited the Hammer in 2010 and took a few photos of the painting.

    Gallery

    This is the museum's image of the painting, I think.

    Here is my establishment shot showing how my camera captured it given the lighting conditions at the time.

    Detail view showing the main characters. Salome's dance seems pretty static, according to Moreau. Click on the image to enlarge.

    Close-up of Salome. Her headdress is oddly shaped and makes her face seem somewhat flat. I'm no expert on ancient costumes, so I don't know whether or not this was Moreau's invention. Note that the woman to the other side of the king also has a high headdress.

    My photo was slightly out of focus, as often happens when in museums using automatic mode. I tried to sharpen things, but it's not worth enlarging this because it's still a bit blurred.

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    Alden McWilliams (1916-1993) was one of those comparatively rare comics artists of his generation who could draw people convincingly. I wrote about his work on the Twin Earths comic strip here. Some biographical information can be found here and here.

    One of McWilliams' projects was creating content for Tom Corbett, Space Cadet comic books. For detailed information about those comic books, click here.

    McWilliams did cover art for eleven of those comic books, but interior art for only the first three. Those were issued February, May and August of 1952, which suggests that he did his work from the late summer of 1951 into the winter of 1952 (considering production lead-times). His Twin Earths daily comic strip debuted 16 June 1952, so he probably began working on it no later than early April of that year. Therefore, if there was any overlap for those projects aside from creating covers, it was minimal, so McWilliams could maintain the high quality of his work.  A strong possibility is that he chose to drop doing Space Cadet interior content when he got the Twin Earths gig: otherwise, he might have contunued Space Cadet.

    Tom Corbett, Space Cadet started as a television show that began airing in 1950 and later bounced around several TV networks. This meant that the comic books had to portray the characters as personified by the show's actors. That is, McWilliams was doing portrait art as part of comic book art.

    Below are some scans I made of the second and third issues of the comic book. They include the cover, one interior colored page and one page without color (the latter was always on the inside cover). Click on the images to enlarge.

    Gallery

    Inside cover of the August 1952 issue. It shows the leading cast members of the TV show who McWilliams had to depict convincingly in the comic books to satisfy fans.

    Cover of the May 1952 issue.

    Color page from May 1952.

    Black & white page from May 1952.

    Cover of August 1952 issue.

    August 1952 color page.

    Black & white page, August 1952.

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    Stockton Mulford (1886-1960) lost his right eye in an accident when he was seven years old, yet became an illustrator. The best source of information regarding Mulford is David Saunders' Pulp Artists blog. It mentions that it took a while for him to work into becoming a full-time illustrator: he was active from around 1920 to 1946 when he was able to retire. During the Depression he seems to have mostly produced cover art for pulp magazines of various kinds.

    Examples of Mulford's art are below. They vary in quality, the pulp art being the lowest. Perhaps because the pay was poor he put less time into those pieces. Judging from the examples below, he seems to have done his best work during the mid-1920s.

    There is one outstanding illustration that he never came close to equaling, so far as I can tell at present. Sort of like the novelist who has only one great book. You'll find it at the bottom of the scroll.

    Gallery

    Delineator cover - July, 1924

    Argosy cover - 2 February 1924

    Interior story illustration, American Magazine - February 1928

    The plain area at the top suggests this is cover art for a magazine or perhaps a book (it provides room for a title, etc.).

    Liberty Magazine cover - 3 June 1933

    Black Mask cover - April 1937
    An example of Mulford's pulp magazine cover art.

    Adventure Magazine cover - May 1942
    Probably painted a couple months after the Pearl Harbor attack. At that time, the only major encounter between the American and Japanese armies was in the Philippines, on Bataan Peninsula.

    The Long Call - Everybody's Magazine cover art - April 1924
    This is a fine illustration. In my opinion, only the Delineator cover art and the American story illustration come close -- but not very close. I wonder why Mulford wasn't able to consistently do this well.

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    Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) was yet another artist who abandoned a professional career track (law, in his case) for art. He also left his native country (France) for another (England) where he became a noted book illustrator. His Wikipedia entry is here, but a much more useful source for art fans is this post by Jim Vadeboncoeur that offers insights regarding how changes in printing technology worked to Dulac's advantage.

    It seems that Dulac's book illustration heyday was between 1905 and the start of the Great War -- a relatively short span. His career continued with moderate success until his death.

    Those heyday illustrations were mostly for classical fantasies, often Orientalist subjects. They are charmingly done, though today's Politically Correct crowd would probably find their usual reasons to hate them.

    Take a look at some of them below, if you dare.

    Gallery

    Circe the Enchantress

    The Emperor's New Clothes

    From the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

    "Open, Sesame!"

    The Fisherman and the Genie

    Princess Scheherazade

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    As regular Art Contrarian readers probably sense, I am perhaps more interested than I should be with paintings made in the 1920s and 1930s.

    This post is yet another in that vein. But I can justify it! How? It happened that Jacob Alexander Elshin (1892-1976) lived only about two miles away when I was growing up, and down the street from where one of my high school buddies lived. So how can I not write this post?

    His Wikipedia entry is little more than a placeholder. There are a few other snippets about him on the Internet such as here, where it mentions that "Jacob Elshin was born in Russia in 1892 and received his education and art training there. He fled the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Following the Revolution, he went to Shanghai where he worked as a newspaper cartoonist for three years before moving to Seattle in 1923. From then on, Elshin maintained a long and active painting career in the Pacific Northwest and became one of the region's most noted painters and teachers. He had four solo exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum in 1934, 1943, 1956 and 1965."

    Wikipedia mentions that he was an officer in the Imperial army. So was his father, as is reported here that General Alexander Jacob Elshin (1865-1951) during the First World War commanded the XX Army Corps of the Russian Imperial Army. The link suggests Elshin was a 4-star general, but in Western armies, a corps commander would normally be a Lieutenant General (three stars in the US Army). Jacob was probably at most a captain, given his age. I also speculate that the Elshins' escape from Russia was later than 1917, given that the Bolshevik Revolution didn't happen until towards the end of that year. They probably went to eastern Siberia which was controlled by White Russian forces and then moved on to China around 1920, as many anti-Red Russians did when White resistance collapsed.

    Your Humble Blogger could probably clear up such matters by reading a 1965 transcript of an Elshin interview held by the Smithsonian. But that would involve obtaining a microfilm copy, and I'm not willing to go to that much trouble researching him. The transcript is said to deal with the following: "Elshin speaks of his background in Russia and China; moving to Seattle in 1923; his work as a free-lance commercial artist and working as a greeting card artist; painting for the Public Works of Art Project; working on murals for the WPA Federal Art Project; political problems with the WPA; the destruction of some of the work that was produced by the project; some of the injustices he suffered during his years with the WPA. He recalls Robert Bruce Inverarity, Edward Rowan and Mark Tobey."

    Below are examples of Elshin's paintings.

    Gallery

    General Alexander Elshin and Jacob Elshin

    Marusia - 1933
    Russian scene ... from memory? ... invented?

    Grand Coulee Dam Construction Triptych
    The huge dam being built in eastern Washington State in the late 1930s.

    Mural study for the University District Post Office, Seattle - 1939
    Located less than a block from the University of Washington campus, hence the subject matter.

    Alamo Mural study for Dallas Post Office competition - 1937
    Pretty static for what one would expect to be an action scene, which might have been why Elshin didn't win the competition.

    Sawmill on Puget Sound

    Smith Cove, Seattle
    During World War 2 and many years later this was a U.S. navy terminal. Now Smith Cove is a cruise ship port.

    Mt. Baker Beach, Seattle
    On Seattle's Lake Washington. Now the site for annual hydroplane races.

    Gates to Nowhere - 1948
    Postwar, Elshin must have decided to move from a conservative version of Social Realism to a more fashionable form of Modernism.

    Flight into Egypt - 1959
    More of the same a few years later.

    Based on the images above plus some that I didn't post, my conclusion is that Elshin never came close to creating a masterpiece. At best he was a journeyman painter who managed to make a living at his trade in difficult economic times.