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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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    Once upon a time -- 150 years ago, perhaps -- the consensus was that paintings should be beautiful. Modernism was a conscious, ideological reaction to and condemnation of traditional art. In other words, what academic painters did, hard-core modernists tried to do the opposite. So rejection of beauty became part of that hard-core package.

    I don't hold that a painting must be beautiful to be great. But I also think that great paintings are far more often beautiful than not. Moreover, I find it difficult to think that really ugly paintings are great ones.

    There are always a few exceptions, but not the ones of women by Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning featured here. The art world seems to disagree with me because the Picassos auctioned for many tens of millions of dollars, and the de Koonings aren't worth chicken feed either.

    First, two Picasso paintings -- the first, a portrait of one woman, the second showing women. Then two de Koonings in the same sequence.


    Dora Maar au chat - 1941
    An auction sale report is here.

    Women of Algiers - 1955
    A report for this painting of a bordello is here.

    Woman I - 1950-52
    As the numeral implies, de Kooning painted a series dealing with women.

    Two Women in the Country - 1954

    Picasso's paintings are more structured than de Kooning's, the Algiers being almost cheerful.
    Borderline ugly, I'd call it. The Dora Maar is just plain awful so far as I'm concerned, though I'll credit Picasso for doing a reasonably good job on the kitten. I find the de Koonings simply horrible. His apologists would praise the emotion and artistic action seen in his brushwork. A lot of emotion does not guarantee a painting's greatness. Here, ugliness rules.

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    Starting when I was a boy and for decades thereafter I had trouble telling American cruisers from battleships. Specifically, cruisers and battleships of the World War 2 era from, say, 1935 to 1950. Before the 1930s cruiser and battleship appearances were fairly distinctly different.

    I was not the only one who confused the two types. Aerial reconnaissance observers fairly often identified enemy cruisers as being battleships. An example is the early Japanese sighting reports of an American task force during the battle of Midway in June of 1942.

    Consider the two photos at the top of this post. Which ship is the cruiser and which is the battleship?

    The upper image is of BB-60 USS Alabama, a battleship, and the lower image is of heavy cruiser CA-74 USS Columbus.

    Here are ways to distinguish the two types of warship:


    Top: CB-1 USS Alaska, bottom: BB-63 USS Missouri, docked at Norfolk, Virginia - 1944
    The USS Alaska was a very large cruiser not typical of those in the rest of the US fleet (only two Alaska Class ships were built). Regardless, the image is instructive. Cruiser lengths were in the same range as contemporary battleships, sometimes a little shorter, sometimes even longer.

    However, cruisers were narrower to allow higher speeds. The fineness ratio (waterline length to beam) of cruisers approached and sometimes equaled ten, whereas that of Great War era battleships was about six, and World War 2 "fast battleships" ranged from about 6.5 to around eight. More specifically, the final US dreadnaught class of the early 1920s (Colorados) had a fineness ratio of about 6.4, whereas the Missouri's was 8.2 and the Alaska's was 8.9.

    I include this photo because it's the only aerial one I know of showing a cruiser and a battleship close together. So generally speaking, cruisers are proportionally narrower than battleships.

    BB-56 USS Washington
    CA-71 USS Quincy
    The Washington was one of the first US fast battleships, having a fineness ratio of 6.7, whereas the heavy cruiser Quincy's ratio was 9.5. These high-angle photos made the difference obvious, but seen from a low angle, as in the top images, the ships look similar because their superstructures are similar. Another difference is in the size of the main battery guns. Heavy cruisers has 8-inch guns and World War 2 US battleship classes had 16-inch guns.

    CA-68 USS Baltimore
    CL-48 USS Honolulu
    For sake of completeness, we should consider appearance differences between heavy and light US cruisers. Baltimore's fineness ratio is 9.5 and that of the light cruiser Honolulu is 9.8, Baltimore being about ten percent longer. Setting aside displacements, light cruiser main armament was six-inch guns in greater numbers than heavy cruiser eight-inchers. So Honolulu has three main turrets forward of the bridge compared to Baltimore's two. This is distinctly different from battleship practice (aside from the Royal Navy's HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney that also had three turrets forward), making it easier to distinguish the Honolulu from a battleship. Later light cruiser classes had a different turret arrangement, but the comparatively delicate gun barrels are a strong difference from a battleship's armament.

    Before the 1930s it was much easier to distinguish cruisers from battleships. Two examples from around 1920 are compared below.

    BB-38 USS Pennsylvania
    CL-5 USS Milwaukee
    Cruiser Milwaukee has small turrets with small guns positioned close to the bow and stern, with a long stretch in the mid area having little but four smokestacks.  Battleship Pennsylvania's topside elements are more compactly arranged.  The reason for this difference is that the cruiser was designed for high speed and therefore required a much larger machinery area whose boilers and engines developed 90,000 horsepower compared to Pennsylvania's 35,000.  The post-1935 battleships and cruisers mentioned in the first part of this post had about the same horsepower from more advanced, more compact machinery systems, which largely explains their similar appearance.

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    Porter Woodruff (1894-1959) was one of five American fashion illustrators Vogue magazine had based in Paris in the early 1920s. He continued illustrating for Vogue through the 1930s, residing in New York City and Tunisia as well as Paris. He died in Tunisia. Why little else is known about him can be gleaned here (click on the "learn more ..." line).

    Besides Vogue, he contributed covers to House & Garden magazine (another Condé Nast publication) around the time of the Great War, before moving to Paris. He also painted North African scenes that fail to impress me. You can Google on his name to locate some of these if you are curious.

    Woodruff was not a great fashion illustrator, but was good in the context of his times.


    House & Garden cover - June 1917
    A nice composition in synch with the architectural style.

    House & Garden cover - November 1917

    Sketch of Chanel costume - 1923

    Vogue cover - March 1926
    Interesting minimalist concept.

    Wedding dress by Jean Patou - 1926

    Fashion illustration - 1926

    Vogue cover art - January 1928
    Woodruff's best-known work.

    Pen & wash illustration - Vogue - May 1929

    Franklin Simon hat - Vogue - December 1931
    By the 1930s, Deco geometry was out and flowing lines were in.

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  • 01/01/18--01:00: Some Stations are Terminals
  • This blog is mostly about painting and illustration. One exception has to do with design, architecture and by extension the urban setting. This post is a bit of a stretch from even those topics, but I think it's okay to have a change of pace occasionally, especially on a holiday.

    In England, the place where one catches an inter-city railway train is called a station. Some London examples are Paddington Station, Euston Station and Victoria Station. The same is generally true here in the USA -- but not completely. Most people, me usually included, call one such place in New York City Grand Central Station. But its actual name is Grand Central Terminal.

    Technically, the place is a terminal because it is the final stopping point or initial starting point for trains. A station, by contrast, is an intermediate point.

    Regardless of what they officially or popularly are called, railroad depots that are functionally terminals are relatively rare because the power of railroad systems lies in the fact that they are basically networks where what is carried can flow from place to place. An exception is at a transportation break, typically where a railway spur ends at a ship docking facility for transferring goods from one transportation mode to another.

    Another exceptional case is certain large, old, dominant cities that serve as transportation hubs for their countries. In these cases, when railroading started in the 1800s it was already considered too disruptive to carve rail lines across those cities' central areas. Instead, terminals were established at various points around the peripheries of central areas, the rail lines heading away to places in their same general direction from the cities' centers. This is the case for London and Paris.

    An alternative is to have a large, central terminal that serves a large number of places, rail lines serving them diverging a ways away from the center. This is approximately how it works in Rome and Milan, though each city does have lesser terminals and stations for commuter lines.

    Below are a photo and some maps illustrating some terminals.


    Seattle Depots - 1913
    In the center of the photo is Union Station, actually a terminal used by the Union Pacific and Milwaukee Road lines.  To its right, with the tower, is King Street Station used by the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads.  It actually is a station because some tracks head in our direction and reach a tunnel under Seattle's downtown.  You can glimpse those below-street-level tracks if you drop your eyes down from Union Station.

    London terminals
    They all bear the Station name, but are terminals except for London Bridge Station.  Before the postwar nationalization of railways, each station was associated with a railroad serving its own (but sometimes overlapping) region of Britain.

    Paris terminals - 1900
    This image featured a peripheral line running just inside Paris' fortifications that approximate the route of the Périphérique, Paris' beltway freeway.  Not all these terminals remain: the D'Orsay is now an art museum, for example.  The functioning intercity terminals are the St. Lazare, Nord, Est, Lyon, Austerlitz, and Montparnasse.

    New York - 1909
    This map features a subway commuter line connecting parts of Manhattan with New Jersey.  At the upper right is Grand Central Terminal (called "Station" here), and nearby black lines indicate subway and elevated local transportation lines.  Grand Central served the now-defunct New York Central and New Haven lines for many years.  Pennsylvania Station, the other major New York depot, is a true station because some tracks under the station structure connect Pennsylvania Railroad tracks (to the west) to Long Island Railroad tracks (to the east).  The Pennsy also no longer exists but the tracks remain.

    Chicago - 1908
    I include this map mostly because of the long list of railroads serving Chicago more than a century ago.  Aside from the present government-run Amtrak passenger system (started in 1971) that uses private lines' rails, there never has been a transcontinental railroad company in the United States.  A number of major lines served the eastern part of the county and extended as far west as places such as St. Louis and Chicago.  And there were western railroads serving places as far east as those and a few other cities.  There also were railroads serving the central part of the country, but their tracks did not extend to the east and west coasts.  For someone traveling by train from coast to coast in the heyday of passenger railroading, it was necessary to change railroads in places such as Chicago.

    Chicago - 1958
    This map shows that downtown Chicago was served by seven terminals (most called Station) in the 1950s.  When I was young, I once arrived in Chicago on the Milwaukee Road at Union Station.  We departed on the New York Central a few days later at La Salle Street Station.  Note that Union Station served the westerly Milwaukee Road and the easterly Pennsylvania Railroad.  But being a terminal, there was no through trackage.  The lines branched a ways out of town.

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    Ramon Tusquets i Maignon (1837-1904) came from a well-to-do Barcelona family and became a full-time artist once his father died. Some biographical information is here.

    I will assume that Tusquets never had serious financial worries. One piece of evidence in favor of that idea is that he doesn't seem to have relied on portraiture as an income source. Instead, he painted genre scenes in his beloved Italy along with a smattering of other subjects including a few large historical scenes.

    Although he was a contemporary of French Impressionists Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir as well as the Italian Macchiaioli Giovanni Boldini and Telemaco Signorini, Tusquets tended to paint in a traditional, less painterly styles. As a result, while his works were competently done, few strike me as being noteworthy, and it seems that the art world in general shares that opinion.


    Burial of Mariano Fortuny - 1874
    This has a Macchiaioli feeling to it, so perhaps Tusquets was influenced by them early in his career.
    I'd be tempted to call this a sketch, but the artist took care to sign it.

    Seeking Shelter - c. 1883

    Joan Fiveller davant Ferran d'Antequera - 1885
    That's a French title to this example of his historical paintings.

    I don't have a formal title to this.

    Washing Day

    hillside village scene in Italy
    Again, I lack a title.

    Fishing Boats in Venice
    Colorful sails on Venice Lagoon fishing boats made it easy for artists to make interesting paintings. I consider this Tusquets' best.

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    Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a theoretician. Highly educated, around age 30 he was on the verge of becoming a law professor but chucked it and became an artist, an art teacher, and a theoretician of art.

    Here are some background links. The Wikipedia entry is long on analysis, but short on biographical information. This site focuses more on biography, and includes the nice feature of having a gallery of his paintings arranged by year. A short biography can be found here.

    The older I get, the less trust I put in theories that have to do with humans and their acts. So it seems for art. To me, art is something of a craft, so I have no problem with rules-of-thumb such as "fat over lean" when painting in oils. That sort of thing isn't theory: it's a matter of practice that can be ignored if the painter so chooses. On the other hand, Kandinsky who apparently was always fascinated by color, applied his intellectual skills to the matter of painting, and before many years elapsed concluded that abstraction was what the facts (as he saw them) demanded. He created some of the first-ever abstract paintings a few years before the Great War, and by the war's end he had essentially abandoned representational painting.

    Kandinsky is perhaps best known for paintings with lines and geometrical forms distributed on flat backgrounds. But he did more than that. Over his abstract art (or Non-Objective Art -- as the Museum of Modern Art called in in the 1930s) career, he did a good deal of experimentation. Often he would be playing with several themes simultaneously.  In the Gallery below I present part of what he was working on around the year 1940. Also included are works from more distant years using elements of what he was doing around 1940. Kandinsky therefore can be seen to have added and dropped abstract painting styles over his career while usually playing with more than one ideas at any given time -- an evolving set of parallel projects or (for him) intellectual investigations.


    First, a few paintings he made during 1939-1941. Note the variety.

    Untitled - 1941

    Red Circle - 1939

    Complex-Simple - 1939

    Sky Blue - 1940

    Next, some paintings using layered or stacked Egyptian-like elements. He did these from time to time over a decade.

    Untitled - 1940

    Succession - 1935

    Sign Series - 1931

    Besides geometric forms, Kandinsky also played around with organic blobs. "Fingered" blobs reappear in the paintings below made over another ten-year period.

    Brown with Supplement - 1935

    Green and Red - 1940

    Untitled - 1941

    Composition - 1944
    One of his last paintings.

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    Henry Russell Ballinger (1892-1993) lived to be 100 years old and was active into his mid-90s. There is little biographical information about him on the Internet. However, this notes that he "studied at the University of California, San Francisco; the Art Students League with Harvey Dunn; and the Academy Colarossi, Paris." And here is another snippet that mentions he "worked as an illustrator for almost 20 years, doing magazine covers for Yankee Magazine, McCall's magazine and the Saturday Evening Post."

    Ballinger was a skilled landscape, seascape and shoreline painter who wrote several books dealing with paintings those subjects (an example is here ). His works are found in several museums.

    What is not clear to me from the limited information available is the arc of his career. My best guess is that, since he had training by Dunn, he probably did his illustration work in the 1920s and 30s, then shifted to fine arts. Or maybe he did fine art painting all the while and worked as an illustrator to maintain his income.

    There are a few examples of his paintings found in Google searches, but I turned up only one sure example of his illustration work. Perhaps lengthy digging or better use of key words might have located Saturday Evening Post covers, but all I found were random cover images.

    All this is too bad, because Ballinger seems to have known his stuff, and I would like to see more of it to be sure of that.


    The Harbor (Kahala Bay) - 1958

    A landscape by Ballinger

    Illustration for "The Wolf Chaser"
    I don't know what magazine this appeared in, nor the date. My guess as to the latter is 1934 or thereabouts. I base this on the women's hairdos and clothing along with the fact that they are shown with alcoholic drinks (Prohibition was abolished in the USA in March of 1933). The cloisoné style is similar to that used by McClelland Barclay at times during the late 1920s and early 30s (examples are here -- scroll down). Click on the image to enlarge considerably.

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    Edwin Georgi (1896-1964) is the subject of a fine new book crammed with his illustrations. I wrote about Georgi's early illustration years here. For more information about the book, you can click here.

    On thing that struck me was how limited the biographical part was. For one thing, no date of death was mentioned. And the text was the same or nearly that of an article in Illustration Magazine's issue No. 30 (Summer, 2010) written by its editor/publisher Dan Zimmer, who also authored the new book. I then grabbed my copy of Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators and How They Worked to see how it treated Georgi. Again, not a lot was said. A brief Google search turned up next to nothing new.

    What is reported regarding Georgi is interesting. He attended Princeton and was on the Tigers' football team. When the USA entered the Great War, he became an Army pilot. Like many, he was shot down in those pre-parachute times, but survived the crash only to be hospitalized for a year. He became an illustrator in the 1920s and had a very successful career into the early 1960s. At some unstated point he married and then had children. He owned several houses and continued to fly. And that was about all important biographical information about him that I've been able to find. Zimmer did have contact with family members, but little information about his career and artistic methods seems to have come from them.

    So, what to make of this? Maybe Georgi was a very private man. Another possibility, given the large amount of work included in the book, is that he spent much of his time laboring to hit his deadlines and spent the rest of his time as a normal, upper-middle class American in the 1940s and 50s.

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    Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) had a long, prolific career. His Wikipedia entry is extensive.

    While I was surfing through collections of his work via the Internet, I came across three unfinished works. I'm not sure how interesting this is for the average reader, but I know that people who paint, along with art historians, usually enjoy stumbling across such items that reveal an artist's technique.


    Mountain Landscape at Saint Thomas, Antilles - 1854-55
    One of Pissarro's earliest surviving works. Painted on his return to Saint Thomas, but quite possibly interrupted when he left again for France. At this stage of his career, Pissarro seems to be finishing a painting area-by-area.

    Peasant Woman - 1885
    Thirty years later, he is more into assembling his painting on a balanced basis. This seems to be a gouache or watercolor that requires different handling than oils. Nevertheless, he leaves important areas to be finished later.

    Poultry Market at Gisors - 1889
    Here Pissarro spent his time on the featured foreground subjects. Heads and faces in the distant crowd might or might not receive a bit more detail.  The far side of the market square is was roughed in when he set this painting aside. (Though he did add his initials instead of his usual signature, indicating ... something.)

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  • 01/22/18--01:00: Analytical Cubism Portraits
  • Wikipedia has this extensive entry dealing with Cubism. Early on, it states:

    "Historians have divided the history of Cubism into phases. In one scheme, the first phase of Cubism, known as Analytic Cubism, a phrase coined by Juan Gris a posteriori, was both radical and influential as a short but highly significant art movement between 1910 and 1912 in France. A second phase, Synthetic Cubism, remained vital until around 1919, when the Surrealist movement gained popularity. English art historian Douglas Cooper proposed another scheme, describing three phases of Cubism in his book, The Cubist Epoch." Those were "Early,""High" and "Late" Cubism, and the entry uses that concept to organize its discussion.

    The peg I'm using for this post is the Analytical Cubism concept, whereby artists were supposedly presenting a subject by simultaneously using several different points of view in order to show it more completely than traditional art's single viewpoint.

    I find it hard to believe the early cubists were serious in this regard. After all, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), an inventor of Cubism, was something of a prankster.

    Consider the hypothetical case of an artist seriously making a Cubist portrait using perhaps half a dozen different perspectives. The result will probably be an image that is so fragmented that only the artist himself would know what segments of his painting or drawing came from which viewpoint. A viewer of the work might be able to identify how a few fragments originated, but would be at a loss to comprehend how the entire work was assembled.

    In other words, instead of showing a more complete view of the subject, the result is that even less of the subject is understandable to a viewer than would have been the case for a traditional portrait.

    Some examples of early cubist portraits are shown below.


    Pablo Picasso: Portrait de Daniel-Henry Kahnweiller - 1910
    If you didn't already know what art dealer Kahnweiler looked like, could you form an accurate image of him using only the material presented in this "portrait?"

    Pablo Picasso: Portrait de Ambroise Vollard - 1910
    Here Picasso comes closer to depicting Vollard as others actually would see him.

    Pablo Picasso: Girl With a Mandolin - 1910
    Not strictly a portrait, as he made no attempt to break the subject's face into many fragments -- he just simplified/abstracted.

    Albert Gleizes: Portrait de Jacques Nayral - 1911
    Albert Gleizes (1881-1953), background here, besides being a painter, was a cubist theoretician who co-authored the 1912 book "Du Cubisme." He remained a cubist of sorts for much of his career, so unlike Picasso he should have been serious. But the example shown here simply has the subject's face and hands reduced slightly in the direction of faceting. Only other parts of the figure plus the rest of the setting are what most would consider cubist.

    Albert Gleizes: Portrait de Mme H. M. Barzun - 1911
    The same can be said regarding this portrait.

    "Du Cubisme" was co-authored by Jean Metzinger (1883-1956), who I wrote about here. Metzinger was a cubist for a while but later works were far more representational. This painting is largely a matter of using simplified shapes and faceting, though a slight amount of perspective-twisting can be seen.

    Jean Metzinger: Portrait de Mme Metzinger - 1911
    When it came to portraying his wife, Metzinger fell back to the practice of faceting features and putting cubist decoration in the background as Gleizes did.

    What the above gallery suggests is that even committed cubists often had to hold back from a hardline "analytical" approach when making portraits. Perhaps this compromise with purity had to do with the practical matter of portrait subjects wanting to be shown in a largely recognizable manner.

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    Herbert Morton Stoops (1888-1948) wasn't a noted cover artist for the likes of the Saturday Evening Post or Collier's, but thrived in the next rung or two below. A near-contemporary of Harvey Dunn (1884-1952) and Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), his style was similar to their 1920s work. Biographical information can be found here and here.

    Stoops was born, raised, and educated in the Mountain West and therefore easily dealt with cowboy-type subjects. As an artillery officer in the Great War he, like Dunn, could convincingly portray scenes of that conflict. And because he lived in New York City from the 1920s onward, he also was capable of illustrating sophisticated urban life.

    Here is an illustration combining the wild west and urban sophistication.

    While collecting Stoops images from the Internet, I noticed that quite a few lacked rip-roaring action. Instead, they were quiet settings showing seated couples.


    Well, this one isn't so quiet, but I like the seated woman.

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    In the second link below it is mentioned that neither Pablo Picasso nor Georges Braque, the inventors of Cubism, wrote a manifesto explaining and justifying what they had done (unlike other modernist artists and movements). However, others filled this void. A fairly standard classification of types of Cubism calls the period roughly 1910-1912 "Analytical Cubism," wherein the artists used multiple points of view to depict a subject more completely on a flat surface than could traditional single-viewpoint paintings.

    A fairly detailed explanation can be found here, and a sophistry-filled one is here.

    Not long ago I posted here about cubist portraits and how various artists followed Analytical Cubism to various degrees. The present post looks at that breed of Cubism from a slightly different angle. (Hmm -- I seem to be getting swept up into this multiple perspectives notion.)

    My contention is that hard-core Analytical Cubism paintings are constructed (presumably against the artist's intent to more fully reveal the subject) so as to make it impossible (or nearly so) for a naïve viewer to identify the painting's subject. That is, the artist presumably knew what steps he was taking to disassemble the subject into parts seen from different perspectives along with what steps he used to rearrange those parts on the canvas. But that naïve viewer would have little or nothing available to allow him to visually reverse that process.

    Which leads to a brief discussion of titles of paintings. Purely abstract paintings don't really need titles because they are fundamentally simply decorations. As for representational art, titles can be avoided for still life paintings. Landscape paintings are something of a gray area. They don't absolutely need titles because a viewer can simply think "Oh, what a lovely mountain scene" or whatever the subject. But it can be useful for some viewers to have a title to identify, in this case, what mountain is depicted. Portraits are similar in that in some respects the viewer doesn't need to know the name of the subject, particularly if the subject was simply a model somewhat arbitrarily chosen by the artist. But where the subject has any degree of notoriety or fame, a title is probably necessary for distant future viewers somewhat ignorant of the milieu at the time the work was painted. (How many people today could recognize an image of Robespierre on sight, famous though he once was.) Similar things might be said regarding historical or religious scenes: to the extent viewers are ignorant of the subject, titles are necessary.

    Due to the process of making an Analytical Cubist painting and the difficulty of discerning the subject unaided, titles are essential to provide the viewer with a clue as to how to reverse-engineer the painting. I am not sure how many viewers actually do try to figure out where all those fragments came from, and from which viewpoint. Generally speaking, for practical purposes Analytical Cubist works come very close to being abstract decorations.

    Now for some fun. Below are several such paintings by Picasso. I didn't provide title captions. Can you correctly guess that subjects of those paintings that are not familiar to you? I'll post the titles in a comment later in the day this appears, so you'll know.


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    Earnest Stanley Adamson, or perhaps Arthur Earnest Penrhyn Stanley Adamson (his name seems to have varied over time) used the name Penrhyn Stanlaws professionally. He was born in Dundee Scotland in 1877 and died in Los Angeles in 1957. Otherwise, he lived in London, Paris, Chicago and New York. Plus, he was a member of Princeton University's class of 1901. Besides illustration, he wrote plays and directed silent movies in Hollywood.

    Unlike many artists covered in this blog, there is much biographical information on Stanlaws on the Internet in the form of a two-part report found here and here.

    Stanlaws' illustration career essentially involved making cover art featuring beautiful women for leading general-interest magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post as well as some movie fan magazines. Examples are shown below.


    Ainslee's Magazine cover - January 1914

    Hearst's Magazine cover - January 1918
    The United States was in the Great War at this time, so war-related magazine covers were common. The subject of this is wearing an Italian Bersaglieri feathered hat.

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 20 February 1926

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 24 March 1928

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 17 August 1929

    New Movie Magazine cover - February 1932

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 19 August 1933

    Saturday Evening Post cover - 3 February 1934
    Here he uses a Coles Phillips background/subject integration touch.

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    It isn't unheard-of for a popular culture figure to disparage the works that brought fame and prosperity and to try doing something supposedly "higher." Examples include portrait artist John Singer Sargent and illustrator Dean Cornwell taking up mural painting. Or Arthur Conan Doyle trying to unharness himself from his famed creation Sherlock Holmes.

    So it was with master illustrator N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth (1882-1945), Wikipedia entry here. As the link mentions, by the time he was well-established as an illustrator, he began to hate being a slave to that trade and began to create Fine Arts paintings. Prudently, he maintained his illustration career to preserve hearth, home, and lifestyle.

    In September I re-visited the Brandywine River Museum of Art that features the works of the Wyeth family. On display were several of N.C.'s paintings done in the fashionable 1920s-1930s semi-Modernist vein. I also bought this catalog for a 1995 exhibit dealing with that subject.

    According to it, Wyeth felt liberated and highly creative when doing such paintings, derivative though they actually were. And in my judgment, they were generally inferior to his illustration work. This post features a painting titled "In a Dream I Met General Washington" (1930). I might deal with other such works in future posts.


    The museum's image of the painting.

    A detail photo that I took. This and the following images of mine can be greatly enlarged by clicking on them.
    Here we see Wyeth, wearing his usual knee-britches, paintbrushes in one hand, palette in the other, facing the great man.

    Landscape towards the upper-right corner. Thinly-painted for the most part. The stylized, rounded hills and tree forms were an emerging Regionalist cliché, as Grant Wood was doing the same sort of thing in 1930.

    Here Wyeth tosses in a battle scene.

    And includes his young son Andrew Wyeth sketching.

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    Frank Newbould (1887-1951) was an almost exact contemporary of fellow poster artist, the better-known Tom Purvis. Both did a good deal of poster art for British railway companies in the 1930s, especially the LNER (London and North Eastern Railway). Also, by 1930 both were using a style featuring many broad areas of flat colors where outlining was scarce or entirely absent. Unfortunately, I don't have enough information to say who practiced that style first (I suspect Purvis), though it became associated with the LNER due to its extensive use.

    Not a lot of biographical information on Newbould is on the Internet, so this Wikipedia entry will have to do for now.

    Newbould's work was strong, but I rate him not as good as Purvis or Fred Taylor, another railway poster man. Below are his posters for domestic sites. He also did Continental scenes that I might deal with later.


    A nice, strong poster for the spa town not far from York.

    A silkscreen look, even though this was probably a lithograph.

    Another nice design, this for an East Anglia port town.

    Post for a Scottish destination.

    On the North Sea coast, a few miles north of the mouth of the Tyne.

    A more extremely simplified design, this for the Great Western Railway.

    Yorkshire coastal town about 15 miles south of Scarborough.

    This poster and the one above have a different typographical theme than the others.  My guess is that they date from shortly before British railroads were nationalized in 1948.

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    The painting above is "Dennis Miller Bunker Painting at Calcot" by John Singer Sargent (1888). Dennis Miller Bunker (1861-1890) lived just 29 years, but showed considerable promise, as Sargent seemed to have realized.

    Some biographical information is here, and some of Bunker's thoughts regarding being an artist can be found here.

    Bunker was a solid traditional/representational painter who spent a year or two in France when French Impressionism was gaining acceptance and Post-Impressionism was getting underway (Manet died in 1883 and Seurat was about to paint his masterpiece, "Un dimanche après-midi à l'île de la Grande Jatte"). He made some oil sketches that seem to lie in the gray zone between being simply sketches and being a sort of Impressionism -- it's difficult to tell. But he largely continued on a traditional path after returning to America. There is no way of telling what he might have painted had he lived into the era of modernist "isms."


    The Shed, Cold Spring Harbor - 1880
    Painted when Bunker was about 19.

    Beached - c. 1882
    Another fairly elaborate sketch -- note that here and in the previous work he signed with only his initials.

    Lacroix, St-Ouen, Oise - 1883

    Brittany Town, Morning, Larmor - 1884
    Some French plein air type scenes.

    Tree - 1884
    This painting is also signed using initials.

    Anne Page - 1887
    A portrait reminiscent of Whistler's work.

    Second Portrait of a Woman - undated

    The Mirror - 1890 - (Julia "Dudie" Blair)
    A late work. I wrote about her here.

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    American newspaper comic strips were greatly reduced in size decades ago and their content was reduced to various kinds of humor. Gone were the plot-continuity strips occupying a half or even a full page such as were found in 1930s Sunday papers.

    One such strip was Terry and the Pirates, an adventure series taking place in China. When World War 2 came along, it evolved into a military-themed strip. By late 1946 Milton Caniff, its creator, had tired of the distribution syndicate's control and moved on to create an Air Force themed adventure strip.

    Due to its popularity, Terry was continued by another artist, George S. Wunder (1912-1987) -- Wikipedia entry here. Wunder has been criticized, with some justification, for his treatment of faces. But what interests me here is the degree of background detailing found in his version of Terry, a carryover from strips of the 1930s and still common into the 1950s. That is, Wunder ranked up there with other cartoonists whose strips still went well beyond containing mostly faces and dialog balloons.

    Background settings require a lot of extra work for the cartoonist who was under pressure to maintain about a six-week backlog to allow for production and distribution to newspapers carrying the strip (and for times when the artist was ill or otherwise not productive). The link to Wunder mentions that he took on an assistant in 1962, implying he did it all before that time (and stating that he continued to do the Sunday strips alone). A rational division of labor would be for the main artist to deal with the characters and leave backgrounds and other detailing to assistants.

    Below are some examples of Wunder's Terry and the Pirates from his first five years on the job. Click on the images to enlarge.


    October 27, 1947
    A daily panel featuring Terry, Pat Ryan, Hotshot Charlie and slang-talking Chopstick Joe who is always on the lookout for making money.

    June 22, 1947
    Now for some Sunday strips...

    July 13, 1947

    May 1, 1949

    July 31, 1949

    September 22, 1951
    This seems to be original art -- note how the title and artist's name are attached to provide consistent branding over time.

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    Tom Purvis (1888-1959) was a leading British poster artist during the 1920s and 1930s, especially after his style evolved into simplified shapes with areas of flat color and no outlining.

    Purvis' Wikipedia entry is here, but as of the time this post was drafted (late December 2017), it was not very informative. More biographical information can be found here, but you will need to scroll down to find it.

    Although he worked for a number of clients, he is best known for his railroad posters and those for Austin Reed, a clothier. Both Austin Reed and Purvis were at their peak when the posters shown below were created. Purvis moved on to portrait work and religious painting in the years following World War 2. Austin Reed went bankrupt in 2016 and its remains were acquired by Edinburgh Woolen Mill. As I write this, there are no Austin Reed stores in London.


    For most of its existence, Austin Reed's flagship store was located at the lower end of Regent Street, not far from Piccadilly Circus.

    Judging by the woman's hairdo and dress, this poster was painted no earlier that the very late 1930s.

    This poster is from around 1935.

    This is from 1932.

    An earlier poster. The woman's costume is from the mid-to-late 1920s. Note the different Purvis technique.

    Fenchurch Street is in the City. That was more convenient for City workers, avoiding a trek to Regent Street in the West End.

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    Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy (1900-1955) suddenly decided to become an artist not long after he completed his French Army service. Shortly after that, he became involved with the new Surrealist movement. Even though he wasn't formally trained as an artist, he acquired the necessary oil painting skills to produced"finished" looking works. On the other hand, so far as I've been able to find on the Internet, Tanguy never painted anything recognizable: no people, no still-lifes, no landscapes. To that extent, lack of formal art training didn't matter to him or to the many prominent museums that acquired his paintings.

    His Wikipedia entry is here, and his Guggenheim page is here.

    Once Tanguy settled into his version of Surrealism, he mostly painted variations of a basic plan. Its elements included a fairly plain "sky" area that usually took up a large share of the upper part of his canvases along with various visually solid (i.e., not flat) shapes in the lower part. Effort was made to depict those shapes to appear as realistic as possible, not as sketchy or outlined elements as conventional 1930s modernists such as Picasso might have done. This practice was in line with the Surrealist visual arts thought of Salvador Dalí: the invented world should be depicted as if it were real.

    Below are examples of Tanguy's work in chronological order. Most are found in major museum collections.


    Mama, Papa is Wounded! - 1927
    From around the time of his first exhibit, also fairly early in terms of visual (non-literary) Surrealism.

    The Sun in Its Jewel Case - 1937
    Painted during Surrealism's glory years.

    Slowly Toward the North - 1942
    Tanguy sometimes painted dark scenes.

    La produge - 1943

    The Rapidity of Sleep - 1945

    The Wish - 1949

    The Invisibles - 1951

    Imaginary Numbers - 1954
    A late painting made shortly before his fatal stroke.  It and some similar ones were a break from his usual style.

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  • 02/26/18--01:00: The Clark: A Fine Museum
  • Williamstown is in the northwest corner of Massachusetts. It is the home of Williams College, one of the so-called Little Ivies -- small, elite colleges in the Northeast that in some respects are comparable to the more famous Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Penn and so forth.

    Also in Williamstown is the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, founded by Singer Sewing Machine heir Robert Sterling Clark. Its web page is here. A major part of the Institute is its museum which houses some outstanding paintings.

    It happened that for more than four years I lived and worked in the Albany, New York area, about 45 miles west of Williamstown. During that time, I'd drive through Williamstown maybe three or four time a year. And never visited The Clark. That's because I was focusing on demography and my interest in art was at a comparatively low ebb. Moreover, I was still somewhat in the brainwashed-by-modernist-ideology zone and besides, not a fan of French Impressionism. So if I'd been informed about the Clark and its collection, it wouldn't have interested me.

    In more recent times, I've become aware of what The Clark has. But by then I was living in Seattle and seldom got to the East Coast, let alone western Massachusetts. In September I finally arranged a trip to visit a number of art museums that I either hadn't seen before or hadn't visited in years. Which is how I got to The Clark at last.

    Indeed, its collection is very good. Below are some of the paintings I saw. The images are pulled from The Clark's website and can be enlarged slightly.


    Fumée d'ambre gris - 1880 - John Singer Sargent
    This is one of my very favorite Sargent paintings.

    Nymphs and Satyr - 1873 - William Bouguereau
    And this is my very favorite Bouguereau. So that Sargent and this Bouguereau made the visit well worth the effort. Below are some other paintings of interest.

    Carolus Duran - 1879 - John Singer Sargent
    Sargent studied under Duran, and painted this well-known portrait.

    Self-Portrait - 1857-58 - Edgar Degas

    Rouen Cathedral, The Façade in Sunlight - 1892-94 - Claude Monet
    One of a large series featuring the cathedral at different times of day.

    Waiting - c.1887 - Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
    Not the usual sort of Lautrec work.

    The Bridle Path, White Mountains - 1867 - Winslow Homer
    Again, something different from what the artist is known for.

    Crossing the Street - 1873-75 - Giovanni Boldini
    Painted after Boldini moved to Paris, but before he developed his flashy, bold, portrait style.

    Friends or Foes? (The Scout) - 1902-05 - Frederic Remington

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    Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an alcoholic who when drinking in Greenwich Village bars, would often turn into a nasty drunk. This lifestyle ended in 1956 when the 44-year-old smashed his car into a tree, killing himself and a passenger. More regarding his life can be found here.

    Pollock gained fame thanks to his huge "drip" paintings of the late 1940s. He would spread canvas on a floor and dribble, toss, or otherwise remotely cover it with various colors. It seems there was a limit to this artistic concept. Once he had made a large number of such paintings and he reached his 40th birthday, he apparently began to consider other paths. He tried a few abstract alternatives, but soon virtually ceased painting. And then he ended up dying in that crash.

    Here are some of his last paintings.


    Blue Poles - 1952
    One of his better-known late drip paintings.

    Greyed Rainbow - 1953
    Pollock was still fairly productive in 1953.  This abstraction seems to combine brush and drip.

    Unformed Figure - 1953
    Brushed areas show up more strongly here.

    Ocean Greyness - 1953
    This painting uses brushwork exclusively.

    Portrait and a Dream - 1953
    Now a dab of representationalism creeps in.

    Easter and the Totem - 1953
    Again, relatively large, uncluttered areas. No drips. New York's Museum of Modern Art's web page on the painting notes: "After 1952, dripping and pouring paint were no longer the primary means of expression for Pollock. The totemic forms at the left and right in Easter and the Totem reflect his renewed interest in using a brush to paint quasi-figurative images."

    White Light - 1954
    MoMA's White Light page mentions: "White Light is one of Pollock's last paintings and the only one he completed in 1954. He made it in part by squeezing paint directly from a tube onto the canvas evident in the sculptural white and black tendrils of paint that constitute the top layers. He also used a brush, creating subtle marbling effects by manipulating wet paint in certain areas. Though Pollock was tormented by an artistic block he would never overcome, White Light sparkles..." (emphasis added).

    Sent - 1955

    Search - 1955
    These were Pollock's last paintings, the only two he made in 1955. He died seven months into 1956 without completing another one.

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    The 1920s and 1930s were interesting times where aesthetics are concerned. My e-book "Art Adrift" deals with painting during that period. But pretty much the same thing was happening regarding architecture here in the United States.

    Modernism in its high form was like a religion in that it was Manichean -- having defined sets of things that are either good or evil. Among the "good" things so far as architecture was concerned were that form should follow function and that there ought to be truth to materials. What was "evil" was creating designs based on historical styles, thereby ignoring pure function and mis-using new materials (among other things), an act of dishonesty.

    Like the painters I discussed in my book, some architects were Modernist pioneers who by some point before 1950 had run out of new Modernist ideas. These were largely Europeans of the Bauhaus mode. Then there were practicing architects in Europe and, perhaps especially in America, who were trying to figure out what to do about that Modernism thing. Cherrypick an idea or two for application on a traditional base? In some respects, that was what Art Deco was. Or going whole-hog modernist, which is what George Howe (1886–1955) did.

    Some background on Howe can be found here and here. In brief, Howe, a Harvard man, was classically trained at Paris'École des Beaux-Arts, graduating in 1912. He began his practice in the Philadelphia firm of Furness, Evan & Co., and in 1916 joined the firm headed by Walter Mellor and Arthur Ingersoll Meigs. By the early 1920s after having served in the Great War he was now a partner in Mellor, Meigs and Howe. The firm specialized in residential architecture using Norman and Tudor styles. Then in 1928 Howe left the firm, proclaiming his conversion to Modernism. He started his own firm, taking on the young Swiss modernist Architect William Lescaze as a partner. Their major commission was Philadelphia's landmark Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Building, one of the first and best modernist American skyscrapers. Thereafter, as best I can tell, Howe himself designed few if any noteworthy buildings.

    But before he went Modernist, Howe was a thoroughgoing traditionalist architect. Examples of his work are shown below.


    A student project design for a post office.

    Howe's 1917 Philadelphia home, High Hollow.

    A Philadelphia Savings Fund Society branch office at 11th Street and Lehigh Avenue, ca. 1924-28.  Still essentially traditional, those undecorated wall segments hint at Modernism.

    Goodhart Hall auditorium on the Bryn Mawr College campus, 1928  Howe and Meigs disputed who should take credit for the design, this argument helping precipitate Howe's departure from the firm.

    The PSFS skyscraper under construction, probably in 1931.

    Architectural rendering of the PSFS as seen at ground level, ca. 1930.

    Looking up at the PSFS Building, completed 1932.

    Aerial view of the PSFS.

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    Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954), who signed his work E. McNight Kauffer and was called Ted, spent most of his career in England even though he was born in Great Falls, Montana. Sources dealing with his life and career are here, here and here.

    Kauffer was studying art in Paris when the Great War broke out. He stopped off in London on his way to the USA, but liked the town and decided to stay there. He had an appreciation for simplification inspired by Modernism, probably gained while in Paris. Moreover, he was fortunate with respect to the timing of his arrival in London. For one thing, he was able to find some clients who also appreciated modernist touches in poster design. For another, being a foreigner from a neutral (at the time) country allowed him to work while other artists his age either volunteered or were conscripted into the army.

    All that aside, Kauffer was a talented poster artist and had a very successful career through the 1920s and 30s. Not long after World War 2 began, he finally returned to America. After struggling for a while to get established, he finally became a regular designer of posters for American Airlines.


    The Cubist birds are perhaps his best-known creation.

    From 1919.

    Much of his work was for London public transit, this from 1924.

    Two more posters from 1924.

    This was done in 1932 and echoes the work of the French artist called A.M. Cassandre.

    I include this 1938 Shell poster because its style is different from much of his work.

    A book cover.

    American Airlines poster, 1948.

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    Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) -- Wikipedia entry here -- was developing eye problems as he reached his late 60s. It seems his eyes became irritated when outdoors for any length of time. Therefore it became difficult for him to paint out of doors, so he took to painting scenes from windows of places he rented. The link above (at the time of writing this) includes several images of his paintings of Paris' boulevard Montmartre near its intersection with the boulevard des Italiens.

    The resulting paintings showed his subjects at various times of day, various weather conditions, and various times of year. This is somewhat analogous to Claude Monet's time-of day series of paintings of haystacks in the early 1890s and of the Rouen Cathedral a few years later. I would think Pissarro had Monet's concept in the back of his mind or even at its forefront when he painted the urban streets in the late 1890s.

    Another series of paintings of Paris scenes was made from the Hôtel du Louvre, as mentioned (in Dutch) here with reference to one of those paintings. They all dealt with the place du Théâtre-Français at the intersection of the rue St-Honoré and the avenue de l'Opéra.  Readers who have visited Paris have almost certainly been at or near this area.

    Some of these are shown below.  I've adjusted several of the captions found on the internet in compensation for a lack of a consistent set of titles in French.


    Avenue de l'Opéra, place du Théâtre-Français - 1898

    Place du Théâtre-Français et l'avenue de l'Opéra, soleil du matin - 1898

    La place du Théâtre-Français, soleil du matin, rue Saint-Honoré - (après la pluie) - 1898

    La place du Théâtre Français - 1898

    La place du Théâtre Français, effet du brouillard - ca. 1898

    La place du Théâtre Français, pluie - 1898

    Place du Théâtre-Français et l'avenue de l'Opéra, effet du neige - 1898

    Place du Théâtre-Français, printemps - 1898

    Place du Théâtre-Français, pluie - 1898

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    This is another post in an occasional series dealing with Art Nouveau architecture found in a number of smaller cities in Europe. I found the current subject in Split, Croatia -- a city with few examples of that style. What struck me was not the Vienna Secession version of Art Nouveau architecture, but the large metal sculptures populating the exterior: most sculpting associated with this kind of architecture is carved stonework or ceramic.

    This 1903 building is called Sumporne Toplice ("Sulphur Spa"), located on the site of such a spring. The architect was Kamilo Tončić, but I have not been able to identify the sculptor.


    Establishment image: September 2011 Google view of Marnontova Ulica (Ulica, pronounced something like oo-litz-uh, is Croatian for "street").

    Now for my photos.  The building is on the corner of Neretvankska Ulica, about a block from the outdoor Fish Market.  It needs some work -- note the small plants growing along the cornice.

    The ground floor is nondescript, so this photo shows the sculptural action.  I'll focus on the lower tier of figures, so note here the higher works featuring faces, something more in line with Vienna Secession style.

    Corner sculpting features men.

    Whereas the main wall sculpting depicts women crying out.

    Matching item seen from a slightly different angle.

    There seem to be about four basic items that were cast several times each to create the ensembles.