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

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

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

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


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

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

    The Musician - 1874
    From his Paris days.

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

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

    The Festival of Spring - c. 1890

    Three Muses

    Terpsichore - drawing for Adolph Lewisohn residence - 1894

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

    Angel with the Flaming Sword

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

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    There is almost no Internet information regarding the skilled American portrait painter Raymond Perry Rodgers Neilson (1881-1964). The most detail I could find is here.

    It seems that Neilson was a 1905 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who resigned from the service in 1908 to study art. He returned to the navy as a Lieutenant (equivalent to army captain rank) when the United States entered the Great War and served as an aide to Vice Admiral William Sims who commanded U.S. naval operations in Europe (the latter point from this source): clearly Neilson had connections. The second link also mentions that he was "Member American Artists Professional League. N.A.; Clubs: Salmagundi, Century. Home and Studio: 131 E. 66th St. New York City 21, New York." That address was not and is not in a shabby neighborhood. But then, he was married to the daughter of a Pittsburgh steel maker.

    The first link notes: "Neilson studied with William Merritt Chase and at the Art Students League with George Bridgman and George Bellows. He continued his art education in Paris, studying at the Académie Julian, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Académie Colarossi, and the Academie Grande Chaumière." This surely took place mostly before the war began in 1914 and when many American artists returned home.

    Now for speculation about connections with Richard E. Miller (1875-1943). Miller's Wikipedia entry is here. It mentions that Miller spent much of his time from perhaps 1900 to 1914 in France, spending some summers with the colony of American artists in Giverny, nearby where Claude Monet lived. Neilson and Miller might well have met either there or in Paris. In 1917 Miller moved to arty Provincetown at the northern end of Cape Cod, even during the 1920s only a day's journey from New York City where Neilson was based.

    Now consider the images below.

    This Miller painting is of a young woman holding a necklace. He painted many somewhat similar works both before and after the war. Moreover, he often posed his subjects in the same costumes, as I posted here. Not all Miller paintings seem to be dated, but his one is almost surely from his Provincetown days. Note his signature at the lower left (click to enlarge).

    Here is a near-copy by Neilson whose signature it at the lower right.  The model is the same, and the poses are nearly identical. The dresses differ in that Neilson's version has a blue item on her waist (I'm not sure what it's called). The backgrounds are essentially the same, but differ in details such as the positioning of the French door at the left and tabletop items at the right.

    Here is a Miller painting featuring what appears to be a different model, but where background items are arranged similarly to those in Neilson's painting. Even the costume and the lighting on the floor are about the same. Ditto the brushwork.

    Photo of Miller in his Provincetown studio.

    A painting by Neilson in his typical style, also done in the 1920s.

    I should add that Neilson painted a few other Impressionist-style paintings of women that can be found by Googling on him and then selecting Images. From the looks of these, they might have been done in Giverny before the war.

    What to make of this?

    Almost certainly Neilson was experimenting with Miller's style, perhaps because he was, or was about to become a painting instructor and wanted to re-familiarize himself with Impressionist portraiture. Furthermore, he surely knew Miller.

    From this, I can think of two alternatives.  The first is that Neilson went to Provincetown and worked on his painting during the time Miller was painting the two images of his shown above.

    A second, possibly more likely explanation is that Neilson visited Miller and semi-copied elements from both while Miller provided some coaching. A variation on this is that Neilson saw the paintings together elsewhere while doing his version -- though I consider this possibility unlikely.

    Please comment if you have more solid information about this matter.

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    The tour bus arrived at the hotel soon enough for me to get my suitcase to my room and then quickly walk across town, arriving at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery about 35 minutes before its 5 p.m. closing. That gave me little time to check out the shop, get oriented to the somewhat confusing layout of the building, and still view some paintings of interest to me.

    Below are some highlights from that short visit. Click on images to enlarge.


    The Departure of John and Sebastian Cabot from Bristol on Their First Voyage of Discovery, 1497 - by Ernest Board - 1906
    I wrote about Board here, noting that this painting has interested my for a long time. It hangs in the entrance area of the museum and is covered by protective material that's reflective, preventing getting a decent photo of it. Seeing it in person was the main motivation for my visit.

    The Delhi Durbar of 1903, The Governor's Procession or The State Entry - by Roderick MacKenzie - 1907
    Directly opposite is this huge work depicting an aspect of the Empire at its zenith.

    Detail of the above, photographed at the museum

    Holidays - by Harry Watson - c. 1920

    Detail of the above, photographed at the museum

    The Mackerel Shawl - by Algernon Talmage - 1910
    Its information plaque notes that Talmage mostly painted landscapes. Nevertheless, this is an eye-catching work.

    Detail of the above, photographed at the museum

    La belle dame sans merci - by Frank Dicksee - 1902

    The Briar Rose - No. 3, The Garden Court (Bristol version) - by Edward Burne-Jones - c.1885-90
    One of a series of four paintings crafted to fit in a room of the patron's house. It seems that Burne-Jones painted a second version of The Garden Court, as the museum does not have the original.

    Above painting, photographed at the museum
    The museum has above-average lighting, so my iPhone-based photos capture what I saw well. This painting was restored recently, so its colors are brighter than those in the previous, Web-based image of the Bristol painting.

    The Guarded Bower - by Arthur Hughes - c. 1865
    Hughes was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

    Above painting photographed at the museum
    It looks much better in its frame than in the previous, Interned-based image.

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    Wilhelm Trübner (1851-1917) created smoothly-painted scenes early in his career, but by his 30s had drifted to styles with increased emphasis on what are called "formal qualities" of a painting (the parts not related to depiction of a subject). This concept eventually evolved into pure abstraction, whereby all a painting had were such qualities (characteristics) and no subject matter. In Trübner's case, he mostly made paintings where brushwork was strongly evident, many brushstrokes done using wide, flat brushes.

    I posted about this kind of brushwork here, and included one of Trübner's paintings.

    His Wikipedia entry is here, and from it you might want to go to the German entry, which has more detail.

    Below are images of some of Trübner's paintings in this style, most of which are from around the year 1900.


    Cronberg in Taunus - 1896
    The kind of brushwork I've been mentioning can be seen at the lower left.

    Schloß Lichtenberg im Odenwald - 1900
    A later landscape painting with even more obvious brushwork.

    Erna von Holzhausen on Horseback - 1901
    This portrait is dominated by strong brushwork -- especially on the horse.

    Self-Portrait with Hat - 1902
    Heavy, flat brushstrokes are used selectively here: note the smooth background and largely smoothly painted coat and vest.

    Dame mit Schwarzem Halsband - Lady with Black Collar - 1909
    A later painting where Trübner was still using that style.

    Stehender Rückenakt - Back View of Standing Nude - 1898
    This was made before Fauvism and its arbitrary use of color. The use of blue on the figure helps relate it to the background. (I've noted in some other posts that it's not easy to fit nudes into outdoor settings with plenty of foliage ... skin tones and foliage are rough complementary colors. Here Trübner chose to use a nonrealistic color, blue, on both the nude and the folliage.)

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    Richard F. Lack (1928-2009) was somehow able to make a living as a professional artist in the second half of the 20th century while painting in an academic style. A good deal of background information about him can be found here and here: both are well worth reading.

    Lack at one point classified his type of painting as "Classical Realism," and some Wikipedia information on the subject is here.

    If you happen to be in the Pacific Northwest before 15 November, you might be able to visit an exhibit of his work at the Maryhill Museum located about 90 miles up the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

    I greatly respect Lack's talent and courage in opposing dominant fads and fashions in painting. On the other hand, his style is a little too "finished" for my taste. Also, I find it hard to like the Symbolic subjects that he began to paint around 1970 and continued to do for much of the rest of his career.

    Below are images of some of his paintings along with a few photos I took at Maryhill in September.


    My Studio (In the Studio) - 1955
    Pictured is a friend of his.

    The Italian Hat (Vietorisz Kaitalin - Katherine Lack) - 1955
    Lack met this Hungarian-born lass in 1953 and married her two years later.

    Reading - 1960 (very slightly cropped)

    The Concert - 1961
    Lack was an enthusiastic musician and painted a number of scenes dealing with that subject.

    Self Portrait - 1962 as seen at Maryhill

    Mother and Child (Katherine and Peter Lack) - 1962

    Evening Jet Trails - 1963
    Again, Katherine.

    Medea, head study - 1970 - as seen at Maryhill
    Most of lack's studies included in the exhibit (there were many) were even more finished than this one.

    Medea and studies as seen at Maryhill
    The previous painting is at the far left and a pose sketch is at the right of the final work.

    Evening, Lake Superior - 1974
    Lack also painted landscapes and still lifes.

    Girl in Blue: Homage to Paxton - 1983
    Lack studied under R.H. Ives Gammel (1893-1981) who, in turn, studied under William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941).

    Revelation of Saint John - 1980
    A Symbolist painting on a religious theme.  His Symbolist subjects also were influenced by psychiatrist Carl Jung.

    Some of Lack's Symbolist paintings displayed at Maryhill, via Underpaintings (Matthew Innis)

    One of Lack's palettes

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    Gottlieb Theodor von Hartenkampf Kempf, sometimes rendered Gottlieb Theodor Kempf von Hartenkampf -- I'm not sure which is preferred -- was an Austrian painter and illustrator born in Vienna in 1871 and died in 1964. Unfortunately, there seems to be little to no biographical information about him on the first few pages of Google searches in English and German. One source mentioned that he did some of his study in Paris.

    Fortunately, searches do turn up quite a few examples of his work. They indicate that he was good at capturing faces, an important test of artistic skill and training. For example, if you have ever visited museums with collections of portraits by American artists made before the early 1800s, you will notice that most of those works are comparatively crudely done. Moreover, a viewer must do some mental work to try to tease out what the subject looked like in real life. Sometimes one is reduced to mostly learning the subject had brown eyes and a long, somewhat droopy nose.

    By the 1930s, many artists and art critics claimed that the quality of a portrait was largely dependent on its presentation of the subject's character or personality. I have no problem with that, provided the subject's portrayal is representationally accurate. I do sometimes have a problem when the artist portrays his feelings about the subject in the portrait: imagine an exhibit of Donald Trump portraits by hostile painters living in Greenwich Village or Berkeley, California.

    As for Kempf, he could capture his subjects' physical appearance in a manner that made them believable. Below are a couple of portraits along with other examples of his work.


    Porträt Otto Wagner - 1896
    Wagner (1841-1918) was an important Viennese architect.

    Zigeunerin - Gypsy Woman

    Die Andacht - The Devotion

    Die Belauschung - Eavesdropping



    Jungfrau Maria - Mary as a Young Woman - 1935

    Definition here.

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    Eugène Galien-Laloue (1854-1941) was a prolific painter of landscapes and cityscapes, and is best known for his depictions of Paris. A brief Wikipedia entry is here, and from it you can link to a longer French version. But for a richly detailed exposition on him, I strongly suggest this site.

    It seems that Galien-Laloue -- Laloue was his actual family name -- was an odd character in several respects. He was something of a loner who focused on his work rather than the socializing that many famous Paris-based artists did. He had three wives, all of them sisters. He used several aliases when signing his paintings, presumably so that he could market them through more than one gallery.

    That aside, Laloue's gouache paintings were accurate depictions of Paris architecture as well as his scenes' atmospherics. This makes his works of interest to fans of Paris in the years 1880-1930. Most of the image below seem to have been painted in the early 1900s (he didn't date his works).


    Boulevard Saint-Germain

    La Bastille

    La Madeleine

    Madeleine Métro entrance
    A 1920s scene

    La place Saint-Michel

    Les quais de Paris

    Notre-Dame sous la neige
    Probably painted around 1916 -- the man in brown seems to be a British officer who really should be wearing his greatcoat.

    Les Halles
    This area was destroyed and replaced by that horrible Centre Pompidou.

    Arc de Triomphe (1)

    Arc de Triomphe (2)
    Both painted from almost the same spot, but in different seasons.

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    Actually, Peter Helck (1893-1988) illustrated other topics than early-1900s Vanderbilt Cup races and such, though many of his subjects did involve cars, trucks and other mechanical items. He had a successful career, being well known in his day.

    Helck's brief Wikipedia entry is here, a website by his grandson is here, and more detailed information regarding his early-1920s work in Europe can be found here. He was born in New York City, studied at the Art Students League there, and around 1920 worked with and apparently studied under the great Frank Brangwyn. Helck was of military age at the time of the Great War, but I've found no information regarding if he served or was in Europe due in part to that.

    Below are examples of his work.


    Brooklands racecourse paddock scene - 1920.

    Morris Crowley cover advertisement (cropped) on a 1920 issue of the Autocar magazine (British car magazines used to have ads as their cover art). This has a hint of Brangwyn, I think.

    Cover art for another British automobile magazine.

    Scene from an early race (the Web source did not identify it).

    Scene from 1908 Vanderbilt Cup race. In both these illustrations Helck includes the leaning-forward appearance of the featured race cars that was typical of race photographs from the early 20th century.  That distortion had to do with the relationship between a speeding subject and the vertical (low to high) movement of the camera aperture. That is, the lower part of the moving car was captured first, the upper part slightly later after it had moved, and the between part was the transition while the aperture was moving. Helck knew all this, but thought it worth retaining for his portrayals of that era to provide a "period" feeling.

    World War 2 vintage Campbell Soup advertising art featuring a Jeep.

    Chevrolet truck advertisement art, c. 1950.

    Story illustration of an accident while a locomotive was being loaded on a cargo ship.

    Story illustration with the caption "For a horrible instant Carter thought the jet was going to crash." - 1955.  Helck had to do some imaginative compositional work to provide drama while fitting the elements into the magazine's illustration hole.  In reality, that sort-of F-94 could not possibly avoid crashing if it were flying that low, that fast, and at that angle of attack.

    Example of non-machine subject matter.

    "The Old Ashburn Place."

    Study of scene from 1933 Tourist Trophy race held on the Isle of Man: Helck often signed his studies.

    Three more studies.

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    Isaac Lazarus Israëls (1865-1934) was a Dutch painter and son of Josef Israëls, an important 19th century artist. His Wikipedia entry is here. He received some training by his father and at an academy, but otherwise was self-taught. From 1905 to 1915 he was in Paris and London, but spent most of his career in the Netherlands.

    Israëls shed his academic style before he was 30. Thereafter, from what I can tell from images of his works on the internet, his style became quite sketchy, though he did not distort colors or proportions of his subjects. So he was a modernist to only a limited degree.


    Transport of Colonial Soldiers - 1883-84
    They were probably headed to the Netherlands East Indies.  This was painted a year or two after Israëls left the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.

    Shop Window - 1894

    Woman in front of Van Gogh's Sunflowers - 1917-1918


    Two Hirsch Models, Ippy and Gertie Wehmann - c. 1916
    Hirsch was a department store found in several European cities, including Amsterdam.

    Gertie in a Fur Coat - c. 1917
    Gertie, again.

    Woman Walking on a Beach
    Israëls painted many beach scenes.

    Girl Sitting on a Beach
    This seems to be from around 1930, judging by the hairdo and costume.

    Artist in Atelier - 1918

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    Albert Beck Wenzell (1864-1917) isn't widely known today, even by illustration buffs such as me. That might be because most of his work was done during what some call the Golden Age of Illustration. My bias is that the gold happened mostly between 1915 and 1960. Judgment calls all around.

    Still, Wenzell was posthumously inducted into the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame as recently as 2005. Here is the Society's web page about him.

    Wenzell was very good at his tasks. His style was not the stiff, wooden sort of thing often found during his era. Instead, it edged towards the free and sketchy, though this varied by topic and perhaps the tastes of various magazine art directors he had to deal with.

    His subject matter seems to have largely been upper-class society folks. Such were the subjects of the fiction pieces he was hired to illustrate. And those subjects remained popular for decades following his death. Today's "sophisticates" -- especially of the academic variety -- are likely to view that in horror: How dare those propagandist magazine toadies glamorize those blood-sucking parasites!! Because readers of middle and even lower class origins liked to find how the upper class lived, dressed, and practiced manners. America has never been an India with a caste system.  Upward mobility has always been a possibility for most people. Those magazine stories with their Wenzell illustrations served as instruction manuals for achieving greater social polish.

    Most Wenzell illustrations found on the Internet lack dates. Research into contents of such old magazine copies that still exist might clear some of this up, but I think few people would be eager to take on such a task. Sometimes fairly close guesses can be made by observing the style of clothing of his female subjects.


    A Captive Audience

    Breakfast table scene

    Viennese Embassy Ball


    Woman with Putti (also known as Victorian Virgin with Cherubs)

    The Marriage Proposal

    Confrontation scene

    The Argument

    Three is a Crowd

    Idle Conversation

    The Couple

    Where Did I Put the Tickets?

    Rose in Garden

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    Pierre-Georges Jeanniot (1848–1934) fought in the Franco-Prussian war, later rising to the rank of Major. When offered promotion to commandant (lieutenant colonel), he resigned to become a full-time artist. From this Wikipedia entry, it isn't clear where he received artistic training, though the French version states it was from his father who for many years was director of l'École des Beaux-Arts of Dijon.

    The entry also mentions that Jeanniot became friends with some of the French Impressionists, especially Edgar Degas. And in 1906 he became a chevalier (knight) of the Légion d'Honneur, then officier par décret in 1929. Clearly, he was well-regarded in his day, though not widely known today, at least here in the USA.

    Besides painting, Jeanniot was an engraver and illustrator of books.

    As can be seen in the images below, he was highly skilled, though his works were not distinctive enough (in my judgement) to be instantly identifiable as done by him.


    La Ligne de feu, épisode de la bataille du 16 Août 1870 - Firing Line, an Episode During the Battle of Mars-la-Tour, 16 August, 1870 - c. 1881

    Réservistes de 1870 - Reservists During the Franco-Prussian War - 1882

    Elèves caporaux sur l'esplanade des Invalides à Paris - Group of Trainees on the Esplanade of the Invalides, Paris - 1883

    Une Élégante au Café - Elegant Woman in a Café - 1883 (pastel)

    The Pink Camelia - 1897


    Une chanson de Gibert dans le salon de madame Madeleine Lemaire - A Song by Gibert in the Salon of Madame Madelaine Lemaire - 1891

    Élégante au salon - Elegant Lady at a Salon - 1905

    Woman in Café - 1910

    Portrait de Henriette assise avec un châle - Henriette Seated with a Shawl - 1926

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    Most tours of England's West Country take in the city of Bath, that once was a Roman site and for many is a Jane Austen mecca. But not far down the road to the west is Bristol, which also is worth a visit, though its character is different.

    Architecturally, and due to its siting, the Bristol building that interests me the most is the Wills Tower on the Wills Memorial Building. It sits on one of Bristol's hills as part of Bristol University, a "red brick" institution that received its royal charter in 1909.

    The tower's construction was begun in 1915, but completion was delayed until 1925 due to the Great War. Its architect was Sir George Herbert Oatley (1863–1950) who was the university's architect for a number of years. It is a tall (215 foot, 65.5 meter) structure nicely composed using plain and highly decorated areas that play off one another.


    The tower as seen looking up Park Street in 1939 where it serves as a focus.

    Park Street is just off to the right of this view that I took the last time I was in town. This street is Queens Road that becomes Park Row and heads downhill as it bends left beyond the edge of the photo. The building at the left is the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery that has some interesting paintings in its collection.

    The massive corners have little decoration and the rest of the tower is quite Gothic.

    Street level view.  A nice touch is the shields placed above the tall windows.

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    Lionel-Noël Royer (1852-1926), according to his English language Wikipedia entry, is best known for his large paintings of the life of Joan of Arc located in the Basilica of Bois-Chenu in Domrémy, her home town. His French Wikipedia entry also notes that he is known "ainsi que du tableau Vercingétorix jette ses armes aux pieds de Jules César." The latter ("Vercingétorix Throwing his Weapons at the Feet of Caesar" - 1899) is probably better known outside France because it has been used as book cover art. It's the image at the top of this post (click on it to enlarge).

    Royer fought in one Franco-Prussian War battle, so was qualified to paint battle scenes even though he followed convention and overly dramatized the action.  Following the war he studied art at l'École des beaux-arts de Paris under Alexandre Cabanel and William Bouguereau.

    Royer painted simple subjects, but excelled in dealing with complex scenes with casts worthy of a Cecil B. DeMille Biblical movie. Well, fewer people than in film crowd scenes, but plenty on artists' canvases.

    Below are more examples of his work. But I have to say that I like the Julis Caesar painting best, even though the French link above states "Les historiens soulignent notamment le fait que Vercingétorix ne s'est certainement pas présenté en armes devant César au moment de sa reddition (il aurait été massacré par la garde romaine). Le cheval est à l'époque une monture romaine, les Gaulois utilisant plutôt des poneys (plus petits). Le tableau traduit surtout une volonté d'héroïser le personnage de Vercingétorix." That is, what Royer painted probably did not actually happen the way he depicted the surrender.


    Joan of Arc at the coronation of Charles VII at Reims
    Click on the image to enlarge.

    Bataille d'Auvour
    Also known as the Battle of Mans, fought 10-12 January 1871.  A large but rag-tag French army was defeated by the Prussians. This battle, along with the end of the Siege of Paris a few days later, marked the end of the main military phase of the Franco-Prussian War

    Le Lieutenant-Colonel Athanase de Charrette à la tête des Zouaves Pontificaux – Bataille de Mentana - 3 Novembre, 1867
    This battle was between Garibaldi's Italians and an army comprised of the French and Papal Zouave troops. The Italians were defeated.

    Marchande de Fleurs - The Flower Seller
    The flower seller is at the lower right corner with her push-cart. At the lower left is a red automobile that dates the painting as from a few years around 1905. The large building is the Hôtel de Ville, Paris' city hall, and the tall structure at the right is the Notre-Dame.

    The Muses Garden
    The opposite of Royer's war paintings.

    Allegory of Summer
    Confirmation that he studied under Bouguereau.

    Étude pour la figure de l'amour

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    Biographical information for the illustrator Edmund Davenport must be someplace, but I can't seem to find it by Googling. Nor can I find it in my personal collection of books about illustration.

    All I know for sure at this point is that most of the internet images of his work date from 1925-1928. These works include some Saturday Evening Post covers, so Davenport briefly was hitting the big time.

    Besides the Post, he did covers for other magazines and advertising art for Stutz automobiles and Syracuse China (the latter not shown below).

    Here are most of the examples of his work that I could find.


    Saturday Evening Post cover - 13 June 1925
    New graduate literally "on top of the world."

    Holland's Magazine cover - May 1926

    The Elks Magazine cover - February 1926
    The Elks are an American fraternal organization.

    American Magazine cover - November 1928

    Stutz advertisement - 1927
    This advertisement and the ones below feature simplified backgrounds and contra-jour shading that serve to set off the images of the cars.

    Stutz advertisement - 1927
    Stutz is best remembered for its Stutz Bearcat sports cars from the 1910s.

    Stutz advertisement - 1927

    Stutz advertisement - 1927

    Stutz advertisement - 1927
    A black & white ad, but the artwork might have been done in color like the ones shown above (though the contra-jour is missing, suggesting it was done in b&w) .

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    Haddon Sundblom (1899-1976) was a leading illustrator for many years and influential in the careers of other illustrators.

    Now Dan Zimmer of Illustration Magazine has written a lavishly illustrated book about him (information here). I am quite pleased with it. Some books on illustrators lack details regarding their subjects because illustrators, like many writers, can live somewhat isolated lives due to the nature of their work. Sundblom ran a commercial art studio in Chicago, so there were many people around him that could provide stories. Also, he was quoted in interviews, which helped Zimmer to provide a more rounded portrait than he was able to do in some other cases.

    For a quick take on Sundblom, his Wikipedia entry is here.

    I posted about him here on 27 February 2012 and here on 8 June 2011. In the latter post, I stated:

    "Yet something bothers me just enough that I can't place Sundblom with contemporaries such as Dean Cormwell, John La Gatta and Mead Schaeffer. Maybe it had to do with stereotyping or pigeonholing by clients and art directors. Perhaps it was Sundblom's preference. In any event, the result was that little of his work had drama or "bite" of any kind."

    Some of the illustrations in the book invalidate what I thought back in 2011. Sundblom was quite able to paint in styles other than the buttery sort that he is best known for. Some examples are below.


    Sundblom is best-known nowadays for his depictions of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola. This example is from 1946.

    He did a good deal of other work for Coke, such as this 1950 poster.

    Coca-Cola illustration from 1937. Again in his buttery oil-painting style.

    Red Cross theme poster art.

    Now for some editorial art for fiction pieces in magazines: this seems to be from the late 1930s.

    From a June, 1957 Ladies' Home Journal.

    Now for some illustrations that are not "buttery."

    These three images represent top-quality 1930s-vintage magazine illustration, and are far removed from Sundblom's Coca-Cola work.

    Finally, a Sundblom story illustration demonstrating his ability to depict ordinary folks, and not glamorous or dramatic types.

    Haddon Sundblom was really good.

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    Louis Denis-Valvérane (1870-1943) was a Provençal painter and illustrator/cartoonist who is perhaps best known for his racy (at the time) cartoons in the magazine La vie Parisienne that he signed as Vald'Es.

    Biographical information on him is almost non-existent on the Internet. Very brief items are here and here. A web site devoted to him is here. It is in French and contains a little more information, but mostly mentions aspects of Provençal nationalism.

    Denis-Valvérane's paintings found on the Web tend to be somewhat mediocre in my opinion, but some of his cartoon work strikes me as being very good. Examples of each are shown below.


    Notre Dame du Romigier, Mairie de Manosque
    A scene from Denis-Valvérane's home town.

    Traveuax des champs - Working the Fields

    Young Woman Reading a Letter to a Blind Man
    The man's shirt and hands are done well.

    Sailing Boats

    Apparently it was expected in La vie Parisienne that it was good to show some female thigh above the stocking.

    But that wasn't mandatory.

    Hinting was also acceptable.

    Flapper and apparent Sugar Daddy.

    A two-part cartoon about young French women in the Roaring Twenties.

    I like this one. Well-drawn, witty. Click on it to enlarge.

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  • 12/10/18--01:00: Brangwyn in San Francisco
  • Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956), Wikipedia entry here, was British artist whose paintings and murals have always fascinated me. My post on those aspects of his work is here.

    Aside from his unfortunate set of murals in New York's Radio City that I wrote about here, concentrations of Brangwyn's work are rare in the United States and mostly off the usual tourist track. However, it turns out that there are some Brangwyn's in another major American city.

    A few months ago I was in San Francisco on a dinner-date-plus-piano-concert and stumbled across a Brangwyn trove I was totally unaware of -- a set of eight large murals in the auditorium of the War Memorial building in the Civic Center district. At first, I thought they might have been done by him, and later confirmed this via an Internet search.

    It happened that they were commissioned for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition and later installed in the auditorium as noted on page 34 of this book:

    "The rest of the fair's public art was not dispersed as widely as the contents of the art pavilions. Having been executed on removable canvas, most of the murals were saved and turned over to the Trustees of the San Francisco War Memorial in the hope that they could be installed in other public buildings (Brangwyn's murals were eventually installed in the War Memorial Herbst Theatre, which was completed in 1932, while the others were placed in storage)."

    Further research on the Internet revealed that the murals were displayed at the Court of Abundance at the exposition. Their themes were the Classical elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Two murals were painted for each theme.

    I took some iPhone snapshots of the murals as an aide-memoir, assuming that I'd be able to find better examples on the Internet. Alas, it turns out that I found nothing really satisfactory, so the images below are of mural fragments taken from odd angles. Nevertheless, I hope you will find them interesting.


    First, two images I found on the Internet showing the general arrangement.

    North wall murals.

    South wall murals.

    Now for a collection of my snapshots (click on them to enlarge) ...

    Some of the people portrayed in this mural have the knobby features he painted nearly 20 later for the RCA Building lobby that I criticized in the second link above.

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  • 12/13/18--01:00: Superferry Supergraphics
  • Large ferryboats carrying cars and passengers on comparatively long overnight runs are common in the Mediterranean and Baltic sea areas in Europe and in parts of Asia, though not in North America where most ferries simply cross rivers, narrow straits and harbors.

    A few years ago I took one such ferry from Palermo in Sicily to Naples. It had a small, but adequate cabin and public areas to visit when not in the cabin. Being an overnight trip, no serious sightseeing or business time was lost. Very convenient.

    I recently was on a cruise that covered, among other things, the Tyrrhenian Sea part of the Mediterranean (it's bounded by Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica).

    From the cruise ship in several ports I saw that ferries of the Tirrenia line are being repainted using supergraphic images of American superhero comic book and movie cartoon figures.

    Take a look:


    A Tirrenia ferry not yet repainted, seen at Naples.

    Seen at Civitavecchia.

    First, Superman.

    Next, Supergirl. An image of Superman's face is masked by the bow of the other ferry.

    At Cagliari I saw Sylvester and Tweety.

    Other ferries carry images of Batman and Wonder Woman.

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    As the title of this post mentions, Georges Antoine Van Zevenberghen (1877-1968), was presumably inspired by Chardin's paintings. Well, that's what this nearly-worthless French Wikipedia entry mentions: "Il partit ensuite pour Paris en 1903 où il admira les œuvres du peintre du xviiie siècle Jean Siméon Chardin qui le marquèrent durablement."

    It seems that van Zevenberghen spent most of his long life in Belgium, enduring periods of German occupation in both World Wars. His main travels apparently were to Paris. The entry also notes: "En 1933, il devint professeur à l'Académie royale des beaux-arts de Bruxelles, fonction qu'il remplit jusqu'en 1948." So he was regarded highly enough to become a professor in the Academy.

    Not many of his paintings can be found on the Internet. They are generally solidly done. There is one that stands out, however, as can be seen below.


    La repasseuse - 1907
    The earliest of his paintings that I could locate.

    Les modistes - 1915
    Painted during wartime when most of Belgium was German-occupied.

    Le joueur de violoncelle
    The cello player. Several of his paintings feature cellos.

    Adagio - c. 1930
    Another cello.

    Le jugement de Pâris - 1937
    A rare Academy-themed work done while he was a professor.

    La cigale ou la musique - The Cicada or Music
    I'm not sure what the title means. Also, apologies for the poor quality of the image, but it's the best I could find in that size range.

    The Manet - 1922
    I think this painting is the best of the lot, though it's not particularly characteristic of his work.

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    In those olden times when American illustration was in flower, there was no clear path for continued success for artists who had attained a certain degree of fame.

    Essentially, this was the matter of one's style in the context of inevitable changes in stylistic fashion. An illustrator with a widely recognized style -- one whose work can be identified at a glance -- can rake in plenty of income while that kind of style remains fashionable. But when the fashion changes from, say, painterly brushwork in oils (1915-1927 or so) to thin linework and watercolor (1928-1935 or so), one's happy career could easily crash.

    Other than dropping out of illustration to become an art director, taking up portrait painting, teaching and other non-illustration possibilities, the successful illustrator has two main strategic career alternatives. One is to continue his basic style, perhaps with a few minor adjustments. Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker did this, though Leyendecker's popularity eventually faded whereas Rockwell's did not. I suspect that this holding-the-fort strategy is rarely successful.

    The alternative strategy is to try going with the fashion flow. That is, changing one's style and (if necessary) one's preferred medium. This can be very difficult for well-known illustrators because, all of a sudden, they aren't producing what made them popular in the first place. One successful example of this style shift is Mead Schaeffer, whose 1940s work is noticeably different from what he was doing in the 1920s and 1930s. Dean Cornwell shifted his style enough to stay competitive, but John La Gatta's career began to fade as he tried to adjust to the times.

    Changing illustration style fashions often worked to the advantage of artists who were fairly successful, but not as famous as the ones just mentioned. The reason is, by not being famous, their initial style hadn't become a strong trademark. So as long as they were competent and could easily practice the new fashion, their careers could continue chugging along.

    The present post deals with a top-level illustrator who never had a strongly identifiable style, and therefore easily went along with the changing scene, happily earning a nice income.

    Floyd MacMillan Davis (1896-1966), known simply as Floyd Davis, thrived from the mid-1920s into the 1950s, though he dialed back by the latter decade. Background information can be found here and here as well as elsewhere on the Internet and in several books dealing with American illustrators.

    Briefly, Davis never had serious formal training. He had a knack for illustration, and that was enough in his case. It seems he seldom used models -- unusual for other top-earning illustrators. And his work could include caricature-like distortions and small, humorous details that did not interfere with his main theme. As for how he approached his work, here is the text of a 1942 interview of Davis by Ernest W. Watson.

    Below are examples of Davis' work. I have to admit that I find it surprising that he was so well-known and successful, given the visual variety of his output. All that I can offer is the thought that Floyd Davis was the anti- Normal Rockwell.


    A 1928 advertisement where Davis uses contemporary fashion illustration style with a touch more modeling, less flatness.

    This would be from the mid-1930s, following the end of Prohibition.

    Story illustration from the mid-30s, the setting being a polo club.

    DeSoto Airflow advertisement from 1936. Davis did at least two of these. In each case, the ad made a big deal regarding the artist, so Davis was clearly a Name in those days.

    This is quite different from the other examples, though various Web sites contend it's his work. I include it here even though I can't vouch for it absolutely. Let us know in a comment if this really was/wasn't by Davis.

    Comedian Bob Hope made special efforts to entertain American military personnel during World War 2 and for many years after. Davis was hired by Life Magazine to cover the war, and this cartoon-like painting apparently was from that effort. I don't have a date for this, but it might have been from around mid-1942 when the U.S. Army was transitioning helmets from the British-style Hope is wearing to the one most usually seen on wartime photos.

    This is titled "Bar in the Hotel Scribe, Paris, 1944." It's now housed the the U.S. National Portrait Gallery, a work in oil that is a collection of caricatures of well-known people who flocked to Paris after the Liberation. Links to identification are here and here. The style Davis used here is quite different from the other shown here.

    A graduation day scene featured in a H.J. Heinz advertisement form 1945. Again, it has a cartoon-like flavor.

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  • 12/24/18--01:00: Fascist-Era Roman Hotel
  • One of my pet peeves regarding the naming of architectural styles is the category "Fascist Architecture" (fragment of a Wikipedia entry on the subject here).

    My contention is that so-called Fascist Architecture was largely the same sort of 1930s transitional (from historical ornamentation to ornamentation-free modernism) found in other countries including the decidedly non-fascist United States. Salient examples tend to be buildings built by governments. But non-government structures also sometimes followed that architectural fashion.

    One example of the latter is the Hotel Mediterraneo in Rome, at Via Cavour 15, about two blocks from Rome's main railway station. The link is to the ownership group that holds three hotels clustered near the same intersection. One hotel is 19th century, but the Mediterraneo and the adjoining Atlantico were built in the 1930s -- the Mediterraneo in 1936, designed by Mario Loreti.

    The Mediterraneo caters to tour groups, which is how I first stayed there a few years ago. Recently I booked myself on a western Mediterranean cruise and stayed two nights at the hotel before heading to the Civitavecchia cruise port. Below are a few snapshots I took before departing.


    Mediterraneo exterior.  The entrance is at the near corner.  To the left is the Atlantico.  Note the tour busses parked on the Via Cavour.

    Lounge area off the hotel lobby.

    To one side of the lounge.

    Dining room at breakfast time.

    Wall and ceiling décor in the dining room.

    What is shown above are essentially simple shapes and rich materials accented by small amounts of detailed ornamentation. In other words, characteristic of the 1930s transition to ornamentation-free modernist forms.

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    Reader Paul Sullivan's comment to this post about San Francisco murals by Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) inspired the present post. The concept is to compare Brangwyn's style with that of Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), a successful American illustrator who set aside his career for a few years in the early 1930s to paint murals for the new Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch Building. Information about that project can be found here. I wrote about those murals here.

    Brangwyn was a famous and prolific mural painter, so Cornwell managed to become an assistant in order to learn the trade. He helped Brangwyn on one or more of the British Empire series of panels intended for the House of Lords. They were ultimately rejected, and can be found in Swansea, Wales.

    Below are examples of Brangwyn's and Cornwell's works. Click on the images to enlarge.


    Funchal, Madeira - 1891
    Painted at the time Brangwyn broke away from traditional, illustration-style painting. Note his use of outlining, bright colors and free brushwork. From this point on, his paintings and murals featured a strong decorative component, one especially well suited for large murals.

    A Venetian Scene - 1906
    Outlining became something of a Brangwyn trademark, and was used by many mural painters in the 1920s, especially. In this painting most outlines in the foreground are dark, but those for background work are lighter.

    Dance - 1895
    One of Brangwyn's earliest murals, painted when living in Paris. Enlarge to better view outline colors. Some are very dark, some are brown, others are blue-gray.  I've always wondered if he had a system for selecting outline colors, but so far have only decided that darker, heavier lines were for dark subjects or where emphasis was desired. Let us know if you have cracked his code.

    Departure of Sir James Lancaster for the East Indies, 1594 - Skinners Hall - 1901-04
    Mural panel painted a few years later, also showing Brangwyn's use of a few strong reds -- a favorite touch.

    Tank in Action - 1925-26
    No strong reds here. This was an early attempt in the House of Lords project, but was rejected due to its subject matter. Plenty of outlining for foreground subjects, hardly any for the background tank.

    British Empire Panel 5 - Canada
    This was the kind of panel that Cornwell could have worked on. Outlines on the people and other foreground items are painted light blue, though some background outlining is darker.

    Mission Building
    One of Corwell's LAPL murals. He used light blue for many outlines, but other colors where he decided that a different emphasis was needed to clarity the subjects and their main colors.

    Detail of a mural
    Again, a good deal of light blue outlining plus some darker blue outlines. Like Brangwyn, Cornwell includes plenty of details to fill the space. Also like Brangwyn, reds and oranges are key parts of the color scheme.

    Detail of a mural
    A photo of a LAPL mural I took nearly 10 years ago using a camera not quite up to the job. Here we find nearly exclusive use of blue outlining. Cornwell's style is less dramatic than Brangwyn's, though these murals do retain a feel for the master's work.

    American Federation of Labor triptych, Centre William Rappard, Genève - was International Labor Office HQ - 1955
    This rather surprised me when I found it on the Internet because I thought that Cornwell had abandoned mural-painting by this late in his career. Here the Brangwyn influence is gone, replaced by Cornwell's 1950s illustration style.

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    I'm pretty sure that even knowledgable art fans rarely give the Socialist Realism paintings of the Soviet Union much thought, if any. And that thought probably echoes the Art Establishment dogma that Socialist Realism was simply propaganda expressed in obsolete painting styles. Nothing much to see there.

    It's true that aside from personal projects, Soviet artists had to produce paintings that followed the Party line, emphasizing the benefits and glories of the Motherland under scientific socialism. I've long contended that political art is almost always inferior art, especially to the extent that the political point being made dominates the work.

    As for style, the Establishment view is simply an aspect of the now-aging assertion that, aside from Renaissance-era and 17th century Dutch painting (think Rembrandt and Vermeer), pre-modernist Western painting is largely worthy of contempt, and Modernism is the destiny of artistic evolution.

    I've been disagreeing with that concept on the Internet for the last 14 years, preferring paintings that are interestingly and technically well done while for the most part depicting reality with reasonable fidelity given the artist's intent and capability.

    So in this and related posts I examine some Socialist Realist paintings in terms other than political messaging.

    I can do this because when I was in Málaga, Spain in November I visited a branch of Saint Petersburg's excellent Russian Museum. It was holding a year-long (ending February 2019) exhibit titled "The Radiant Future: Socialist Realism in Art." A fine exhibit. Plenty of examples, some of which I knew about before I visited. Of course I took lots of snapshots.

    The painter featured in the present post is Vasily Prokofievich Yefanov (1900-1978), also spelled Vasili Efanov. His Wikipedia entry in English and Russian is minimal, so link here for information regarding him. It mentions that he "was a master of the ceremonial portrait, communist (since 1954), and five-time winner of the Stalin Prize (1941, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952). Besides, a full member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR (1947) and People’s Artist of the USSR (1965)."

    I deal with one of his large works below. Click on images to enlarge.


    Artists of the Konstantin Stanislavsky Theatre Meeting Students of the Nikolai Zhukovsky Air Force Academy - 1938
    The entire painting. You can gauge its size by reference to the plaque at the right and the museum floor: nearest subjects are depicted a little less than life-size.

    What struck me about this work was how elegantly the people are dressed. Far from stereotypical collective farmworkers nuzzling their beloved tractors. The setting might as well have been in France or England. This probably had to do with the fact that theatre artists and military cadets were privileged people under the Soviet regime, so what was depicted was probably true. Also, note that this was painted at the time of Stalin's infamous purges of potential rivals including leading army brass such as Marshal of the Soviet Union Mikhail Tukhachevsky -- perhaps the USSR's greatest early military leader. Unsettling times. What especially caught my eye (probably intentionally by Efanov) is the contra-jour view of the woman in the white dress with her back to us. In the previous image you can see that her positioning makes her the painting's focus, -- not the standing speechmaker across from her who is theoretically the focus.

    Panning farther to the left we can see how Efanov skillfully adjusts his brushwork to make background figures slightly out of focus.

    And to the right: note in all these images that he took care to paint the young women more distinctly than the surrounding men in their black ties and Sam Browne belts. Efanov was really skillful.

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    The image above is an illustration titled "Hands Up," alternatively "Holdup in the Canyon" painted for C.P. Connolly’s “The Story of Montana,” published in McClure’s Magazine, August 1906. In 2016 it was auctioned at Christie's for just under $4.5 million (details here).

    This amount was far above Christie's price estimate and even greater than previous prices for works by N.C. (Newell Convers) Wyeth (1882-1945), considered one of America's greatest illustrators. Biographical information on him can be found here and here.

    Both sources mention that he made two journeys from Pennsylvania to the West with the purpose of soaking up the spirit and details of that region from personal experience rather than second-hand via books or magazines. "Hands up" was one of many drawings and paintings resulting from those journeys.

    I'm featuring it here because I'm pleased that classic American illustration is getting its due recognition as valued by the art market

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    Aside from perhaps a few religious icons and early modernists such as Kandinsky and Malevich, my college art history class ignored Russian art. I don't know what current art history classes deal with, but it's clear to me that late 19th century Russian painters are becoming better-known than they were 50 or 60 years ago.

    Still confined to obscurity is Stalinist Socialist Realism. In part this was because of its propagandistic nature. Perhaps an even greater reason for its disparagement by the Art Establishment was its use of Academic and other pre-modernist styles.

    Due to all this, until recently I was unaware that along with collective farming and other individualism-suppressing practices, there was the use of "brigades" of artists who collectively created large paintings. This is dealt with in this book. On page 182 Matthew Cullerne Brown writes:

    "In 1949 [Vasili] Efanov and a team of young artists painted Leading People of Moscow in the Kremlin. This work stimulated a revival in the practice of creating pictures by brigades, the method that had been adopted at the end of the 1930s for the New York international exhibition and the pavilions of the Agricultural Exhibition. Now a method of working once restricted to the fulfilment of special projects became commonplace. This accorded with the pressure on artists to ... produce bigger and yet bigger pictures in academic style -- while the party allowed no extra time for their creation....

    "Brigade painting gained another justification, inherent in communal endeavour. This was the inevitable elimination of much personal style, affecting all participating artists. Their work approached an ideal of wholly anonymous academic execution; the brigade method predicated the whole Stalinist straining towards a mass culture and the eradication of individual difference....

    "[W]hereas the huge paintings for the 1939 exhibition in New York had been created by groups of equals, now each brigade was led by one artist, usually an Academician... Typically, these artists would devise a composition and then employ younger, less well-established artists to carry out the chore of innumerable portrait and architectural studies."

    The author goes on to note that those younger artists benefited because it enhanced their reputations and the work paid well.

    The Russian Museum, Málaga branch had an exhibition of Soviet-era painting when I visited, and one of those works was a brigade effort. It and two other examples are shown below. Click on the colored images to enlarge.


    "Leading People of Moscow in the Kremlin" - 1949. Brigade artists were the leader Vasili Efanov, Stepan Dudnik, Yuri Kugach, Konstantin Maksimov, and Viktor Tsyplakov.

    "Lenin's Speech to the Third Congress of the Komsomol" - 1950. Artists were the leader Boris Iognson, Nikolai Chebakov, Nataliya Faidysh-Krandievskaya, Vasili Sokolov, and Dmitri Tegin.

    "In the Name of Peace (The Signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Union and Mutual Assistance Between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China)" - 1950. Brigade leader was Viktor Vikhtinsky, but I have no information about the other artists. This is an iPhone snapshot I took.

    A more detailed snapshot. I can recognize the following people (standing, left to right): Nikita Khrushchev,  Vyacheslav Molotov, unknown general, Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, and Chou En-Lai.