Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Marie Laurencin: Cubist Groupie to Dolce Far Niente

Marie Laurencin (1883-1956) hung out with Picasso and Georges Braque, was muse and mistress to Apollinaire, and early in her career was considered by some a serious modernist artist. Biographical snippets are here and here.

Her early modernist work doesn't seem to have progressed far into Cubism, and by the 1920s she mostly painted "sweet nothings" (as the title of this post indicates) in the form of dark-eyed girls in flat, pastel tones. I suppose Laurencin has her place in the Modernist Art-Historical Timeline, but from what I present below, her pedestal is a short one.


Self-Portrait - c. 1905

Group of Artists - 1908
This painting has other titles, but its subjects are (left to right): Picasso, Laurencin, Apollinaire and Fernande Olivier (Picasso's mistress at the time).

Les jeunes filles - 1910-11
The main hint of Cubism here is in the lines and shadings; the subjects' forms have not been exploded and rearranged.

Self-portrait - 1912
Another merest whiff of Cubism.

Le bal élégante, ou la danse à la campagne - 1913
Laurencin is said to have had affairs with women.

girl - 1926
This and the three paintings below fall into what I call her dolce far niente period.

Le baiser - 1927


girl - 1936

Jidelina - 1946
A post-war portrait. Not as flatly painted as those shown above, but an unexceptional, derivative work, typical of the times.

Doctor Le Masle - 1949
She sometimes depicted men. This is a late painting.

Monday, August 18, 2014

John Sloan's Topographical Paintings

I was never fond of the works of Ashcan School painter John Sloan (1871-1951) -- Wilipedia entry here.

To my way of thinking, Sloan was one of those artists whose paintings became progressively less satisfying to view. His early works (which I might get around to discussing sometime) were pretty good, though not distinctive. Mid-career paintings were less well done, in my opinion, but were distinctively Sloans, which is not a bad thing when it comes to long-term artistic notoriety, if not fame. During the last 20 or so years of his life, Sloan went off the rails and began using tempera paints to create underpaintings featuring topographical-like lines describing a subject's surface, much like the sort of engravings one sees on paper money. Atop that base, he applied oil paint glazes. I show some results below.


Election Night - 1907

Women Drying Their Hair - 1912
Above are two mid-period Sloans to set the scene. When one thinks of Sloan, this is the general style that is most likely to come to mind.

Girl, Back to Piano - 1932
A fairly early topographical Sloan effort. The surface definition lines are mostly on the subject, not so much on the setting.

Barbara in Red and Gold

Helen [Farr Sloan] at the Easel - 1947
Two portraits. I have no idea why Sloan persisted with this style when it should have been obvious that resulting works were rather ugly. The technique is so strong and odd that it easily distracts viewers from the subject matter.

Santa Fe Siesta - 1949
A late painting illustrating Sloan's stylistic obsession applied to an entire human form.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Charles Curran's Hilltop Women

Charles Courtney Curran (1861 – 1942) was of the same ilk as his Boston School contemporaries, though he did his work in New York State and Ohio rather than in or near The Hub. His Wikipedia entry is here, and a more detailed biography can be found here.

Curran was highly skilled and painted attractive women in a variety of settings for the most part. For nearly 20 years or so he made many paintings of young, usually white-clad woman on hilltops near his summer home in Upstate New York. I offer a sampling of these below.


View of Ellenville, New York
This is the area where Curran did his hilltop scenes. Ellenville lies in Ulster County, up the Hudson River from New York City, near the southeastern corner of the Catskill Mountains. The view is from the Shawangunk Ridge near the tiny village of Cragsmoor (about three miles south of Ellenville), where Curran had a summer home. The Catskills are seen in the background.

Faraway Thoughts
This painting is more hard-edge than most of the others.  I don't have a date for it, so can't give it context.

Noonday Sunlight - 1918

On the Cliff - 1910

On the Heights - 1909

Summer - 1906

Summer Clouds - 1917

Sunlit Valley - 1920

Sunshine and Haze
I like this (and the preceding image) because Curran did a convincing job of painting the usually humid summer atmospherics of that part of New York State. I can attest to this because I spent more than four years in Albany and traveled to the Catskill region many, many times in those days.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Molti Ritratti: Marchesa Luisa Casati

I can't get the thought out of my mind that already I posted about portraits of the Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957). I found a directory containing images of her dating from three years ago, but some searches of this blog have turned up nothing. So I am puzzled.

But that doesn't really matter because I just added more images to create an even more richly illustrated post (if indeed there was a previous one). La Casati was one of the most portrayed women of her times, though she fell a bit short of Suzy Solidor. Better yet, Casati was painted by some very well-known artists, which adds to the interest.

As her Wikipedia entry (first link, above) indicates, she was extremely rich, yet managed to spend it away by the time she was around 50. Plus, she had a magnetic personality that fascinated most of those who portrayed her.

The painting that launched her celebrity is Giovanni Boldini's 1908 version of her shown at the top of this post. Below are other images by name of artist in order of the year they were made.


Alberto Martini - 1912

Leon Bakst - 1912

Adolph de Meyer (photo) - 1912

Giovanni Boldini - 1914

Kees Van Dongen - 1914

Kees Van Dongen - 1915

Augustus John - 1919

Augustus John - 1919

Frederico Beltran - 1920

Romaine Brooks - 1920

Kees Van Dongen - 1921

Augustus John - 1942

Monday, August 11, 2014

Jacek Malczewski and Muses

Jacek Malczewski (1854-1929) made astonishing paintings. Not astonishingly good paintings, necessarily, but paintings that astonish. Not only do they astonish, they fascinate. This is mostly because of their subjects and how Malczewski presented them. For me, its a "What in the hell is going on here?" reaction in many cases. Malczewski carried this off because was a skilled artist; off hand, I can't think of any other painter who could have painted what he did in such a convincing manner.

I lasted posted on Malczewski here, showing some of his paintings dealing with death. The present post deals with artists, muses, and in particular, Malczewski's most important muse, Marii Balowej, also known as Maria Balowa or Maria Bal. For a short summary of Malczewski's career, click here.

The images below are in chronological order. Click to enlarge.


Natchnienie malarza (Painter's Muse) - 1897

Artysta i muza (Artist and Muse) - 1898

Autoportret z muza - (Self-Portrait With Muse Holding Scepter and Heart) - 1904
Although he was married, Malczewski began using the recently-divorced Marii Balowej as a model. This turned into an affair that lasted for about ten years. Even after it ended, the two remained friends. As best I can tell, this and all the images below have her as the model for the woman.

Portret Kobiety (Marii Balowej) - 1907

Modelka (Maria Balowa jako śmierć czytająca nekrologi w gazecie) - Model as Death Reading Obituaries - 1907

Moja dusza (My Soul) - 1908
This is really a sketch, but Malczewski considered it finished because he signed it. I include it because it suggests his technique at an early stage of creating a painting.

Wiosna (Spring) - 1909

Auroportret - 1915
Another partly completed work.

Pytia Pythia (the Delphic oracle) - 1917
Painted after the break-up. Marii is fully clothed, perhaps due to that.

Friday, August 8, 2014

One Million Pageviews

Really successful Internet sites such as Drudge Report can clock one million pageviews in an hour. Some blogs can probably hit that mark in a couple of months or maybe less time.

Art Contrarian is a small blog with limited focus, but it hit the 1,000,000 pageviews mark sometime today.

So many thanks to you, the regular readers and those who drop by occasionally for making Art Contrarian reach this milestone.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Clarence F. Underwood: Prolific Then, Unknown Now

Clarence F. Underwood (1871-1929) was born in Jamestown in western New York State, trained at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie Julian in Paris, returned to America around 1901, and then pursued a career in illustration.

That's just about all I could find regarding him.

But if you Google on him and go into Images, you will find quite a number of examples of his work. It seems that Underwood was prolific and appeared in leading magazines of his day, including the Saturday Evening Post, the top general-interest magazine for more than half of the 20th century.

I have to admit that I don't care for most of Underwood's work. The scenes he depicts are usually bland (though that might have been because of the stories he illustrated). His compositions aren't usually very interesting, either. While he could draw well when he chose to, often enough his brushwork was just fussy enough to counteract the drawing. From Google, it seems that he used gouache, watercolor or possibly colored inks a good deal, this and the vignette style he often used suggest that he worked fairly fast. Given the quality of printing during his 1902 - early 1920s heyday, it's possible that the reproduction process smoothed over some of the rough brushwork.

For a quick look at some examples of his work in addition to what is displayed below, click here. The images shown below are what I consider among the best of his work.


Couple ice skating
Many Underwood illustrations deal with well-dressed couples. Apparently this is what the stories and art editors required.

Seated young women in overcoat
I think this is one of his best efforts.

Lady getting her hair arranged
When given the chance or when in the right mood, Underwood could be witty.

Elegant couple - Saturday Evening Post illustration
A nondescript painting with large amounts of dead space surrounding the subjects. Was some of that covered with print in the publication?

Couple in back seat of limousine
By the woman's hair style, I'll assume this is one of Underwood's later works.