Thursday, September 19, 2019

Charles M. Russell, Painter of Old Montana

Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926) was born in Missouri, left at age 16, and spent most of his adult life in or near Great Falls, Montana. He was a self-taught painter and illustrator who depicted Montana scenes literally thousands of times during his career. He and Frederic Remington (an Easterner who attended Yale and had some art training) are generally regarded as the premiere artists of the northern plains frontier genre. Background on Russell is here.

I'm speculating, but from what I've read so far on the internet, it seems likely that Russell was little exposed to the mainstream artistic fashions of his day. He essentially was an illustrator/reporter, taking care to depict his subjects as accurately as he could. What's important is that he also had a good eye for color and the atmosphere of his settings. In short, he was an untutored "natural."


Indian on Horseback - 1898
Note the treatment of the background: sophisticated for a supposed amateur.

Seein' Santa - 1910
Russell havin' a little fun.

When Shadows Hint Death
It might have taken you a minute to notice the shadows on the opposite hillside.

Trail of the Iron Horse - 1924
Auctioned for $1.9 million in 2014.

A rare example of atypical subject matter.

When Law Dulls the Edge of Chance - 1915
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police get their man.

When the Land Belonged to God
Formerly on display in the Montana capitol building.

Lewis and Clark Meeting Indians at Ross’ Hole - 1912
On display in the Montana capitol building.

Monday, September 16, 2019

André Favory, Reformed Cubist

André Favory (1889-1937) was active from around 1910 to about 1930. His French Wikipedia entry is here -- there is no English version.

It mentions: "Élève de l'Académie Julian, et fortement influencé par Paul Cézanne, Favory peint dans un style cubiste pendant les premières années de sa carrière."

There are many images of Favory's paintings of nude women on the internet, most in poses not suitable for office viewing. The rest do not fully confirm the assertion above that he was strongly influenced by Cézanne and Cubism, though some Cézanne-like passages and watered-down Cubism can be found in paintings made before he served in the Great War.

The entry adds: "Atteint d'une maladie grave et invalidante, il doit cesser de peindre au début des années 1930, et meurt en 1937." The nature of his debilitating illness is not mentioned.

Favory was generally a strong painter, but not innovative during a time when being a pathmaker was a major ticket to artistic fame. Examples of his work are below, but not the strongly-painted, indelicately posed nudes.


View of Nevers - 1912
This is most Cubist work I noticed.

landscape - c. 1914
Some suggestions of Cubism are in this pre-war painting.

Paysage Provençal
I don't have a date for this, but again there's a dash of Cubism and possibly Cézanne in the faceting.

Paysage méditerranéen - 1925
A solid postwar piece, though the lower left corner needed some re-thinking.

Portrait de femme ou le modèle
Favory tended to slightly simplify forms in line with 1920-1940 stylistic fashions.

Portrait d'une élégante - c.1925
The size relationship of the head to the rest of the body seems a bit off, though I suppose "artistic license" might be claimed.

Nudes in a landscape
Some nudes here, but nothing like what you can find by Googling or even going to the link above.

Autoportrait à la femme blonde - 1924

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Jim Holdaway: Modesty Blaise Illustrator

Jim Holdaway (1927–1970) died of a heart attack a few months shy of his 43rd birthday. Like some other talented artists who died young, he had already become famous. This for comic strip fans due to his work during the early years of "Modesty Blaise." Some background information is here and here.

The strip was launched in London's Evening Standard newspaper. Since London papers were national in scope, syndication opportunities in the United Kingdom were limited and that was a constraint on British strips -- potential income streams were limited compared to those in the continent-wide American newspaper scene.

Nevertheless, Modesty Blaise caught on, largely due to Holdaway's art, and it was syndicated in many parts of the Commonwealth as well as in the USA.

Holdaway combined skilled representational drawing with the ability to compose a variety of dramatic viewpoints even in one three-panel strip. His basic approach was to include strongly shaped areas of pure black with thin pen or brush lines. He also made use of cross-hatching and sometimes even downplayed the black if that suited the scene he was depicting.

Below are some sample strips grabbed from various Web sites intended to give you a sense of what he accomplished. Click on them to enlarge.


Especially note the middle panel's detailing.  Yes, the sidewalk's perspective is exaggerated, but the Rolls-Royce is convincingly done.

This strip is sparing in black areas, but Holdaway added some cross-hatching to liven things. He was very good at indicating folds in clothings.

I include this to show he was good at doing ships of various kinds.

Making Modest Blaise convincing, Holdaway made sure to draw cars such as the Citroën DS-19 and Mercedes 300 accurately.

These panels show Holdaway's talent for dramatic use of scene illumination.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Vittorio Matteo Corcos, “peintre des jolies femmes”

Sogni (Dreams) - 1896

Vittorio Matteo Corcos (1859-1933) is perhaps best known for the above painting that can be viewed at Rome's Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna.

Briefly, Corcos trained in Florence and Naples, spent time in Paris where he was friends with Giuseppe De Nittis, Giovanni Boldini along with many well-known French painters of the day. Then he returned to Italy where he spent the rest of his career. His English Wikipedia entry is here, but the French version has more detail. More about him can be found here.

Corcos' style was strongly representational, at times verging on photographic -- especially for the contrived scenes featuring pretty young ladies that probably provided a good income. His style did not change much over time, so the images below are arranged thematically.


Young Lady with Dog - c. 1895
The painting atop this post apparently was regarded as risqué for reasons not discernible today. But the idealized scene here is much moreso.

The Wounded Puppy
A fairly typical "paintre des jolies femmes" production.

La morfinomane - 1899
On the other hand, some artists in the late 1800s such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas painted absinthe drinkers, while Corcos and others featured drug addicts.

Magdalen - 1896
Another of Corcos' edgy scenes.

Dis-moi toute! - 1883
"Tell me everything!" says one young lady to the other as the steamship sails away.

Woman Wearing Straw Hat
A jolie femme portrait.

Ritratto della moglie Emma - 1889
Portrait of the artist's wife.

Ritratto Giuseppe Garibaldi - 1882
The man instrumental in creating modern Italy.

Ritratto Silvestro Lega - 1889
A fellow Italian painter. His painting style in these portraitist dramatically different from his jolie femme style.

Ritratto di donna - c. 1925
This was painted during the 1920s and seems very slightly simplified, a barely perceptible nod to the modernist fashion of the times.

Ritratto Maria José di Savoia Principesa del Piemonte - 19331
Maria, a Belgian princess, was the wife (of sorts) of Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria di Savoia, who briefly reined in 1946 as Umberto II, the last king of Italy. This is the latest Corcos painting I noticed while image-searching.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Keith Ferris: Disciplined Aviation Artist

If you have visited the Air and Space Museum on the Washington DC mall, you probably viewed the huge mural (above) of U.S. Army B-17 bombers under attack. It was painted by acclaimed aviation artist Keith Ferris (1929 - ). His Wikipedia entry is here. A series of images of his studio begins here.

There are three basic approaches to depicting the shape of an aircraft. One is to copy a photograph or use a photo as the basis and make slight adjustments to compensate for camera lens distortion of the subject. The second approach is to "eyeball" the subject, either by observing it in person or making use of reference photos so as to understand the subject's shape from differing viewpoints. This runs the greatest risk of creating an unrealistic depiction. Finally, the artist can make use of descriptive geometry to construct an image derived from two or more scaled profile of plan views of the subject airplane. Absent computer imaging software, description geometry is time-consuming, but yields proportionally accurate results (given the degree of perspective forcing used).

Keith Ferris preferred to use descriptive geometry, combining that with a good sense of composition and scene-setting.


Dawn of a New Era - No. 504 Squadron Meteor IIIs over central London - by Frank Wootton - 1945
First, I contrast Ferris' work with that of another famous aviation artist, Frank Wootton (1911-1998). I might be wrong, but I think Wootton either never used that approach or else did so seldomly. The Gloster Meteor jet fighters in the image above do not quite seem realistic to me. This might be due to a lack of photos of them at the time he made the painting not long after the war had ended.

First of the Few - test flight of first production Spitfire - by Frank Wootton - 1980
Wootton painted this scene many years later. I need to note that most of his images were realistic views of the subject aircraft. But this Spitfire's wings seem out of proportion -- granting that "Spits" are difficult to draw properly. This is clearly a "freehand" job by Wootton.

Spitfire - by Keith Ferris
Now a Spitfire depiction by Ferris.

Spitfire workup - by Keith Ferris
It seem much more realistic because he did this workup before creating the final image.

Descriptive geometry detail of F-4 Phantom - by Wade Meyers
I include this as another example of a descriptive geometry based illustration in process.

Keith Ferris doing a workup at his drawing board
Photo from Farris' Web site showing him at work during an early stage of a project.

Farmer's Nightmare - Curtiss P-3A from Kelly Field, Texas
Ferris was the son of an Army Air Corps pilot who was stationed at Kelly Field (the main AAC training base during the 1930s). Keith would have been very young when P-3s were flown there, so this painting and the one below are more a tribute to that era than any distinct childhood memory of such planes.

Curtiss P-3As over Kelley Field

Real Trouble - Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190 interceptors
One of many World War 2 images painted by Ferris.

Test of Courage - Fw 190 attacking a B-17
The same squadron attacking B-17s. The Fw 190 was firing at the bomber and the B-17 was spitting back 30 caliber machine gun fire from two positions, each using two such weapons. In such a situation the German fighter might have been shot down instead of the bomber.

To Little, Too Late - showing one of the few Army P-40s that got airborne during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Russell J. Brown shooting down a MiG-15 in the first jet-to-jet air combat, 8 November, 1950

Battle of Bien How Air Base - F-100 scramble

Monday, September 2, 2019

Molti Ritratti: Bernard Montgomery

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein (1887-1976) is famous for winning the battle of El Alamein where he defeated the Axis forces led by Rommel, the Desert Fox, and for leading Allied ground forces in the 1944 D-Day invasion of Europe. His Wikipedia entry is here.

Montgomery was photographed countless times, as any on-line image search reveals. But given his fame and status, he was occasionally portrayed in oils. Most of the ones I found on the Web are shown below. As best I can tell, several -- perhaps most -- used photographic references rather than having been done from life. This was because most were painted during World War 2 when he was extremely busy on campaigns or involved in D-Day preparations. Also, they all depict Monty 1943-1945 -- at essentially the same age.


By Yousuf Karsh - 1946
Reference photo by the famed Karsh of Ottawa.

By Emanuel Cremona - c. 1943
Montgomery was known for having piercing blue eyes, but this portrait ignores that feature.

By Edwin Swan - c. 1944
More of a sketch than a formal portrait.

By Harold Forster - c. 1943
An Impressionist-style portrait.

By Boris Artzybasheff (Time magazine cover illustration) - 1944
Here his eyes dominate.

By Augustus John - 1944
Another sketchy portrait, but by a famous artist. John had enough in the way of reputation and connections that it's possible Monty might have sat for him.

By James Gunn - 1944
Gunn was another well-known artist, and Montgomery might have sat for him as well. Generals in the British and American armies were allowed to deviate from regulation attire, and Monty notoriously wore sweaters and corduroy trousers. Here his attire is different from that, but still informal. I cannot positively identify the medal ribbon on his chest.

By Frank Salisbury - 1945
This pleasing portrait might have been painted after the German surrender in May of that year.

By Terence Cuneo - 1972
Painted before Monty died, but based on photos by the skilled painter-illustrator Cuneo. This was commissioned for the UK Defense Academy.