Thursday, June 13, 2019

Hermann Dudley Murphy of Boston

Hermann Dudley Murphy (1867-1945) was one of those early 20th century Boston School painters that escaped my attention until recently.

Landscape - c. 1903

In February I was viewing the American art part of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California and came across the painting shown above by Murphy. Unfortunately, my photo and an image found on the Internet fail to show the rather free and nice brushwork in the foreground area. I was impressed enough to collect some more images of his work for this post.

Biographical information seems scarce on the Web. Some information can be found here (click where it offers more information). A much better source is this one that even includes the details that Murphy was six feet six inches tall and taught drawing at Harvard.

Murphy's earlier work was influenced by Whistler, but he also could produce competent "finished" portraits. He also made landscape and cityscape paintings before eventually doing many paintings of flowers in the later part of his career, perhaps due to the influence of this second wife.

For better or worse, Murphy strikes me as having no distinct style, and this might in part be why he seems less known that a number of his Boston contemporaries.


Dutch Nocturne - 1900
Very Whistler-like in its moodiness, its title, and the symbol-signature at the lower right.

Portrait of Henry Ossawa Tanner - 1891-96
An earlier work, a portrait of the painter Tanner.

Mrs. Sarah Skinner - 1905
A traditional kind of portrait. See the second link above mentioning some juicy (in a 1905 Boston Brahmin sense) background on the sitter.

Rio del Paradiso, Venice - 1908
The title seems to be Murphy's invention: I do not know what part of Venice this depicts.

The Beaver Hat - 1920
This is the most "Boston School" painting by Murphy that I found find.

In Taxco - c.1930
A later townscape, but that date is my guess.

Unlike my late wife, I'm not "into" flowers. But if you are, there are plenty of Murphy's flower paintings to be found on the Internet.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Gustave De Smet: Impressionism to Modernism

Gustave Franciscus De Smet (1877-1943) was a Belgian painter who helped found the Flemish Expressionist school of painting. A sketchy Wikipedia entry is here, and you can link to the French version for more information.

As might be expected, I don't find his post- Great War Cubist-influenced Expressionism particularly interesting compared to his Impressionist-influenced earlier work. De Smet was essentially a creature of his time, following various style fads about a decade or two after they had reached their peak influence.


Still Life with Apples
I don't have a date for this, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was made in 1910 or before.

Willows Along a Stream - 1912
One of his Impressionist style paintings. Like American Impressionists, De Smet defined the subject matter more distinctly than Uber-Impressionist Claude Monet did.

Vrouw bij Rozelaar (Woman with Roses) - 1912
Although the painting is fairly "flat," the structure behind the women is in reasonably correct perspective.

Summer - 1913
Perhaps De Smet's nicest painting. After it, his work went downhill.

Hoofd van een jonge vrouw (Head of a Young Woman) - 1914
A year later, elements of modernist-inspired distortion enter the scene: note the enlarged eyes.

Artiste et sa femme, Deurle (The Artist and His Wife at Deurle) - 1927

L'homme à la boutelle (Man with Bottle)
The was painted around 1930.

Le port d'Ostende (Port of Ostende)
Compared to "Summer," this is pathetically childlike.

Boerenerf met koeien (Barnyard with Cows) - 1936
This is typical of De Smet's late style.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Some Picasso Landscapes

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) dabbled in many art media, but his subject matter was mostly people. The next rung down included still lifes and bulls. Bringing up the rear of traditional painting subjects was landscapes, the topic of this post. He painted few of these, and apparently most might be classed as townscapes because he included or even featured buildings.

Below are some examples I found on the Internet during a Google search.


Barcelona Beach - 1896
Painted when he was about 15 years old and perhaps still being coached by his father. Its relevance to his future styles is minimal.

Barcelona Rooftops - 1902
Yes, this was painted during his 1901-1904 Blue Period.

Paysage aux deux figures - 1908
An early Cubist-type work showing people, but no buildings such as are found in all the other images here.

The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro - 1909.
More solidly Cubist.  Fellow Cubist Georges Braque painted quite a few subjects like this around the same time.

Landscape - 1933
Now we reach the point where Picasso was starting to run out of new ideas. Compare this to the image below that was painted 25 yers later.

Landscape - 1958
More Cubism here than in the previous image, and some of the subject surfaces are dappled. It retains the harsh look that Picasso began to practice in the late 1930s.

Monday, June 3, 2019

John Smart, Miniaturist

Sir Henry Clinton - 1777

I normally pay no attention to miniatures. But the above portrait of British General Henry Clinton that I noticed in a book about America's War of Independence caught my eye. It's actually less than two inches (50cm) high, and painted by ace 18th century miniaturist John Smart (1739/40–1811).

What struck me was how persuasive a likeness it seems to be -- as compared to most portraits of any kind from that era. That Smart fellow knew his stuff and occasionally pulled off a truly exceptional job such as seen above.

Background regards Smart can be found here, here, and here. The last link mentions paper and vellum as supports, though their example is on ivory, as is the case for some of the miniatures shown below.


Sir William Hood - 1766
The earliest example I could find.

Young woman
Not dated.  Smart either had a tendency to depict subjects with small chins -- or maybe that's the way they actually appeared.

Miss Byron

Member of the Talyer Family - 1787
Here Smart for some reason chose not to flatter.

Portrait of "ER"
He spend a number of years in India, so this might be front that period.

Self-Portrait - 1797
Watercolor on Ivory.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Fred Cole's Suggestively Incomplete Car Illustrations

Fred Cole (1893-1983) was an illustrator who seems to have specialized in automobile advertising. I could find little about him on the internet and nothing in my own reference library. Fortunately, the Web did have this link which provides useful information regarding his work and personality.

Among other things, Cole provided the illustration for what many in the advertising trade consider one of the greatest and most influential ads of all time: the Jordan Motor Car Company's "Somewhere West of Laramie."

The are two somewhat opposing advertising content strategies. One is to make a rational case for the product being advertised by dealing with its features. The other is the Jordan approach, eliciting positive emotion regarding a product or the company that makes the product. In practice, most advertisements offer some of each, though in recent decades the tendency is towards emotion, rather than rationality. A case in point are the TV commercials aired during the annual Super Bowl football game.

As for Cole, his car illustrations were unusual in that he left out parts of cars rather than being conventional and depicting the whole thing. That is, cars were suggested rather than portrayed. Even more interesting is that Cole did similar illustration for several carmakers, even during the same model year. One would expect that advertising managers and sales directors would want ads looking distinct from those of competitors. But that was 90 or so years ago, so perhaps the game was played differently then.


The famous advertisement from 1923.

Cole illustrated advertisements for the luxury Lincoln brand, this example from 1925. Here most of the car is shown, but not all. This approach works well with the vignette style of the advertisement where incompleteness is expected.

Another Jordan ad, this for a not-sporty 1926 Victoria sedan. Note that Cole entirely omitted the rear wheel.

Chrysler ad from the same year. Here Cole shows only a fragment of the subject.

Yet another 1926 advertisement, this for Oldsmobile, a Chrysler and Jordan competitor.

Artwork for a 1932 Dodge ad that nicely evokes speed..

Most Cole car illustrations imply speed. In this instance he does this by fading out the aft part of the 1935 LaSalle.

LaSalle publicity for 1940. A more solid looking car as Cole makes use of the airbrush rendering style popular around that time.

Dodge truck ad from 1947. Trucks are not flashy, speedy cars, so here Cole's illustration is conventional.

Cross-posted at Car Style Critic.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Jules Guérin, Illustrator and Muralist

Jules Vallée Guérin (1866-1946) illustrated books, delineated architecture and painted murals. He is best-known (to me, anyway) for his renderings of the 1909 Burnham Plan for Chicago and for his book illustrations of architectural subjects. As an iconic American delineator, Guérin ruled the early 1900s much as Hugh Ferriss did in the 1920s and early '30s.

Guérin's Wikipedia entry is here, covering the main points of his career but lacking in personal information, including his place of death.

Below are examples of his work. Click on images to enlarge.


Aerial view of Burnham Plan showing how it would fit into the city's street grid and topographic features. The Civic Center part of it is at the lower center of the rendering.

The Civic Center and its setting as view on high from the direction of the lakefront.

Focal building of the Civic Center.

Two images of the Château de Chenonceau  in France's Loire Valley.

Lake and ruins, Karnak, Egypt.

Faneuil Hall, Boston.

Madison Square, New York City.

Washington Arch, in Washington Square, New York City.

Panoramic view of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition, San Francisco.

Lincoln Memorial murals. Color is probably not accurate.