Thursday, February 13, 2020

Future Clothing Styles From the 1930s

What might The World of the Future be like? For instance, what sorts of clothing will people wear?

That great philosopher and New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra has been cited as saying something like "Predicting is difficult, especially about the future." This post presents some World of the Future costumes, mostly from movies from the 1930s. At the time, the influence of Modernism was in full flow with streamlining and simplicity as ideals. Even so, only one film of the batch in Gallery below went super-modernist where costuming was concerned.

Below are images from the following: "Metropolis" (1927), link here; Buck Rogers comic strip (started early 1929) and 1939 movie serial, link here; "Just Imagine" (1930), link here; Flash Gordon serial (1936), link here; and "Things to Come" (1936), link here.


Metropolis (1927)
Not a 1930s movie, but both near enough and a very early science-fiction epic.  Above is a scene at the office of the father of the hero. Clothing is not far from current fashions, though proportions are slightly distorted.

Metropolis (1927)
The hero is wearing a shirt and necktie along with sort of puffy riding britches, whereas the lady's clothes are skimpy.

Metropolis (1927)
On the other hand, the heroine is dressed modestly; her skirt (not seen here) is long, unlike 1920s flapper fashion.

Buck Rogers (comic strip started 1929)
Promotional drawing by comic strip artist Dick Calkins. Buck and Wilma Deering are wearing futuristic variations of 1930-vintage pilot helmets. Like the Metropolis hero, Buck is wearing jodhpur pants, but in the 1930 military style. Wilma wears tights and a form-fitting top. Strapped on their backs are flying belts.

Just Imagine (1930)
Here the hero is on Mars confronting the queen. His outfit has a military appearance thanks to the large belt and side pouch. The featureless bib on his chest seems vaguely military, but lacks functionality. This was how men in 1980 might dress according to the costume designers.

Things to Come (1936)
A British film extrapolated by H.G. Wells from his book "The Shape of Things to Come." It did correctly predict that England would be at war in 1940. The scene above is set farther into the future when a technocracy prevails. The costumes strike me as being inspired by Roman military outfits supplemented by those odd pieces that exaggerate shoulder widths. All very 1930s futuristic, but only for fit folks under 40 years of age. Makes me wonder how ordinary, dumpy folks were clothed.

Flash Gordon serial (1936)
Flash was not a character of the future, but rather a Yale graduate transported to the planet Mongo. Nevertheless, the setting was futuristic in spirit. The costumes were based on those depicted in Alex Raymond's comic strip.

Buck Rogers serial (1939)
Buck's adventures took place 500 years in the future -- the 2430s. The costumes designed for the serial strike me as being a bit more removed from those in the comic strip than the Flash Gordon outfits. They do seem pretty functional and not overly contrived. However, all the characters seen here are wearing variations of 1930s airplane pilot helmets.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Ubaldo Oppi, Painter and Alpini Lieutenant Colonel

According to his Wikipedia entry, Ubaldo Oppi (1889-1942) studied under Gustav Klimt.  Besides that, it seems that while in Paris he had a brief affair with Picasso's ex-girlfriend Fernande Olivier.

Despite those brushes with Modernism, following Great War service in Italy's elite Alpini forces, Oppi briefly associated with the Novocento (Twentieth Century) movement, a more traditional-yet-Modernist-inspired group.

By the 1930s he focused on religious works.  In World War 2 he rejoined the Alpini with the rank of lieutenant colonel, but his health failed perhaps from cancer and he died about age 53.


Figure in Red - c.1912
An example of Oppi's prewar work.  The face strikes me as being a dialed-down version of what Kees van Dongen was doing at the time.

Donna alla finestra - 1921
This "Lady at the Window" looks like his wife.

Ritratto della moglie sullo sfondo di Venezia - 1921
His wife posed against a Venetian background.

La giovane sposa - 1922
The young bride / wife.  Note the tile flooring and one-point perspective in the background that harkens back to classical Italian paintings.

Shepherd Girl - 1926

The Three Surgeons - 1926

Ritratto della signora Alma Giavi Leone - 1926
Like most artists, Oppi painted some portraits to earn income.

Ritratto della moglie - 1928
Another portrait of his wife.  He also painted nearly identical half-view of her the same year.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Antonio Donghi's Consistent Style

Antonio Donghi (1897-1963) is best known for paintings made during the 1920s and 1930s. During that period his style changed little.  Essentially, his non-landscape subjects were depicted in stiff poses using some simplification in form and modeling.  In other words, he made use of some features of Modernism while not diving too deeply into it.

As for the scenes he painted, they often were quirky.  In some cases there was a hint of humor, but humor from an odd, sometimes hard to understand viewpoint.

His English Wikipedia entry is here.  From there you might link to a longer Italian entry.


Carnevale - 1923

Juggler - 1926
The harlequin in the previous image reappears here.

Circo equestre - 1927

Paesaggio (porto) - 1930
Example of a landscape painting where Donghi uses a different style.

Abito azzurro - 1933
The title refers to her blue outfit, yet it's hard to avoid noticing the gloved hand.

Equestrian Portrait of Mussolini - 1937
Just by looking at this painting it's hard to say whether Donghi made a typical work honoring Mussolini or whether this was a subtle satire of such works.  I suspect the latter.

Autoritratto - 1943

Ragazzi alla finestra - 1947
"Children at the Window" -- a postwar work.

Cocottina - 1927
This and the next two paintings as seen via my iPhone in Venice's Ca' Pesaro museum.

Donna al caffè - 1931

Gli amanti alla stazione (La partenza) - 1933
"The Parting" is the short title for this couple at a train station.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Molti Ritratti: Dejah Thoris

Along with multiple portraits of famous people, now and then I'll present different versions of people for whom there is no photographic evidence or even people who are fictitious. The latter is the subject of this post.

Originally serialized in a magazine, Edgar Rice Burroughs' first story about John Carter of Mars -- "A Princess of Mars" -- eventually appeared in book form using that new title. That princess was Dejah Thoris, who naturally was featured on cover art for the many editions that appeared over the years.

If you do a web search on Dejah and call up images, you will see movie images as well as many cartoon-like illustrations. Those are ignored here. Below are book cover illustrations showing Dejah, allowing you to note the various ways artists chose to depict her. I also reveal which is my long-time favorite.


"A Princes of Mars" cover art, Frank Schoonover - 1917
This is the earliest book cover, painted by noted illustrator Frank Schoonover. Here Dejah takes the form of an attractive Egyptian princess.

"A Princes of Mars" cover art, Vaclav Cutta
This is from a Czech edition, where she reminds me of 1920-vintage Hollywood exotic females.

Cover art for "The Warlord of Mars", J. Allen St. John
St. John famously illustrated many Borroughs books. Here too Dejah has a period Holywood appearance. However, John Carter really ought to look like Rudolph Valentino so as to match Dejah's Theda Bara, but he doesn't.

"A Princes of Mars" cover art, Frank Frazetta - 1970
Frazetta was hugely influential in the field of fantasy illustration, and his somewhat cartoon-like Dejah has been the model for most later illustration versions (that are not shown here).

"A Princes of Mars" cover art, Gino d'Achille - 1973
Here she is scantily clad, but not in a voluptuous pose.

"A Princes of Mars" cover, Michael Whelan
Whelan gives Dejah a fabulous body, but again her pose is more modest than in Frazetta's version.

"A Princes of Mars" cover, Robert Abbett - 1963
Now this is my all-time favorite Dejah Thoris.

"A Princes of Mars" cover art, Robert Abbett
The original artwork, where the color is less hyped than on the book cover.

I first spotted the Abbett cover back in 1963 or 1965 at a news shop in, I think, Grand Central Terminal in New York City. It struck me so strongly that I simply had to buy a copy. Eventually the book disappeared from my collection. Years later, perhaps around 2014, I spied another copy at a book stall along the Seine in Paris, scooping it up for three euros. My problem was that I could not decipher Abbett's signature, increasing my long-term frustration regarding who did the artwork. Thankfully, a recent Web search allowed me to find that it was Robert Abbett, an illustrator I was unfamiliar with.

I also came across this commentary on the illustration by Gregory Manchess, an artist whose work I greatly respect. I was pleased that I wasn't the only one who appreciated Abbett's believable Dejah Thoris over the other versions.

Manchess wrote:

"This to me is one of the best A Princess of Mars covers ever done for the series. Painted in the mid-sixties, it captures that era of paperback style: from the handsome Napolean Solo look of John Carter, to the blue eye-shadowed, brunette Deja Thoris...

"From the wonderful color scheme of warm flesh against cool greens to the slap-dash brushwork, this painting has carried my interest for 40+ years. I love the way Abbett’s brush strokes carve around Deja’s shoulder and hair; I love the angle on John’s back and shoulders. Even the foreshortened sword is right on...

"But here’s where it gets me. Have you ever seen a sexier knee on a paperback? Exquisite."

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Early New Yorker Magazine Ivy League Cartoonists

I do not read The New Yorker magazine. Never did. Though I might have, had I been alive during its  1925-1939 inception and heyday under founding editor Harold Ross (1892-1951).

As the link notes, Ross was born in Aspen, Colorado back when it was a mining town and not today's flash ski resort center. Yet he eventually edited what was considered New York's most sophisticated major magazine in his day.

Cartoons were probably as important as its written content in creating the publication's success, and I suspect that remains true.

Where did Ross' original cast of cartoonists come from? Some were self-taught. Others were products of art schools. And some of the most famous New Yorker cartoonists had attended Ivy League schools.

The previous link notes that the term "Ivy League" seems to have been coined in the 1930s. It became "official" in the sense that an American college football conference with that name and eight schools was established in the 1940s. Nowadays those eight colleges and universities are among the most prestigious in the United States. Best known are Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. In terms of excellence Penn and Columbia are in that mix with Dartmouth, Brown and Cornell not far behind. (Full disclosure: my Ph.D. degree is from Penn.)

What many readers need to know is that around 1930 the US population was far more concentrated in the Northeast than it is today. Therefore, the potential pool of New Yorker cartoonists was fairly close to New York City. Furthermore, until the 1960s, that part of the country -- the New England and Middle Atlantic regions -- did not have many large publicly-funded universities or even colleges. Higher education was largely done via private colleges and universities such as the Ivy League, the Seven Sisters (women's colleges) and the "Little Ivies" (smaller, but elite, schools). So when Ross hired cartoonists who had spent a year or more in college rather than an art school, the odds were that there would be some Ivy Leaguers in the mix.

Below are cartoons by prominent first-generation New Yorker cartoonists who had an Ivy League experience.


Charles Addams
Charles Addams attended Penn for a while.

Peter Arno
Peter Arno spent a year at Yale. I wrote about him here.

Whitney Darrow, Jr.:  "...and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?...True or false?"
Whitney Darrow, Jr. was Princeton man. I wrote about him here.

Alan Dunn
Alan Dunn attended Columbia.  The chimp was the artist of the abstract painting above him.

Charles Saxon: "David never gives up.  I used to think that was a virtue."
So did Charles Saxon, who I wrote about here.

Gluyas Williams: INDUSTRIAL CRISIS ... The day a cake of soap sank at Procter & Gamble's"
Gluyas Williams went to Harvard. This joke needs an explanation for most readers. The Procter & Gamble company marketed a very popular bar soap named Ivory. For many years its advertising slogan included the phrases "99 44/100% Pure": "It floats."

Monday, January 27, 2020

Vittorio Zecchin- Inspired by Klimt

Vittorio Zecchin (1878-1947) was born and died on Venice's famous art glass island of Murano. He was the son of a glassblower and worked in that field for part of his career. He also worked with fabrics and for a while he painted -- the subject of this post.

Some information regarding him can be found here (scroll down a little). There is much more here, but little is said regarding his career as a painter.

It seems that a 1910 exhibit of Gustav Klimt paintings inspired him, though he surely was aware of Art Nouveau artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, echoes of whose work might be detected.

Zecchin's most noteworthy paintings were a set of murals for a Lido hotel that was destroyed -- though much or all of the art remains. The theme of the murals was the Thousand and One Nights, a work very popular around 1914 when the murals were completed.

Below are some examples of Zecchin's paintings, including a few iPhone snapshots I took at Venice's Ca' Pesaro museum.


The title, according to its Internet source is Perle, but I know nothing else regarding this.

The Internet has this as an image of Salome, though again I am not sure about that. Note the Paisley elements.

Another presumed Salome.

Part of the Thousand and One Nights mural.

Le principesse e i guerrieri (the Princesses and the Warriors), another segment of the mural, this image from the Internet.

The previous painting as seen at the Ca' Pesaro. Its size can be gleaned by that of the card at the lower left.

Detail. Its caption mentions that it is of oil and golden stucco on canvas. Click on the image to enlarge.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

In the Beginning: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) was a highly talented painter whose reputation, like others of his ilk, suffered with the advent of Modernism and its rise to Establishment status. Fortunately, the pendulum has reversed to the point where his works are increasingly respected.

I've written about him here, here and elsewhere on this blog. His Wikipedia entry is here.

The present post deals with examples of his early work, paintings made before he settled into his mature style and subject matter.


Mary Magdalene (Head study) - 1854
Tadema was about 18 years old when he painted this oil-on-paper study. Enlarge to view his brushwork a little better.

Portrait of a man with a ring beard (also known as A man looking up) - 1856
He was about 20 here. A Dutchman, his formal art training was in Antwerp, in the Flemish part of Belgium.

The Blind Beggar - 1856
From about the same time as the previous image. Unlike the study of the man's head, this work is a tightly painted genre image pretty much in line with art fashions of the time.

Faust and Marguerite - 1857
This has a very Flemish feeling to it, not at all what we would expect of Tadema.

Clotilde at the Tomb of Her Grandchildren - 1858
Here too Tadema is both acquiring experience and staying within the artistic norms of those times.

A Bargain (also known as Brabant Women) - 1860
Note the brickwork in the background -- reminds me in a tiny way of Vermeer's portrayal of Delft.

Gunthram Bose and his daughters, AD 572 (also known as The Ambuscade) - 1862
Now for a quick, though transitory, stylistic departure. Again, not the Tadema we know.

Entrance to a Roman Theatre - 1866
Now he is about 30 and following his interest in depicting antiquity as accurately as possible. However, this painting is still somewhat dark and Flemish compared to his mature works.

An Exedra - 1869
Tadema was known for, among other things, his skill at painting marble. This is an early example when he was still learning how to do it convincingly. However, this is not an oil painting, so the medium might be a factor here.

Silver Favorites - 1903
I include this later painting to show his mature style. The image is bright and the marble really looks like marble.