Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Reginald Marsh, Yalie Gone Slumming

Reginald Marsh (1898-1954) was never a starving artist. His grandfather was wealthy, so Marsh happened to be born in Paris while his parents were there; the family moved to New Jersey when he was two years old. Later on, he attended the Lawrenceville School, but for some reason didn't move on to nearby Princeton, opting instead for Yale.

Marsh didn't serve in the Great War, unlike many other of his classmates, and graduated "on time" in 1920. Even though both his parents were artists, it was only after leaving college that he began to study and practice art seriously.

Somewhere along the line, he focused on what have been called "working class" or "blue collar" subjects, something that became fashionable in intellectual and artistic circles after the Great Depression of the 1930s hit. Rather than featuring a single person as a subject (though he did this to some extent), Marsh tended to feature large groups of people in his more ambitious paintings, placing them in settings befitting their tastes: the beach, Coney Island, burlesque theaters and such. Although it would have been tempting to do so, he avoided strong political statements in most of his Depression-era works (though early in his career he provided illustrations to the leftist New Masses publication). Visual commentary was present in many cases, but Marsh usually downplayed it by casting part of the scene as happy or energetic.

Although he didn't care for modernist art, Marsh incorporated many features of modernism (see my book for details) in his etchings, watercolors and tempera paintings. For example, he distorted the proportions of his subjects somewhat, so they didn't seem quite real. And for some reason, he often liked to depict women as having heavier than average lower legs.

Many of these points and much more can be found in Marsh's Wikipedia entry. What is missing is a discussion of his personal life, though one sentence mentions in passing that he had a wife.

Here are some examples of his work.


"The Battery" - c.1926

"Why Not Use the L" - 1930

"Smoko the Human Volcano" - 1933

"Hauptmann Must Die" - 1935

Minsky's Chorus" - 1935

"Twenty Cent Movie" - 1936

Untitled watercolor - 1944

Monday, October 28, 2013

In the Beginning: Helene Schjerfbeck

Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) was a Finnish painter who is much better known in Scandinavia than here in the United States. Which is too bad, because her artistic journey is interesting in that she went from being a highly competent naturalistic painter to becoming a modernist.

Her Wikipedia entry is here and a blog post containing biographical information and plenty of images is here.

The best place to view Schjerfbeck's paintings is the Ateneum in Helsinki where, if memory serves, a room is devoted to her works.

I have trouble evaluating modernist painting because I care for little of it. I'll simply mention that I think her best modernist paintings are those that don't stray far from realism.  Here are a few to provide a taste of where her style evolved.

Varjo Muurilla - 1928
She painted some landscapes.

Self-Portrait study - 1915
Just enough modernist traits to make this an interesting mostly-representational piece.

Self-Portrait with Red Spot - 1944
One of her last self-portraits.

Girl from Eydtkuhnen - 1927

Below are examples of her early paintings, most or all of which were made during the 1880s when she was in her twenties.


Boy Feeding His Younger Sister - 1881

Portrait of a Child - 1883

Mother and Child - 1886

Picking Bluebells

Portrait of a Girl - 1886

The Convalescent - 1888

Friday, October 25, 2013

Molti Ritratti: Favorite Pino Models

Pino Danae, born Giuseppi Dangelico (1939-2010), known professionally as Pino, was a successful book cover illustrator who made an equally successful transition to gallery painting. Some biographical information can be found here.

It should be no surprise that many artists have favorite models, people they use again and again, though this is not obvious unless one can view a collection of the artist's works in a book, museum exhibition or on the Internet as an image search results display. A while ago I wrote a post about the Italian master Tiepolo and the similarity of female faces in his paintings.

Pino tended to use the same model for several of his paintings. And if a different model was used, she often had facial characteristics similar to some of his other models, as can be seen below.


These two paintings clearly use the same model, costume and pose, though Pino altered the setting background and tabletop.

The model(s) in these works might be the same as the one above, though the hair is different and the faces are more round.  Modifying hairdos can be chalked up to artistic license, but Pino seems less likely to have changed facial structure.  Nevertheless, the subjects seem quite similar, possibly because he had a preference for a certain appearance and perhaps because he liked to have foreheads unobstructed by hair, heightening potential similarity.

This model seems a bit different from the one(s) above, thanks to the shape of her eyebrows.  Again, I can't rule out the possibility that different (though similar) models were used for this set.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Clayton Knight: Illustrator, Clandestine RCAF Recruiter

Illustrators tend to be a solitary lot unless they happen to share studio space with others. Given that, it's easy to jump to the conclusion that they are mild-mannered sorts who avoid flash, dash and action.

Not all are of that stripe. For example, McClelland Barclay was killed when his ship was destroyed in the South Pacific during World War 2. Dick Calkins, the first Buck Rogers comic strip artist, was an Army Air Corps lieutenant. And some artists for 1930s aviation comic strips were pilots.

One pilot-illustrator was Clayton Knight (1891-1969) who was shot down on the German side of the front lines during the Great War. Before the American entry to World War 2 he, along with Canadian ace Billy Bishop, was involved in recruiting American pilots to fly for the RCAF and RAF.

Biographical information regarding Knight is sparse on the Internet -- here is a brief account. For a detailed report on the World War 2 Clayton Knight Committee, link here or, better yet, here.

Today, if Knight is known for anything, it is that he was the father of Hilary Knight, who illustrated Kay Thompson's "Eloise" books.

Here are some examples of Knight's work.


American Boy magazine cover - April 1931
Knight's illustrations were mostly aviation-centered.

"Ace Drummond" comic strip
Rickenbacker got the credit for the strip, but Knight did the drawing.

Comic strip (French version)
Here we see knight's signature.

Saturday Evening Post cover - 4 September 1937
Knight sometimes was able to hit the big-time. He might have gained this Post assignment because he was typed as an aviation specialist.

Douglas DC-2 airliners - 1935
These planes are not skillfully depicted.

Sketch of Army Air Corps P-12
The Townend Ring around the motor is slightly too large.

Another P-12 sketch

Based on the illustrations above, I have to conclude that Knight's work was at the journeyman level, far from top-notch even where aircraft were concerned.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Robert Lewis Reid: A "Ten"

No, I'm not talking about a perfect gymnastic score nor how attractive a woman might be evaluated. This has to do with Robert Lewis Reid (1862-1929) who was a member of a group called the Ten American Painters comprised of important and well known artists whose commitment to modernism extended only a little beyond Impressionism.

From my standpoint, Reid is one of the most obscure of The Ten, though he was clearly well regarded by the others and had enough recognition in his day to be commissioned to paint murals for the new Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and other buildings.

Trained in New York's Art Students League and Paris' Académie Julian, Reid spent most of his career in the Northeast. A stroke cut his career short in 1927, though he attempted to resume painting. More biographical information can be found here and here.

Reid's easel painting style resembled that of some of the more Impressionism-inclined Ten as well as that of Richard E. Miller who was not associated with that group.


Understanding - Library of Congress mural - 1896
Other murals in this series featured similar poses and props, yet supposedly dealt with different themes.

A Summer Girl
Against the Sky - 1911
These remind me of paintings by fellow Ten member Frank Benson.

Fleur-de-Lis - 1895-1900
The Violet Kimono
These two remind me of Richard E. Miller paintings.

Blue and Yellow - 1910

Morning Reflections - 1910

Tempting Sweets

Reflections - 1924

Street scene - 1920s
An atypical Reid, painted near the end of his career.

Although Reid was highly competent and many of his paintings are very nice, his career might have suffered in retrospect because he never settled on a distinctive style. In other words, he was too eclectic or derivative for the good of his reputation.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Maxwell Parrish Mazda Calendar Illustrations

Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) was primarily an illustrator, though he made fine art paintings and many of his illustrations followed the tedious, exacting technique he used for his fine art work. For some background information on Parrish, see here and here.

Parrish's oil painting technique was classical in that he first created an underpainting. One example of an uncompleted Parrish painting I've seen had the underpainting done using blue rather than sienna, green, gray or other common alternatives. Atop the underpainting, he applied layered glazes and perhaps a few spots of thicker oil paint. Given the long drying time between layers, a Parrish painting or illustration could take many months to complete (he usually had a number of works progressing simultaneously).

For about 15 years Parrish created the illustration for a calendar distributed by General Electric promoting its Edison Mazda light bulbs. Below are examples.


I don't have dates for these