Monday, December 10, 2018

Brangwyn in San Francisco

Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956), Wikipedia entry here, was British artist whose paintings and murals have always fascinated me. My post on those aspects of his work is here.

Aside from his unfortunate set of murals in New York's Radio City that I wrote about here, concentrations of Brangwyn's work are rare in the United States and mostly off the usual tourist track. However, it turns out that there are some Brangwyn's in another major American city.

A few months ago I was in San Francisco on a dinner-date-plus-piano-concert and stumbled across a Brangwyn trove I was totally unaware of -- a set of eight large murals in the auditorium of the War Memorial building in the Civic Center district. At first, I thought they might have been done by him, and later confirmed this via an Internet search.

It happened that they were commissioned for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition and later installed in the auditorium as noted on page 34 of this book:

"The rest of the fair's public art was not dispersed as widely as the contents of the art pavilions. Having been executed on removable canvas, most of the murals were saved and turned over to the Trustees of the San Francisco War Memorial in the hope that they could be installed in other public buildings (Brangwyn's murals were eventually installed in the War Memorial Herbst Theatre, which was completed in 1932, while the others were placed in storage)."

Further research on the Internet revealed that the murals were displayed at the Court of Abundance at the exposition. Their themes were the Classical elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Two murals were painted for each theme.

I took some iPhone snapshots of the murals as an aide-memoir, assuming that I'd be able to find better examples on the Internet. Alas, it turns out that I found nothing really satisfactory, so the images below are of mural fragments taken from odd angles. Nevertheless, I hope you will find them interesting.


First, two images I found on the Internet showing the general arrangement.

North wall murals.

South wall murals.

Now for a collection of my snapshots (click on them to enlarge) ...

Some of the people portrayed in this mural have the knobby features he painted nearly 20 later for the RCA Building lobby that I criticized in the second link above.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Louis Denis-Valvérane the Painter Who Also Was Vald'Es the Cartoonist

Louis Denis-Valvérane (1870-1943) was a Provençal painter and illustrator/cartoonist who is perhaps best known for his racy (at the time) cartoons in the magazine La vie Parisienne that he signed as Vald'Es.

Biographical information on him is almost non-existent on the Internet. Very brief items are here and here. A web site devoted to him is here. It is in French and contains a little more information, but mostly mentions aspects of Provençal nationalism.

Denis-Valvérane's paintings found on the Web tend to be somewhat mediocre in my opinion, but some of his cartoon work strikes me as being very good. Examples of each are shown below.


Notre Dame du Romigier, Mairie de Manosque
A scene from Denis-Valvérane's home town.

Traveuax des champs - Working the Fields

Young Woman Reading a Letter to a Blind Man
The man's shirt and hands are done well.

Sailing Boats

Apparently it was expected in La vie Parisienne that it was good to show some female thigh above the stocking.

But that wasn't mandatory.

Hinting was also acceptable.

Flapper and apparent Sugar Daddy.

A two-part cartoon about young French women in the Roaring Twenties.

I like this one. Well-drawn, witty. Click on it to enlarge.

Monday, December 3, 2018

New Book About Haddon Sundblom

Haddon Sundblom (1899-1976) was a leading illustrator for many years and influential in the careers of other illustrators.

Now Dan Zimmer of Illustration Magazine has written a lavishly illustrated book about him (information here). I am quite pleased with it. Some books on illustrators lack details regarding their subjects because illustrators, like many writers, can live somewhat isolated lives due to the nature of their work. Sundblom ran a commercial art studio in Chicago, so there were many people around him that could provide stories. Also, he was quoted in interviews, which helped Zimmer to provide a more rounded portrait than he was able to do in some other cases.

For a quick take on Sundblom, his Wikipedia entry is here.

I posted about him here on 27 February 2012 and here on 8 June 2011. In the latter post, I stated:

"Yet something bothers me just enough that I can't place Sundblom with contemporaries such as Dean Cormwell, John La Gatta and Mead Schaeffer. Maybe it had to do with stereotyping or pigeonholing by clients and art directors. Perhaps it was Sundblom's preference. In any event, the result was that little of his work had drama or "bite" of any kind."

Some of the illustrations in the book invalidate what I thought back in 2011. Sundblom was quite able to paint in styles other than the buttery sort that he is best known for. Some examples are below.


Sundblom is best-known nowadays for his depictions of Santa Claus for Coca-Cola. This example is from 1946.

He did a good deal of other work for Coke, such as this 1950 poster.

Coca-Cola illustration from 1937. Again in his buttery oil-painting style.

Red Cross theme poster art.

Now for some editorial art for fiction pieces in magazines: this seems to be from the late 1930s.

From a June, 1957 Ladies' Home Journal.

Now for some illustrations that are not "buttery."

These three images represent top-quality 1930s-vintage magazine illustration, and are far removed from Sundblom's Coca-Cola work.

Finally, a Sundblom story illustration demonstrating his ability to depict ordinary folks, and not glamorous or dramatic types.

Haddon Sundblom was really good.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Edwin Davenport: An Illustrator Whose Career Seemed to Peak Around 1927

Biographical information for the illustrator Edmund Davenport must be someplace, but I can't seem to find it by Googling. Nor can I find it in my personal collection of books about illustration.

All I know for sure at this point is that most of the internet images of his work date from 1925-1928. These works include some Saturday Evening Post covers, so Davenport briefly was hitting the big time.

Besides the Post, he did covers for other magazines and advertising art for Stutz automobiles and Syracuse China (the latter not shown below).

Here are most of the examples of his work that I could find.


Saturday Evening Post cover - 13 June 1925
New graduate literally "on top of the world."

Holland's Magazine cover - May 1926

The Elks Magazine cover - February 1926
The Elks are an American fraternal organization.

American Magazine cover - November 1928

Stutz advertisement - 1927
This advertisement and the ones below feature simplified backgrounds and contra-jour shading that serve to set off the images of the cars.

Stutz advertisement - 1927
Stutz is best remembered for its Stutz Bearcat sports cars from the 1910s.

Stutz advertisement - 1927

Stutz advertisement - 1927

Stutz advertisement - 1927
A black & white ad, but the artwork might have been done in color like the ones shown above (though the contra-jour is missing, suggesting it was done in b&w) .

Monday, November 26, 2018

Lionel-Noël Royer, French Painter of History

Lionel-Noël Royer (1852-1926), according to his English language Wikipedia entry, is best known for his large paintings of the life of Joan of Arc located in the Basilica of Bois-Chenu in Domrémy, her home town. His French Wikipedia entry also notes that he is known "ainsi que du tableau Vercingétorix jette ses armes aux pieds de Jules César." The latter ("Vercingétorix Throwing his Weapons at the Feet of Caesar" - 1899) is probably better known outside France because it has been used as book cover art. It's the image at the top of this post (click on it to enlarge).

Royer fought in one Franco-Prussian War battle, so was qualified to paint battle scenes even though he followed convention and overly dramatized the action.  Following the war he studied art at l'École des beaux-arts de Paris under Alexandre Cabanel and William Bouguereau.

Royer painted simple subjects, but excelled in dealing with complex scenes with casts worthy of a Cecil B. DeMille Biblical movie. Well, fewer people than in film crowd scenes, but plenty on artists' canvases.

Below are more examples of his work. But I have to say that I like the Julis Caesar painting best, even though the French link above states "Les historiens soulignent notamment le fait que Vercingétorix ne s'est certainement pas présenté en armes devant César au moment de sa reddition (il aurait été massacré par la garde romaine). Le cheval est à l'époque une monture romaine, les Gaulois utilisant plutôt des poneys (plus petits). Le tableau traduit surtout une volonté d'héroïser le personnage de Vercingétorix." That is, what Royer painted probably did not actually happen the way he depicted the surrender.


Joan of Arc at the coronation of Charles VII at Reims
Click on the image to enlarge.

Bataille d'Auvour
Also known as the Battle of Mans, fought 10-12 January 1871.  A large but rag-tag French army was defeated by the Prussians. This battle, along with the end of the Siege of Paris a few days later, marked the end of the main military phase of the Franco-Prussian War

Le Lieutenant-Colonel Athanase de Charrette à la tête des Zouaves Pontificaux – Bataille de Mentana - 3 Novembre, 1867
This battle was between Garibaldi's Italians and an army comprised of the French and Papal Zouave troops. The Italians were defeated.

Marchande de Fleurs - The Flower Seller
The flower seller is at the lower right corner with her push-cart. At the lower left is a red automobile that dates the painting as from a few years around 1905. The large building is the Hôtel de Ville, Paris' city hall, and the tall structure at the right is the Notre-Dame.

The Muses Garden
The opposite of Royer's war paintings.

Allegory of Summer
Confirmation that he studied under Bouguereau.

Étude pour la figure de l'amour