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.