Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Small, Very Nice Saint-Gaudens Sculpture

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) was one of America's best sculptors -- regardless of era. His Wikipedia entry is here.

The Seattle Art Museum is woefully lacking in art of any kind from the 1800s and early 1900s. But it does have one small work by Saint-Gaudens. Its title is "Amor Caritas" (Love, Charity) -- bronze, lost wax cast.  It form can be classed as "high relief" where the subject is significantly rounded, yet still attached to its background.

For your viewing pleasure are a few photos I took of it recently.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Saul Tepper Vignette Illustrations

Saul Tepper (1899-1987) is one of my favorite illustrators who worked in thick oil paints during the 1920s and early '30s. A number of illustrators used that style -- two of the best known being Dean Cornwell and Mead Schaffer, both of whom I've written about here.

I wrote about Tepper here and also mentioned him in other posts: use the search item on the right side to find them.

One way to classify illustrations has to do with whether or not they completely fill a square or rectangular framed space. Those that do not are call "vignettes." They include the subject people or objects often with a bit of environmental detailing. But there is much blank "white space" that sometimes would be filed with text when published.

Tepper made a number of vignette style illustrations. Some can be found in the link above. Others are presented below.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Ray Prohaska's Multiple Styles

Ray Prohaska (1901-1981), was born Gracia Josef Prohaska near present-day Kotor in Montenegro. At that time, the city was called Càttaro and was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Prohaska family moved to the USA when Ray was eight years old.

This Leif Peng site has his Today's Inspiration blog posts dealing with Prohaska, and probably is best for dealing with his professional career. Prohaska's son Tony has this site which focuses more on Ray's origins. Some of the same information can be found on the Society of Illustrators site.

For what it might be worth, it seems that Prohaska was interested in fishing about as much as he was in art and illustration.

His career was successful. I credit this to his strong abilities that included the capacity to change his style to suit illustration market fashions. One item in the first link above is a statement that art directors would sometimes tell illustrators what style to use. For some reason, this hadn't occurred to me, even thought seems perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, given Prohaska's chameleon stylistic capability, perhaps that was more his experience than a general case. Most of the time, I think, artists with known styles were selected because art directors wanted an illustration in that particular style.

The downside for Prohaska, in terms of illustration history, is that his lack of a distinct style makes him less noted or memorable than the likes of Normal Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and Jon Whitcomb.


Aerial view of a harbor - c. 1930
I don't know where this view of various modes of harbor transportation was used.

Camel cigarettes ad - 1933
Watercolor was displacing oil paint as the fashionable illustration medium by the early 1930s.

Good Housekeeping editorial art - 1940
This was true at the end of the decade. Here Prohaska did considerable modeling of surfaces, unlike the later style in the previous image.

B.F.Goodrich tires ad - 1943
Now for five illustrations made in 1943 or thereabouts. During World War 2 rubber was diverted to the war effort, so here Goodrich is publicizing an alternative.

Saturday Evening Post cover - 14 August 1943
A Post cover slot was catching the illustration gold ring. This image demonstrates that Prohaska had hit the Big Time.

Whitman's Chocolates ad - 1943
Whitman's was a major brand in those days and advertised heavily. The battleship in the background appears to be of the New Mexico class or possibly a Pennsylvania.

Goodyear Aircraft ad - 1944
Goodyear built blimps and aircraft (the latter of other firm's designs) during the war.

World War 2 poster
A "Loose Talk can Lose Lives" themed poster.

Editorial art - 1950
Here Prohaska combines conventional illustration (the lady) with items featuring drawing.

Beer industry promotion ad - 1952
Conventional 1950s illustration with no sense of distinctive style.

Parents Magazine editorial art - December 1950
From shortly before, Prohaska is in a light form of David Stone Martin scratchy-pen mode.

Good Housekeeping editorial art - November 1959
Back to more thinly-painted conventional illustration.

Hicks Island
Prohaska did Fine Art and portraiture. This abstraction is a pretty good example of its type.

Monday, August 12, 2019

In the beginning: Giovanni Boldini

Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931) made a large number of flash-and-dash style society portraits, mostly of women, beginning in the 1890s. Those works are what most of us think of, if we are aware of him. As is usually the case, it took a while before he evolved that style -- the better part of three decades, actually. This post presents some of his earlier paintings, showing some of the variety of styles he used before age 40.

Boldini's Wikipedia entry is here, and includes a large number of images of his work. Like in the Gallery below, they are arranged in approximate chronological order.


Cléo de Mérode - 1907
An example of Boldini's mature style. For background on Cléo, click here.

Comotto, the Lawyer - 1865
Painted when Boldini was about 23 years old. Very conventional.

Florence Chambres - 1860s
Another conventional portrait, its date is unknown.

Diego Martelli - 1865
Martelli was a fellow artist. I saw this sketchy portrait at the Pitti Palace in Florence several years ago.

The Art Lover - c. 1866
A more conventional work from about the same time. Boldini was quite capable of making traditional paintings, unlike many later modernists.

Lascaraky Sisters - 1869
Here he shifts to a more thickly painted style where everything seems heavy.

Teasing the Parrot - 1872-74
A few years later he lightens thing up somewhat.

The Hammock - 1872-74
From about the same time. His brushwork is becoming much more evident.

Noonday Promenade, Versailles - 1876
During the late 19th century there was a mini-fad for 18th century court scenes such as this. I wonder if Boldini painted this and a few similarly-themed works to cash in on that fashion.

Conversation at the Café - 1877-78
Here Boldini brings in Spanish-influenced blacks, something he used in a number of later works. The feeling of this painting is coming close to his mature style.

Lady with a Parasol - 1876
This seems to be a sketch or study.  I include it to show that he was experimenting with square-brush technique, an approach later used more consistently by the likes of Leo Putz.

Lady in a Red Jacket - 1878
I'm not positive the date is correct (one has to be cautious of what finds on the internet without corroboration). If it was painted in 1878, this sketchy work comes close to Boldini's classic style.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Rubens Does Some Advertising

San Francisco's Legion of Honor has on display through 8 September 2019 an exhibit titled
"Early Rubens".

There were many works, the paintings being mostly large. Even at the stage of his career shown, Rubens supported a crew of apprentices and assistants who needed to be paid or otherwise compensated for their work. All professional art is a business of some kind, and Rubens and many other famous painters around his time needed to operate like any serious business. That included doing what we now call Marketing to drum up future commissions to support the artist and his staff.

An instance of such marketing can be seen in the image below, a detail of "The Dreaming Silenus" (ca. 1610-1612) depicting: "The drunken, goat-legged Silenus and his companions appear in the last stages of a Bacchic revelry..." as the plaque pointed out. I will spare you that. What mostly interested me was the trove taking up much of the right half of the painting that's shown in the detail view below.

Note how skillfully those shiny objects are depicted.  At this late date, I cannot say if Rubens himself did all, some, or none of that work.  What matters is that this display was almost surely intended to catch the eyes of potential clients who might well be impressed enough to seek out Rubens and give him and his team a commission.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Max Beckmann Self-Portraits

Max Beckmann (1884-1950) is associated with Germany's post- Great War Neue Sachlichkeit movement. It favored harshly depicted, distorted, exaggerated subjects that often were little more than elaborate political cartoons.

Beckmann did not always go deeply in that direction. This was the case for his portrait work. Like Rembrandt, he chronicled his appearance sometimes as often as once a year, and more often than that at times. The numerous images below are not an exhaustive compendium of his self-portraits, but offer a sense of how he chose to represent himself as time passed.

Background on Beckmann can be found here. He left Germany for the Netherlands four years after modernist art hating Hitler gained power. Following World War 2 he moved to the USA, but died of a heart attack a few years later.


Photo of Backmann
I don't have the year this was taken, but he appears to be in his 50s or older. His most noticeable feature is a strong, jutting jaw.

Painted in Florence before he delved very far into Modernism. Note the cigarette -- many of the portraits below include one or sometimes a cigar.

I suppose I would need to consult a biography to find background for this.  Beckmann ordinarily would have been conscripted and later moved to army reserve status.  He was about 30 years old when the war began, but theoretically would have been called to active duty on mobilization in August of 1914.  In fact, he served for about a year in a medical unit and, as his French Wikipedia states, Il est démobilisé en 1915 en raison d'une dépression nerveuse.




A Mussolini-like pose.

Starting around 1920 his self-depictions are of a strong, not a weak, person. The cigar is in his mouth, not his hand as usual.

This is probably Beckmann's most famous self-portrait.

Shortly before he moved to Holland.



Wartime, again.


Painted the year he died.