Thursday, December 12, 2019

Peter Arno, High Society Cartoonist

Above is a famous cartoon by Peter Arno -- Curtis Arnoux Peters, Jr. -- (1904-1968), whose work helped The New Yorker magazine survive its infancy and who was one of its mainstays for the rest of his career. Nevertheless, I suspect that his fame has been fading, like for most of his contemporaries on the magazine aside from Charles Addams. A generational thing, mostly, I imagine.

A brief Wikipedia entry on Arno is here, and here is a more extensive, but perhaps hard to access profile.

Arno was the son of a Wall Street lawyer who became a New York State Supreme Court judge (that's confusing because the top-level New York court is the Court of Appeals in Albany). His family life was highly stressful, his father nearly disowning him after his first and only year at Yale.

Following that, he tried to make a living in music and art, eventually selling a cartoon to the new New Yorker magazine. In this, he and the magazine soon became successful. Arno's subjects tended to be spoofs of New York's upper crust. At the same time, he was a part of that group's night club scene.

Artistically, his cartoons are strongly drawn with skillfully applied washes. Whereas it looks like they were simply dashed off, Arno actually put a good deal of work into them, sometimes making a number of images until he achieved what he wanted.


In his studio.

Arno (at left) with super-debutante Brenda Frazier.

"Well, back to the old drawing board."
Another of Arno's most famous cartoons.

"We want to report a stolen car."

"Come along.  We're going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt."
This was from the mid-1930s when President Franklin Roosevelt was unpopular with many of the moneyed class. The Trans-Lux was a movie theatre that featured newsreels.

"I happen to be a MacNab, Miss.  I couldn't help noticing that you're wearing our tartan."

"Valerie won't be around for several days.  She backed into a sizzling platter."

"His spatter is wonderful, but his dribble lacks conviction."

Steeplechase and fox hunting might be confused here, but it's still amusing.

UPDATE: Notice how often Arno depicts eyes as being more vertical than horizontal. Effective for his cartoons. I wonder how he came up with this? Was it borrowed?

Monday, December 9, 2019

Albert Birkle: Neue Sachlichkeit - Lite

Albert Birkle (1900-1986) was born in what is now part of Berlin, but moved to Austria after the National Socialist German Workers Party gained power in 1933 and became an Austrian citizen following World War 2.

Biographical information can be found here, here, and in German here.

Birkle's non-religious art can be categorized as Expressionist, or Neue Sachlichkeit, but not usually extremely so in either case. Given that I am not fond of either genre, it follows that Birkle's paintings do not appeal to me. But perhaps you might like them, or find them interesting.


Selbstportrait mit hut
A self-portrait perhaps from the 1920s.

Selbstbildnis als Kriegsberichter - 1942
Self-portrait when he was a war artist stationed in France. The uniform is military style, but the epaulet indicates a non-combat status.

Selbstbildnis Mit Lederjacke
Self-portrait wearing a leather jacket. Birkle appears to be in his 50s here.

Petersfelsen bei Beuron (Upper Danube Valley, Baden-Württemberg)
An example of landscape painting.

Kurfürstendamm - 1924
Ku-damm was and is Berlin's main shopping street. This was painted during the post- Great War hyperinflation of German currency, a time of economic chaos and hardship.

Else Starosta (his wife) - 1927

Vorfrühling im Bayerischen Wald I - 1929
Early Spring in a Bavaraian Wood.

Bildnis Frau Jochums II - 1932

Victor Hartberg, Kunsthändler
An art dealer.

Waiting at the Bridge - 1931
A Berlin scene in the spirit of Ernst Kirchner's prewar Berlin street setting paintings.

Wife of the Architect Hirt - 1931
Birkle's women all seem to have very long fingers.

Port of Bordeaux - 1942
Painted while a war artist. That's a German flag related to ocean service on the boat.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Up Close: Two Sargent Scenes of Venice

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was a first-rate painter best known for his portrait work. He also had a deft touch when making oil sketches.

The Clark art museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts had two fine examples on display when I visited in September. One is titled "Street in Venice" (Clark link to it here), the other is "A Ventian Interior" (link here). Both were painted circa 1880-82.

Some photos I took are below: click on the images to enlarge.


Image of "A street in Venice" from the Clark web site.

As it appeared in the gallery: compare to the size of the plaque.

Zooming in on the figures. The actual sizes of the woman's face and hands are quite small: again compare to the plaque.

Clark image of "A Venetian Interior."

As it appeared.

Once again, Sargent is close to miniaturist mode when doing the foreground faces.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Archibald Barnes and His Decorative Ladies

Archibald George Barnes (1887-1972) began his career in England but moved to Canada around 1930. Information about him on the Internet is skimpy -- on the order of this.

The images that can be found via search engines are mostly of nicely painted attractive young ladies, though he did make paintings dealing with landscapes, and it is mentioned here and there that he was a war artist (though I found no examples of that genre).

The link above and others say that he was influenced by John Singer Sargent, and a whiff of Sargent can be seen in his portraits of ladies.


HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
To me, this doesn't look much like His Royal Highness.

By the Lake
Sketchy, incorporating a figure with the landscape.

Woman Beside a Chestnut Tree
Also sketchy, but here the figure predominates.

Summer's Day
Another scene with nature.

The Parasol
Yet another painting with subject matter hinted -- but it's pleasing.

Portrait of a Young Lady - 1920
The subject's face is subdued, so Barnes seems to be trying for effect by using an apparently anonymous sitter.

The Red Lacquer Cabinet
Here composition dominates.

The Shawl
Simplified color areas, but not distorted, simplified shapes in the 1920s modernist fashion.

The Purple Cloche (Patricia Weigel)
Another painting from the 1920s. Barnes had a nice touch with his brush.