Monday, April 23, 2018

Multi Ritratti: Rebecca H. Whelan

The woman is the portrait detail above is Rebecca H. (Harbert?) Whelan (1877? - 1950?), about whom little seems to be known, if Googling the Internet is any indication. It seems that her father (can't get a Google hit on him, either) was a trustee of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where the painter, Thomas Pollock Anshutz (1851-1912) taught. Here is the entire painting:

A Rose - 1907

The painting can be seen at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the museum's Web page devoted to the painting is here.

I wrote about Anshutz here, wondering if the woman who posed for "The Rose" was the same one depicted in "The Incense Burner." It turns out she was the same model. Moreover, Anshutz portrayed her more than twice.

Below are paintings by Anshutz where Rebecca was either definitely the model or quite possibly was.


The Incense Burner - c. 1905
From about the same time as "The Rose."

Tanagra - 1909
This is the largest image I could find of this painting. Rebecca is known to be the model.

Figure Piece - 1909
I'm not sure if this is Rebecca. The complexion is too ruddy compared to other Anshutz depictions, but the hair, nose and eyebrows suggest it might be her.

Portrait of Rebecca H. Whelan - c. 1910

Woman Reading - c. 1910
Another "maybe" portrait. This is the largest image I could locate while assembling this post: a larger one might offer a closer look at the nose which then could be compared to the profile in "Tanagra." The nose seems somewhat like Rebecca's and ditto the eyebrows and chin, though the position of the head makes comparisons difficult.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hans Hoffman, Modernist Teacher

Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) permanently moved the the USA from his native Germany when he was in his early 50s and by the mid-1930s had established his own art school that was highly influential in terms of the mid-century New York milieu of modernist painting. The list of former students is impressive, as can be seen in his Wikipedia entry. Useful information regarding him can be found here, and a Web site devoted to Hofmann is here.

Hofmann was a convinced modernist who stressed respecting the flat picture plane, among other articles of the modernist faith. His ideas regarding color might have been more useful for artists in general.

Below are examples of Hofmann's work, mostly over the last 30 years of his long career. Details on the Internet are sketchy, but it seems he was in Paris when the Great War broke out and was unable to return to Germany. Being an enemy alien, it is likely his life was circumscribed in some way, but I have no information regarding that. What one of the above sources mentions is that his paintings in Germany were lost, so there is little to document his early career. Oddly, I could not find much from the post-war German period either.

However, Hofmann was prolific, and there are paintings from the mid-1930s when he was doing his influential teaching that inspired many painters who became Abstract Expressionists in the 1940s and 1950s.


Self-Portrait - 1902
This is the only early Hofmann painting I found on the Internet.

St. Tropez - 1928
A drawing with a jumbled-up view of the Riviera port, part of which is indeed on a hill.

Japanese Girl - 1935
Now we are in the zone when he was teaching in New York City and Provincetown on Cape Cod.

Lighthouse - 1936
Cade Cod landscape of sorts.  Hofmann often painted fairly thinly: Was the price of paint a factor during the Great Depression years?

Table with Teakettle, Green Vase and Red Flowers - 1936
Hofmann is said to have been influenced by Matisse, and this painting tends to suggest just that.

Untitled No. 30A - 1937
Here is a work that is fully abstract with lots of brushstroke expression. I imagine that this would have influenced those who later became the Abstract Expressionist school in New York.

Untitled (Provincetown) - 1941
He did not totally abandon representation until a few years later.

The Painter - 1941
Again, vigorous brushwork, striking use of color and almost total abstraction.

Untitled - 1949
The New York school of Abstract Expressionism was well into its ascendency when Hofmann painted this vaguely cubist work.

Deep within the Ravine - 1965
One of his last paintings. Very strong colors and composition. I'm not a big fan of Modernism, but I like this one.

The Castle - 1965
During the 1960s Hofmann made a number of paintings that included rectangles. Perhaps he was interested in adding opposition to less-structured parts of these paintings.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Walter Gotschke Illustrates Adler

Walter Gotschke (1912-2000) is considered by many automobile art fans as one of the very best in that field. Some background regarding him can be found here and here. I wrote about him here, but might have overstated things when I asserted that he was self-taught. Gotschke was trained in architecture, so must have received some basic training in drawing and watercolor (the latter commonly used for presentations in those days).

His career until he went blind in his early 70s was as a commercial illustrator specializing in automotive subjects. Some of this was for advertising, other works were commissioned as editorial material for magazines. The latter were usually racing scenes created with pen, watercolor and gouache (as best I can tell), often done in an impressionistic, almost slapdash manner.

Below are some examples that appeared in Automobile Quarterly, a horizontal format hardbound publication (Volume 15, No. 4, 1977). Gotschke's work was in conjunction with an article about the Adler, an automobile company based in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.

Due to AQ'a horizontal format (chosen because cars are wider than they are tall, so are best presented that way) combined with my scanner's capabilities, most of the images below are either partial or fragmented. Much of this was because Gotschke's illustrations were splashed across the "gutter" over two facing pages.


Eröffnung der Autobahn Frankfurt-Darmstadt (opening of the first Autobahn section), 1935. A lineup of Adlers is seen here.

Right-hand segment of the same illustration showing Der Führer behind the Mercedes in the foreground.  The "gutter" line can be seen towards the left side of this scan.

Start of the 1937 race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. The red cars are Alfa-Romeos, the ones in the foreground painted blue are Delages, and the two white cars are Adlers.

Scene featuring an Adler at the 1937 race at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Adler streamline rennwagen during a nighttime pit stop at 24 Heures du Mans, 1937. At the left is Mme Anne-Cécile Rose-Itier who co-drove an Adler Trumpf with Huschke von Hanstein, later Porsche's racing director.

Right side of same illustration. Adler is the German word for eagle, and an eagle symbol is on the car's grille.

Adler Trumpf 1.5-liter racing car of the type shown in the previous images. Note Gotschke's treatment of reflections on the shiny body of the car.

1938 Adler 2.5-liter limousine. His handling of color and reflections is even more impressive in this illustration fragment.  Note how he combines cool blue-gray sky reflections with the warm brown/tan body color.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Diego Rivera: Pretty Good Artist When not Being Political

One of the minor themes of this blog is my contempt for political art -- paintings or drawings manifestly espousing a political point of view. I contend that this subject matter degrades artistic quality most of the time (there might be a few exceptions, so I included the word "most" in this sentence).

An example of this is the famous Mexican painter and muralist Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez (AKA Diego Rivera, 1886-1957). Some biographical information is here and more detail regarding his early career is here.

Rivera came from a well-to-do family and was able to study art both in Mexico and in Spain. From Spain he went to Paris to joint the modernist art scene there. By the early 1920s his politics had solidified into Marxism. He was became a Communist Party member, but was cut loose because his sympathies were with Leon Trotsky rather than Stalin. However, he remained a strong "fellow traveler" for the rest of his life.

Below are examples of Rivera's painting over his career. Some of the stylistic evolution was due to normal maturation -- sloughing off earlier styles for different ones. Also, his work was influenced by stylistic fashions of the inter-war years. Whereas he experimented with abstract art in Paris, by the time he returned to Mexico Rivera had settled into a slightly stylized form of representational art suited for his propaganda murals.

For what it might be worth, I prefer the pre- Great War art to his later works.



Vista de Toledo - 1912
This is a nice painting: note the triangular element of the composition.

The Adoration of the Virgin - 1913
A touch of cubist faceting here on the figures, but it works well.

The Mathematician - 1918
The whiff of distortion adds interest to this portrait.

Subterranean Forces - 1926-27
Rivera had a good command of the human figure when he chose to use it. The pose of the central figure is unusual, but effectively done.

Portrait of Natasha Zakólkowa Gelman - 1943
Stylized, and very 1940s. A far cry from his paeans to the proletariat: Rivera must have been bought one way or another here.


The Uprising - 1931
A stereotypical propaganda scene.

Night of the Rich - 1928
The lower part would have made a nice 1928 Vanity Fair magazine cover illustration.

Detroit Industry mural - north wall segment - Detroit Institute of Arts - 1933
Little overt propaganda here, but this represents the mature Rivera style.

Glorioso Victoria - 1954
A late mural-on-canvas dripping with antiAmerican hostility and general ugliness typically found in political art.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Binary Stoplights

The typical stoplight or traffic light or traffic signal (these are alternative names for the same thing) has three lenses of different color. The one at the top in a vertically-oriented unit shines red when lighted. Below that is an orange light, and the one at the bottom signals in green. For more information that you will likely want or need, link to this Wikipedia entry.

But there was a time when stoplights were binary -- only red and green lenses were mounted. I remember seeing them here in Seattle when I was very young. Don't believe me? Then take a look at this:

This fuzzy color photo taken in the summer of 1941 is of an intersection in downtown Seattle. Note the stoplight at the upper-left corner.

It can be pretty hairy driving along when all of a sudden that green light switches to red when you're driving 25 miles per hour and are less than 100 feet from the intersection. You have no choice but to continue on through, hoping that cars getting the green light don't immediately enter the intersection. How it probably worked was that when the signal changed from red to green, drivers would hesitate stepping on the accelerator, realizing that cars could still be approaching on the cross-street.

At the time I first became aware of stoplights, Seattle was transitioning from binary to the triple-lens variety, and binary lights were long gone by the time I learned to drive.

All-in-all, this is an instance of human factors being neglected in design work: The problem should have been recognized much earlier.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Santiago Rusiñol: Barcelona to Paris and Return

Santiago Rusiñol i Prats (1861-1931) was a highly skilled Catalonian painter who had the advantage of coming from a wealthy family. His Wikipedia entry stresses his paintings of gardens and includes some images of those. Much more comprehensive is his Catalan entry (link to it from the English version) that goes into considerable detail on his literary and theatrical work. The English entry notes that he was influenced by Modernism and Symbolism, though the paintings below show little or no such influence: Rusiñol was fundamentally representational until fairly late in his career.

Although trained in Spain, Rusiñol made sure to spend a few years in Paris for seasoning. Other Catalonian painters including Ramon Casas, Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa and Ignacio Zuloaga did the same in those days.

Here are examples of Rusiñol's work.


Carretera en otoño - 1888
An autumn scene.

Casa de penhores - 1889
He did a few courtyard paintings as well.

La cuisine du Moulin de la Galette
Kitchen of the famous Montmartre night-spot.

La morfinómona - 1894
He had another painting of the same setting titled "Before the Morphine.".

Miguel Utrillo - 1890-91
Utrillo was probably the father of cityscape modernist Maurice Utrillo, whose mother most certainly was model and painter Suzanne Valadon.

El Bohemi, Erik Satie al seu estudi - 1891
That's Erik Satie the modernist composer.

Romanza - 1894
And here he is with Suzanne Valadon, with whom he had perhaps his only serious affair.  For some reason Rusiñol has Suzanne at the piano (so far as I know, she didn't play piano) and piano-playing Satie as the observer.

Interior con Figura Femenina

Patio de la Alberca, El Generalife Granada
What it looks like without the usual mobs of tourists.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Rob. Mallet-Stevens, 1920s Modernist Architect

Robert Mallet-Stevens (1886-1945) was born in Paris, but had strong Belgian roots. For instance, he was related to painter Alfred Stevens. This French Wikipedia entry on Mallet-Stevens has more detail than does the one in English, so I suggest you to have your computer translate it if your French is weak.

Most of the important work by "Rob." -- as he was referred to in France -- was done roughly 1923-1932. Considering the novelty of what Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Phillip Johnson (in their book and Museum of Modern Art exhibit of 1932) named International Style, Mallet-Stevens was kept suprisingly busy with many commissions. Besides architecture, both residential and commercial, he did interior design and designed sets for a number of films.

Although his architecture avoided explicitly decorative ornamentation (something verboten by modernists), his most important buildings exhibited a good deal of variation in forms of wings and other appendages. That makes them interesting and not as stark as some of the more pure examples of the style. Which is perhaps why the Wikipedia entry notes "L'apport de Mallet-Stevens n'a été pleinement apprécié que longtemps après sa mort. Même au-delà des années 1970, les historiens de l'architecture le considèrent comme un dandy ou un couturier."


Villa Cavrois in Croix (1929-1932).

Villa Cavrois, aerial view showing the park.

Villa Cavrois and reflecting pool after restoration.

Villa Noailles, Hyères on the Côte d'Azur (1923-27).

Villa Noailles, jardin.

Set for 1924 movie L'Inhumaine.

Bally store, Paris - 1929.

Hôtel et Casino La Pergola, Saint-jean de Luz - 1929.

Rue Mallet-Stevens, early street view with Voisin automobile. This was a private street in the 16th Arrondissement, not far from the Musée Marmottan Monet.

Villa frères Martel, rue Mallet-Stevens, 1927.

Villa de Mme Reifenberg, rue Mallet-Stevens, ca. 1927. Villa Martel is at left.

Tamara de Lempicka studio, 1929. Example of Mallet-Stevens' interior design.