Monday, October 15, 2018

Edwin Blashfield, American Classical Muralist

Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848-1936), Wikipedia entry here, specialized in mural painting. He was successful at that, winning a number of major commissions: the link has a list of many of these.

Blashfield studied engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a while, then left to pursue art. An inheritance allowed him to go to Paris in 1869 where he studied under Léon Bonnat. He remained in France until 1881.

Although his time in France coincided with the rise of French Impressionism, his style remained traditional, but not strictly Academic. This worked well for him as a muralist, because American government-funded murals in the decades around 1900 tended to have uplifting themes often manifested by symbolic characters.

The examples of Blashfield's work shown below are mostly not murals because those could be huge, often integrated into a building's architecture, and hard to photograph. Instead, I feature easel paintings and drawings. I should add that some of his best-known easel paintings are quite large -- almost mini-murals.


Photo of Blashfield and assistants working on dome mural for Wisconsin's capitol building.

Photo of Wisconsin capitol mural "Resources." The men at its base provide its scale.

The Musician - 1874
From his Paris days.

First Court of Temple of Ramses III, Medinet Aboo - 1887
Blashfield traveled a good deal, and this is an oil sketch made in Egypt.

Portrait of Evangeline Blashfield, the Artist's Wife - 1889

The Festival of Spring - c. 1890

Three Muses

Terpsichore - drawing for Adolph Lewisohn residence - 1894

Dance - hall panel for Adolph Lewisohn - 1899
Probably destroyed when the West 57th Street house was altered or, later, demolished: I wonder what it actually looked like in color.

Angel with the Flaming Sword

The Call of Missouri Trumpet (Missouri Watching the Departure of Her Troops) - 1918
A Great War painting. Trumpeters from historical times are at the left, a doughboy trumpeter in the distance.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe: Danish Vermeer?

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (1863-1935) was a Danish artist (Wikipedia entry here) who painted a surprising number of similar scenes.

Those scenes were interiors with similar windows and furnishings populated by a young woman. Superficially, this is similar to a number of the known works by the famed Dutch artist Johannes (Jan) Vermeer where there was a window towards the left side of the painting, one or a few human subjects (usually female), and varying room décor.

Holsøe painted other subjects -- often different interiors -- but I thought it would be fun to present a set of his paintings that portray essentially the same sort of thing. Besides paned windows, some on French doors, nearly every painting contains a tall, narrow mirror. Titles are omitted in the Gallery below.


The general setting without a young woman.

Finally, Holsøe provides The Old Switcheroo -- the woman is outside.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Kerry Ury's Nighttime Scenes

Let's call it a mini-genre. Maybe even a micro-genre. I'm thinking of urban nighttime scenes -- exteriors and interiors. Many artists depicted these sorts of things on occasion, but few devoted sizable amounts of their careers to it. Toulouse-Lautrec's cabaret work might qualify. Another artist, and one who is known for dealing with the night, is Leo Lesser Ury (1861-1931).

Ury's Wikipedia entry is here, and from there you can link to a slightly longer German version. The latter mentions that Ury feuded with Max Liebermann, and Liebermann's entry (which seems to be taken from an online translation, given its awkward phrasing) notes that Liebermann and Lovis Corinth also were feuding. Note to self: I need to learn more about Liebermann 'cause he sounds interesting.

As for Ury, his career received boosts from Adolph Menzel and Corinth. His personality seems to have been that of a loner, and I found no note of him ever marrying. But his art was well-regarded in his day, and I noticed that one of his pastels was auctioned for more than $200,000 a while ago.

Ury's style doesn't much appeal to me. That said, I find his oils and pastels interesting due to their subject-matter. That's probably because the period of European history that I study the most is from around 1860 to the end of World War 2. I'd love to hop into the nearest time machine and visit Berlin circa 1910.


Unter den Linden - 1922
Unter den Linden is Berlin's main street. At one end is the Brandenburg Gate, the other is just short of the Museum Island, and between are such items as a university, some embassies, and the Adlon Hotel. The view above seems to be from on the north side near Pariser Platz, looking east.

Brandenburger Tor - Brandenburg Gate - mid-1920s
Looking west on Unter den Linden in Pariser Platz. I include these daytime scenes to show another side of Ury's work.  Now to the night stuff ....

Parisian Boulevard by Night - 1880s

Im Café Bauer, Berlin - 1888-89

Abend im Café Bauer - Evening in Café Bauer - 1898

Im Café Victoria, Berlin - 1904

Couple in a Café - pastel - 1910

Reading Newspapers in a Café - pastel - 1913
A café scene, but in daytime. I include it because of the depiction of reflected light on the tabletops.

Café de la Paix bei Nacht, Paris - 1920
Hard to tell the point of view, but the background is most likely Avenue de l'Opéra even though it seems too brightly lighted.

Vor dem Café (Berlin bei Nacht) - By the Café / Berlin at Night - 1920s

Rainy Night, Berlin - 1920s

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Wilhelm Leibl: Influential, But Hard to Pin Down

Wilhelm Maria Hubertus Leibl (1844-1900) was enough of an influence on some well-known late-19th century German painters that the label Leibl-Kreis (Leibl Circle) was coined.

However, as noted here, Leibl himself was greatly influenced by Gustave Courbet. One possible result of this was his usual practice of composing paintings on the fly rather than doing a lot of careful preparatory work as academicians would do. (James Gurney had a short post about Leibl's technique here.)

This did not prevent Leibl from painting a subject more than once. So while each work might have been done extemporaneously, collectively they might be considered studies. Examples of his depiction of one subject are included below.

In general, his paintings as found on the Internet tend to be free, sketchy. But he was quite capable of working in a more precise manner.


Die drei Frauen in der Kirche - Three Women in Church - 1881
This seems to be Leibl's most famous painting. It is carefully done ... not spontaneous.

Porträt des Malers Paul v. Szinyei-Merse - Paul von Szinyei-Merse, Painter - 1869
This early portrait is sketchy indeed. Might it actually be a study?

Rosine Fischler Gräfin Treuberg - Rosine Fischler, Countess Treuberg - c. 1877
Another carefully-done work.

Rosine Fischler Gräfin Treuberg - Rosine Fischler, Countess Treuberg - c. 1877-79
Whereas this portrait of the same subject seems to be a study: note, for example, an alternative right arm and the apparent lack of a signature.

Portrait of Maria Ebersberger - artist's housekeeper
No date on this Sketch. She seems to be the subject of the following two or three images -- and quite possibly the nearest of the three women in church shown above.

Farm Girl
That is the title attached to the image as I found it on the Web, but it's clearly Maria Ebersberger.

Peasant Girl - 1880
Again, the Internet title -- but also Maria (compare the ear as well as other features to the images above).

In Erwartung - Waiting / Anticipation - 1898
The Internet date is 1898, whereas the above images of Maria Ebersberger seem to be from around 1880. Nevertheless, this seems to be Maria shown at about the same age.

Miesbacher Bäuerin - Miesbach Farm Girl - 1896
A later portrait sketch.

Strickende Mädchen auf der Ofenbank - Girls Knitting - 1892-95
And another of Leibl's later paintings.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Shedding Ivy from the Empress

Some older American colleges and universities have a springtime Ivy Day tradition that, among other activities, involves placing a stone plaque on a building and perhaps planting ivy nearby. They were doing that at Penn when I was there, though as a grad student I wasn't involved. Penn still has its Ivy Day, but I don't know if any ivy is still planted.

Ivy is not physically kind to building exteriors and camouflages a building's architecture. It's my impression that actual ivy is disappearing from Ivy League buildings and elsewhere: correct me if I'm wrong.

One example of disappearing ivy is the famous Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Once upon a time it was covered with ivy, and now it has none.


The Empress as seen from a ship in the mid-1920s. The dark areas are ivy.

A view from the 1940s. The hotel got its final major enlargement in 1928 and much of that part is ivy-covered.

A July, 1948 photo with, in the background, the north side of the hotel (at the left in the previous image) covered with ivy.

A photo of the Empress I took in 2013. The north (left) part of the hotel is now ivy-free, but plenty remains on the original section.

A photo I took recently, following the hotel's latest renovation. There's no ivy to be seen. A big improvement, in my opinion.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Hans Thoma: German Semi- Pre-Raphaelite

Hans Thoma (1839-1924), according to some sources Germany's most popular artist around the turn of the 20th century, is difficult to characterize. Well, it's difficult for me. I used the label Pre-Raphaelite in the title of this post mostly because the feeling of a number of his works echoes that of the English group. But other works, especially those dealing with religious themes, might be termed Symbolist. Yet Pre-Raphaelite paintings often had large doses of what later became classed as Symbolism. Sigh: I find this taxonomy stuff frustrating, and should learn to leave that to professional art critics and curators.

Thoma's English Wikipedia entry is here, but for more information I suggest you click on the left-hand panel, select Deutsch, and have it translated if you don't know German. Otherwise, a bit more biographical information in English is here.

He was born in a small town in the Black Forest, far from from Munich and other art centers, and more than 30 years before Bismarck created a unified Germany. Yet he was able to work his way up from decorating cuckoo clocks (an important Black Forest product then and now) to eventually becoming a professor at the Grand Ducal Art School in Karlsruhe and director of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, the state art museum there.


Self-Portrait with Love and Death - 1875
I suppose he had a reason for showing red paint on his brush, because almost no red can be found otherwise.

Self-Portrait - 1899
Painted when he was 60.

Taunus Landscape - 1890
The man and his dog in the foreground are overwhelmed by the rest of the painting, including much sky and its clouds.

Spätsommertag im Schwarzwald - Late Summer in the Black Forest - 1892
Here he was capturing the darkening leaves.

Spring - 1894
There are sheep with their owner's mark painted on them, a woman in the distance apparently doing some work, and some young people in the foreground.  These latter are jammed at the bottom of the canvas, the girl's dress and feet being clipped off, as is the left foot of the boy playing a fife.  Those figures and their activities (such as they are -- the girl seems bored) are somewhat hard to explain other than they might have been dragged there by the distant women and ordered to entertain themselves until she was done with whatever she was doing.

Diana Under the Tree
Diana was the goddess of animals as well as of hunting.

Frau mit Kind in der Hängematte, (Cella Thoma mit Nichte/Adoptivtochter Ella; das Motiv ist älter als das Bild) - Woman and Child in a Hammock (Cella Thoma with Adopted Daughter Ella; a Scene That Took Place Years Before) - 1896

Uncle Ludwig Maier - 1898
Interesting contrast between the craggy face and the smooth background.

The Flight into Egypt
Thoma painted a number of religious-themed works.

The Temptation of Christ