Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ziegfeld Theater by Joseph Urban

One building I think should have been preserved, but wasn't, was New York City's Ziegfeld Theater (1927-1966).  Its Wikipedia entry is here.   It mentions that the architects were the great Joseph Urban (1872-1933), who I wrote about here, and Thomas W. Lamb (1871-1972), who specialized in cinemas and theaters.

The style of the building is hard for me to pin down.  It was designed around the time the famous Paris Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes of 1925 was so recent that its "Art Deco" impact had yet to be strongly felt in America.  On the other hand Urban, Austrian born, was highly aware of European design trends and seems to have incorporated some of the non-geometric Parisian Deco along with his own post- Art Nouveau design sympathies.

The resulting building and its interior décor was rather busy looking, certainly by orthodox Modernist standards of European architects of the time.  For us, had it survived, the Ziegfeld Theatre would be a fascinating document of mid-1920s design by leaders in their fields.


My June, 1965 photo of the Ziegfeld Theatre, about a year before it vanished.

A dramatic architectural rendering.

Detail of the original drawing.

The Ziegfeld as it appeared in 1931.

Diagrams of the interior layout.


Balcony and some wall decoration.


Photo of a model of the proscenium.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Foujita: Cats, Women, War and Mostly Himself

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968) was born in Japan, studied Western art there, and then went to Paris where he soon had a successful career, especially during the 1920s when he was a fixture in the avant-garde art scene.  This was despite that fact that his works were fairly traditional compared to the works of his friends.  What probably helped his career was his exotic origin and that he was a rather uninhibited character.  Plenty of background is here in his Wikipedia entry.  Even more information is on his French language entry.

As the title of this post notes, Foujita mostly depicted himself, young women and cats.  His oil paintings often featured a creamy white paint concoction that became a signature characteristic of his Paris work.  The cat and many of the women images were watercolor or other media on paper.

He left France for South America in the 1930s, eventually returning to Japan.  During World War 2 he was a combat artist for the Imperial Army.  Postwar, he returned to France, became a citizen and converted to Catholicism.

His works command five-digit auction prices.


Photo of Foujita by Roger-Viollet - 1926
His hair bangs and round-lens glasses were visual trademarks.

Self-Portrait in the Studio
I don't have a date for this, but think it might be a fairly early painting.

Autoportrait au Chat - 1927
Painted in France, here he features Japanese style.

Autoportrait - 1936
From his South American period.

Autoportrait - 1954
In France, age 68.

The Cat - 1926
In New York's Met collection.  Cats seem to be his best subject matter.

Café - 1918
A fairly early Paris painting.

Head of a Young Girl - 1926

Portrait du Youki - 1926
Youki (the name he bestowed on Lucie Badoul) was his third wife who later dropped him for Surrealist Robert Desnos.

Jeune femme nouant son châle - 1951

The Fall of Singapore - 1942
Combat art.  I don't know if Foujita ever went into the field -- after all, he was in his fifties by then.  In the center is a dead Japanese soldier.  That's not surprising, given the Japanese code of honorable death in combat.  Western combat artists might have thought twice before making such an inclusion.

Final Charge Against the Americans - Attu- 1943
Obviously Foutita was not present when the Americans retook that Aleutian island, so the whole scene is imaginative.  Note the World War One style helmets on the American troops.  This headgear was phased out during 1942 for the "steel pot" helmet, so it seems that Foujita's reference material was out of date.  Also note the Western style drawing and how different it is from his Paris works.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

More Edgar Payne Images

Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947), as I noted here a few years ago, is one of my favorite California Impressionist painters.  His Wikipedia entry is here.

Although he included people in the form of tiny figures in his paintings, so far as I know no close-up portrait-type images by him exist.  One of the few Payne paintings where human figures predominate is "Navajo Scouting Party" shown immediately below.

In the Gallery following the main text is another sampler of of his works (more can be seen in the link above to my previous post dealing with him).


In the Canal, Chioggia
Chioggia is a small port city at the south end of the Venetian Lagoon.

Valley of St. Gervais
Perhaps more a sketch than a finished painting, Payne used broad brushwork here.

Temple Crag
Another sketch-type work, here a California scene.

Surging Sea
Not a placid subject.  Payne either had to wait a few waves to catch dramatic ones such as this while painting, or else he invented the wave relying on memory or perhaps used a reference photo.

San Gabriel Road
Not a typical Payne scene because it's urban, in a small way.

Riders Overlooking Canyon
He probably added the figures to provide a sense of scale.

Lake Lucerne
Note the many vertical brush strokes and the layering of colors.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Some Rockefeller Center Sculptures

A faithful reader of this blog recently suggested that I write a post dealing with sculptures at New York City's Rockefeller Center.  Fine idea.  Below are images from when the center was new along with some color photos I took on various visits.

The style used by the various artists is what might today best be called Moderne or Art Deco.  In the 1930s when the work was done, the works were simply fashionable, up-to-date sculpting in tune with the architecture of the development.


Architectural rendering of lower Rockefeller Plaza by John Wenrich, 1932.  At the time this was made, it seems that decisions regarding the sculpture at the fountain and the decorations over the entrance to the RCA Building behind it had not been made final.  So Wenrich probably used his imagination regarding those details.

"Prometheus" by Paul Manship - 1934 photo.

Prometheus in the foreground along with two adjoining works that are no longer present.  In the background is the main entrance area of the RCA Building with sculptural items by Lee Lawrie.

Closer, more recent view.

RCA Building entrance sculptures.

This is now called "Wisdom."  Originally it was "Genius."  Or more precisely, "Genius, Which Interprets to the Human Race the Laws and Cycles of the Universe, Making the Cycles of Light and Sound."

Flanking Genius are "Sound" (to the left) and "Light" (to the right, shown here).

Bronze Mercury on the British Empire Building, Lee Lawrie sculptor.

Also by Lawrie, but on the Maison Française, "Seeds of Good Citizenship," 1937.

Isamo Noguchi working on the full-scale plaster model of "News" for the Associated Press Building.

News being installed, 1940.

Bronze figures atop the main entrance to the British Empire Building, Carl Paul Jennewein sculptor.

Maison Française entrance bronze by Alfred Janiot.

Besides Prometheus, the best-known Rockefeller Center sculpture is "Atlas" at the front of the International Building, Lee Lawrie sculptor.

Atlas closeup.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Burton Silverman's Views and Images

Burton Silverman (1928 - ), illustrator and painter, never succumbed to Modernism.  Yet he has had a reasonably successful career despite his refusal to follow artistic/commercial fashions.  For a farily recent take regarding that and other artistic matters, I strongly urge you to link to this Art Students League interview of him.

Silverman's Wikipedia entry is here, and I, a big fan, wrote about him here.

In that interview he mentions that he does not try to maintain a consistent style.  However, he thinks this of his more recent work: "It’s evolving a bit because a lot of my painting now has got a high degree of finish, more than it had twenty years ago. It used to be more pastel-related with a lot more brushstrokes. Now it’s more hidden. So a lot of the ways that I apply paint have changed, and it takes more time. I’m not a patient nine-to-five painter."

Regaarding Cézanne: "I couldn’t respond to Cézanne’s still lifes or even his card players. His landscapes are highly-prized for qualities I just cannot discern. There is a pleasure principle in all art, OK? For me that must include something else which is incredibly important, which is what I talked about before—that human element."

Regarding Picasso: "Picasso’s vaunted skills were overrated: his early paintings were still quite ordinary and repetitious of then contemporary Spanish artists. And he systematically aped Lautrec and Edvard Munch before turning image-making on its head with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. These are arrogant things for me to say. I’m clearly not considered an important enough critic. But think of this: there are only a couple of serious negative critiques in print among all the tons of Picasso books written since he became famous."

Regarding John Singer Sargent: "Yeah, I thought he was a bit too glib, and next to Rembrandt appeared superficial. I changed my mind. I see that he made certain elements of his painting appealing to the people he was actually dissecting. They looked only at the appurtenances. You know the dresses, the furniture, the setting to sanctify their wealth. The idea that Sargent was a premier coup painter—one touch and you’re done—absolutely wrong. You have to really look at the paintings of the features, the heads. They are very considered, and they are constructed by many layers of built-up paint. That is where their luminosity comes from. A lot of them are extremely penetrating, psychologically-attuned portraits."

I agree to all of that.

Below is a sampling of Silverman's work.


"A Short and Scary Walk with Andrew Jackson" - American Heritage Magazine - October 1992
An example of his late illustration work.  Note the thin, black lines on the sketchily painted pantlegs and elsewhere.  We will find more examples below..

Demstration image
Silverman's thin black lines have intrigued me for years.  In this demonstration, he first blocked in the head and then added the black.  Here it seems to have mostly been applied using a thin brush.  But the very thin, regular lines were probably applied using the edge of a palette knife.

Photo of Silverman painting
Note the thin, black lines on the sleeve and hand.  He sometimes chose not to paint over all of them, though he might, in this case.

Blue Sneakers

Near the Shenandoah - 2010
A fairly recent painting made when Silverman was around 80 years old.  Very "finished."

Sewing a Patchwork Quilt - 1979
Probably Claire, his wife.  Note traces of black lines.

Rt. Rev. Bishop Paul Moore - 1997
Commissioned portrait.

Beverly Derrick
Another one.

Chelsea Square
Silverman also painted New York scenes where the subjects were behind glass windows.

Fast Food - 2004
He makes use of photography as reference and take-off points.  Here a photo might have helped him with the window reflections.