Monday, May 30, 2011

Walter Everett, Destructive Master

An illustrator whose work should be much better known is Walter H. Everett (1880-1946). Unfortunately, almost none of his original artwork remains. That's because he burned it.

Illustration über-maven David Apatoff presents much of what is known about Everett here (executive summary: he was odd) and Bud Plant has a short take here. That's pretty much it via the Internet if the first couple of Google search pages are any indication. The illustration-related books in my library add little of importance.

Evidence that exists indicates that Everett was capable of creating illustrations of quality that is art museum material. Especially two pieces: The header illustration to this post and the lead illustration in the Gallery section below. I included a few other works that aren't at that level but, as noted, there is little available.


The Loneliness of Peter Parrot - 1924
Illustration that appeared in Good Housekeeping magazine.

I don't have a citation for this illustration.

Samuel Offered on the Steps of the Temple - 1909

Liberty Bonds poster

The two lead illustrations demonstrate that Everett had a mastery of light and color along with skill at placing his brush. To some degree this should be expected, given that he received training from Howard Pyle himself.

Apatoff notes that Everett was a perfectionist. Too bad he wasn't also a packrat.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Opera Notes

My wife likes for us to attend opera, so I go. Last week it was Mozart's Magic Flute which we'd previously seen in San Jose. The Seattle Opera production was better, the role of bird-man Papageno more clarified as comic relief. Anyway, I left the hall for home with a couple of thought-themes rattling around my head:

* * * * *

Opera plots normally don't have much to them. Usually there's a love interest. That serves to generate some dramatic conflict of the expected sort, but other crises and twists are sometimes inserted despite the glacial dramatic pace necessitated by the singing.

Magic Flute plays up an idealized secret society comprised of wise, superior, truth-speaking, tolerant people who ... well, it wasn't clear to me just what they did except that they were able to exercise some sort of power in what remained an imperfect world in spite of that power. Much of the second act dealt with some sort of initiation process built around the love interest. Yes, opera plots are largely fantasies, but I find the idealistic secret society bit particularly archaic from the standpoint today's world. Legends and mythology I don't mind because they are timeless, but secret societies are too rooted in history for me to be pulled into the story line easily.

Secret societies were Hot Stuff in Mozart's day and this continued through the 19th century in the form of college fraternities, sororities and non-college groups as well. What really got me was the idealistic notion that mankind could be so perfectible, at least in the form of an intellectually and morally pure elite. People in their late teens and early twenties can still buy into this notion, but life experience and the reading of history combine to make me wonder what Mozart and librettist Emanuel Schikaneder were thinking. They were young and living in the Age of Enlightenment after all. But that "relevance" to their time negated the possibility of "timelessness" to their opera. That and the utopian notion of abolishing human nature.

* * * * *

Another thought. From what I've read, European audiences up until nicely into the 20th century were quite capable of expressing dislike for theatrical productions by booing, hooting and even throwing objects onto the stage. At the Seattle Opera, audiences are prone to wildly applaud almost anything and never, ever boo or hiss. In fact, the only breaks in decorum I've experienced there were some loud whoops of approval during curtain calls.

Did those Europeans know something Seattleites don't? Which kind of audience reaction is preferable when a performance is sub-par? And just how can one indicate disapproval in such a polite atmosphere? Beats me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Peak Art

When I was a commercial art student there was a very small group of emerging artists whose work astonished me. Those guys were so good I came to realize that I could never compete with their likes. So I dropped art after graduation and moved on to more technical fields including demographic forecasting and computer system programming.

One of those master illustrators was the great Bernie Fuchs. Another was Bob Peak (1927-1992). A web site about him run by his son is here and a short Wikipedia entry is here.

Peak seems to be best known for his movie posters such as these:

Notice anything?

What I note is versatility. Peak could work in a variety of styles and media and do fine work regardless. Below are more examples that I hope will give you something of the sense of professional awe I experienced in my student days and thereafter when I encountered his work.


Two advertisement illustrations for Trans-World Airlines. These are in the Bernie Fuchs mode.

Poster art for My Fair Lady.

Portrait of Jimmy Carter used for a Time magazine cover.

Watercolor portrait of Louis Armstrong.

Portrait of painter and art instructor Robert Henri -- again rather Fuchs-like.

Advertising art: elegant, Deco-poster like.

As I said, versatile

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dodge's Crippled Retro Charger

American Automobile makers use "Retro" styling a lot. There are reasons why, of varying degrees of plausibility. One might be that by evoking beloved cars of yore, sentimental buyers might be lured from BMWs, Toyotas and other foreign-based brands to return to the Yankee fold of their youth. Or maybe stylists or management have simply run out of ideas for new styling themes.

Regardless, what is, is. In today's post, the "is" is the facelifted Dodge Charger that uses the same body as the Chrysler 300.


There was an earlier Charger than the 1968 version shown here, but the '68s sported one of the finest American styling themes of that era. This was the inspiration for the 2011 Charger. Besides the flowing lines and the relationships between the various shapes, note the wedge-shaped indentations behind the front wheel well: this idea is what the 2011 retrieves.

This rear three-quarter view illustrates other aspects of the sensuous styling.

Chargers were used in the popular 1970s television series Dukes of Hazzard. I include this action photo because it was the best side view I could locate on the Web. What's important for us is the car's length. Without that length, the styling shown above could not be achieved.

Here is the 2008 model Charger. It uses the Chrysler 300 body with slight differences including the grille and fenderline "hop." Unlike the '68, it's a four-door sedan, no two-door coupe being made on the platform.

The 300 and Charger got facelifts for the 2011 model year. The most obvious Charger difference is the side, where the fenderline was altered and a 1968-like indented wedge was added.

Here's a rear 3/4 view. Compare to the 1968 shown above.

This is the key shot. Compare this to the side view above. Note how much more boxy the basic '11 body is -- due to short rear and (especially) front overhang. The underlying shape is not at all sensuous. In fact, that borrowed side indentation simply makes the car look stubbier than pre-facelift version.

I passed a 2011 Charger a few days ago on my commute to work and was struck by how awkward it seemed and how little the styling relationship was from the classic 1968 model. This is simply a case of Retro gone wrong.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Blogging Note

This post is for blogging and software geeks, and not necessarily for art-oriented readers.

Regular readers probably notice that I've had to suggest double-clicking on images to both enlarge and improve quality. The quality factor puzzled me because, at 2Blowhards, I always got clear images, provided the source image was fine. I also knew that other blogs on Blogspot had nice, clear large images. What was I doing wrong?

It turns out that it was my my error: I was adjusting the Blogger software produced HTML code without adjusting everything necessary to preserve quality.

Default Blogger takes images and sizes them to a set maximum. Because this blog focuses on images, I want them larger than what Blogger was providing. So I go into the HTML code and resize images to suit my needs. Often, the result was a bubbly appearance. Finally I shrugged off my habitual torpor and discovered that the Blogger-generated code included, buried in four or five lines of image-specific code, this: "s320" -- which seems to be a secondary size specification. And by changing s320 to s640 I could get clear images.

So from here on, s640 it is. I also went back and modified the HTML for some of the most popular older posts and I'll do others as time and inclination permit.

Apologies for not dealing with this problem sooner.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Alma-Tadema's New Springtime

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912) is shaping up to be the new Andy Warhol.

That's so if you consider recent auction results. Last November his "The Finding of Moses" sold for $35,922,500 and more recently "The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 B.C." went for $29,22,500. Not bad for a once-forgotten artist whose paintings were selling for hundreds 50 or 60 years ago.

The Finding of Moses - 1904

The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 B.C. - 1885

The link above is to a lengthy Wikipedia entry. Plus there are books about Tadema, so I won't dwell on his career other than to mention that he combined great talent, research skills and a not-dour personality to reach great popularity in his lifetime -- a popularity that has been re-emerging since the 1960s.

One popular painting that's accessible to many Americans is "Spring" -- a star of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. It's large (80 x 179.1 cm / 31.5 in. x 5 ft. 10.5 in.) containing a jumble of figures whose faces (if memory serves) are only about two or three cm. high.

To celebrate Tadema's newfound stature, below is Spring along with a few detail photos I took a while ago. You can try clicking to enlarge them, but the results will be somewhat fuzzy because those enlargements are much bigger than the original art. All the images pictured here can be enlarged.


Spring - 1894

A slightly closer version of the preceding detail.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Raymond Hood: America's Most Competent Architect?

Many observers claim Frank Lloyd Wright to be America's greatest architect. Maybe. I think he was the most creative, but creativity doesn't have to be synonymous with greatness.

So if Wright is iffy greatest-wise in my book, then who might be another contender? I nominate Raymond Hood (1881-1934). And as the title of this post suggests, he has claim as America's most competent architect, even if the matter of greatness can be disputed.

I base my contention on Hood's ability to do outstanding work in several styles: traditional, Deco and modernist. Besides his skyscrapers, Hood also designed a resort and houses -- including his own traditionally-designed place in Stamford, Connecticut. Unfortunately, decently detailed biographical material is hard to find on the Internet; for instance, consider his puny Wikipedia entry here. Fortunately, some books dealing with Hood can be found, though no significant ones are recent.

Hood's career was short but brilliant, lasting about a dozen years up to his early death at age 53 when he was associated with the Rockefeller Center project. It's difficult to predict how he might have evolved had he lived another 20 or so years. Certainly the Depression would have curtailed his output, yet he would have been around in time for the start of the post- World War 2 building boom. My best guess, given the flexibility he exhibited in the 1920s and early 30s, is that he might well have out-Miesed Mies van der Rohe in the 50s.

Below are examples of Hood's work.


Tribune Tower, Chicago - 1924
The Howells & Hood firm won the famous Tribune Tower competition, launching Hood's fame. Modernists sneered at it, preferring the entry by Finland's great Eliel Saarinen, father of noted architect Eero Saarinen.

American Radiator Building, New York City - 1924
The Tribune win quickly led to a commission for the American Radiator Building on the south side of Bryant Park. Georgia O'Keeffe made a notable painting of this building.

Rex Cole showroom, Brooklyn
Hood designed a few showrooms for appliance dealer Rex Code. The one shown was located in the southwest Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge. That's a model of a General Electric refrigerator atop the building.

New York Daily News Building - 1929
Hood's Daily News Building was the first tall Modernist building in New York, though purists thought the vertical emphasis was slightly "dishonest" (in terms of their rigid ideology). That's the Third Avenue Elevated station at 42nd Street in the foreground.

McGraw-Hill Building - 1931
So Hood flipped the emphasis to horizontal for the McGraw-Hill publishing firm headquarters. This was more "honest" for the purists, who then complained the the Deco top decoration was (ugh!) decoration and therefore "dishonest." One just can't win when trying to please the hardcore, it seems. Actually, I never warmed to the McGraw-Hill -- that horizontal windowing motif made it seem stubbier than it really was. Like the Daily News, the McGraw-Hill was on 42nd Street, but towards the west side of town; the station seen here is for the 9th Avenue Elevated.

Even though I clearly like Raymond Hood a lot, there are other architects I find as appealing in different ways. I'll feature them from time to time in future posts.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sir James Guthrie, Glasgow Boy

Sir James Guthrie (1859-1930) was one of the Glasgow Boys, a group of late-19th century Scottish painters influenced by French realist Jules Bastien-Lepage.

Like some other artists of middle-class origin in those days, his family sent him to university with the idea that he would practice law. And like the others he abandoned that line of education to take up art, though his art training came largely by self-education.

Regardless of how he mastered his skills, Guthrie became one of the most prominent Scottish artists of his time. By 1902 he was president of the Royal Scottish Academy and in 1903 was knighted.

The best place to find Guthrie's painting is Glasgow, of all places. Unfortunately for me, the last time I was in Glasgow I hadn't yet launched into serious study of art history and skated through Kelvingrove faster than I really should have.


A Funeral in the Highlands - 1881-82

To Pastures New - 1882-83

Schoolmates - 1884-85

Old Willie, A Village Worthy - 1886

Summer House, St. Mary Isle - 1886

Maggie Hamilton - 1892-93

Friday, May 13, 2011

Molti Ritratti: Dame Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell (1887-1964), poet, critic, female component of a trio of artsy siblings well connected to the English upper crust, did not escape the portrait painter's brush as can be seen below. Her Wikipedia entry is here.

Sitwell's depictions are of interest because several of the artists were her friends -- especially Pavel Tchelitchev (transliterations of his name from the Russian vary). Of more interest is that these artists were modernists of one stripe or another in a period where all artists were trying to figure what to do with modernism in the wake of that decade or so of all those "isms" cascading down from (mostly) Paris. Adding to the complexity of the situation, they were painting portraits -- meaning that the results had to relate in a least some small manner to their purported subject.


Photo of Sitwell

By Roger Fry
As best I can tell from citations, both the portraits by Fry were painted 1918 or thereabouts. Fry was an art critic and theoretician (popularizing the term "Post-Impressionism") who also did portraits and some other works.

By Alvaro Guevara, c. 1919

By Pavel Tchelitchev - c. 1930
Tchelitchev is best known as a Surrealist, but that movement was still more literary and political than painting-oriented when Sitwell sat for this work.

By Windham Lewis
Lewis was England's best-known modernist portrait artist when this was painted (begin in 1923 but not "completed" -- her hands were never added -- until 1935).

By Pavel Tchelitchev - 1935
According to the link above, Sitwell was quite taken with Tchelitchev even though their approaches to sex probably destined the relationship to be on the Platonic side. Neither Tchelitchev portrait shown here (as well as others) depicts Sitwell in a remotely flattering light. But she apparently didn't mind. The image above seems to be a scan from a book.

By Feliks Topolski
This portrait is an exception in that it was made decades later than the others and when Abstract Expressionism was the flavor of the day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Goutte d'Eau Style: Late-30s French Streamlining

I recently posted about the teardrop design motif favored by Norman Bel Geddes in the early 1930s. The linkage of the teardrop shape to aerodynamic streamlining resulted in an industrial design fashion during the 30s that eventually reached cliché proportions. Nevertheless, that shape is pleasing and its use in car bodies usually resulted in improved aerodynamic efficiency when compared to similar cars build prior to, say, 1935.

Although the teardrop motif was applied to large, often bulky sedans, it achieved its aesthetic zenith with sports cars. French sports cars, to be more specific. America didn't do sports cars in those days and the English apparently were too conservative style-wise to abandon traditional fenders for the teardrop kind. Same for the Germans, though a few examples of teardrop sports sedans can be found. And some late-1930s Alfa Romeos sported the teardrop motif.

But it was the French who dominated that style scene, with the coachbuilding firm Figoni & Falaschi leading the pack. If this interests you, try to locate a copy of Richard Adatto's book (French edition shown above, but the English version has a similar cover). It seems to be out of print, but it's worth tracking down if you love that kind of styling.

Here are some examples.


Peugeot Andreau prototype - 1936
A sports sedan rather than a sports car, but I include it because it illustrates what was in the air of France when the cars show below were being conceived.

Dalahaye 135 Competition by Figoni et Falaschi - 1936

Delahaye 165 by Figoni et Falaschi - 1939
This car was sent to the USA for inclusion as part of the French exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Delage D8-120 by Letourneur et Marchand - 1939

Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS by Figoni et Falaschi - 1938

Talbot-Lago T23 by Figoni et Falschi - c.1938
The ultimate French teardrop sports car.