Friday, September 28, 2012

Dublin Nouveau

The Art Nouveau architectural/decorative movement of roughly 1890-1910 had considerable impact in several cities in the northern half of Europe: Prague, Riga, Brussels, Budapest and Paris quickly come to mind as boasting notable structures designed in that idiom.

One place Art Nouveau passed by was Dublin, Ireland. Now there might indeed be an Art Nouveau style building someplace in the town, but if there was, I missed it during three full days of traipsing around the city in August.

All was not lost! A helpful guidebook directed us to Dawson Street and the Café en Seine, a pub gloriously decorated with Art Nouveau style objects.

Take a look at some photos I took:


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jack B., the Other Yeats

The grave in my photo above is that of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), author, poet and sometime politician. It is in the yard of a Protestant church in Drumcliffe, County Sligo, Republic of Ireland. You might well have heard of him.

But I'm not sure many readers outside of Ireland know of his brother, Jack Butler Yeats (1871-1957) who, like their father, was a painter (Wikipedia entry here and further biographical information here). I wasn't aware of him until I visited the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin a short while ago where significant space was devoted to his works, perhaps in part because he was appointed Governor of the organization in 1939.

Yeats earned a living by illustration and cartooning until he was well into his 40s, though he began exhibiting paintings around 1906, according to Wikipedia. By the 1920s, while in his 50s, his style became increasingly influenced by Modernism, though he never quite embraced pure abstraction, so far as I can tell from a Google search of his images.

Here are some paintings from various parts of his career.


Bachelor's Walk, In Memory - 1915
This shows flowers being placed in memory of a nationalist shot by British troops

In the Tram - 1923
The Liffey Swim - 1923
Two Dublin scenes painted the same year (the Liffey is a river flowing through the heart of Dublin). Yeats' style is becoming more free with less attention paid to shapes of the objects depicted.

O'Connell Bridge - 1927
Four years later, he features the Liffey again in a view from the main bridge crossing it. Further distortion of subject matter.

High Spring Tide - 1939
By the late 30s Yeats's style evolved to something like Impressionism where scenes were made up of tangles of brushstrokes of various colors.

Grief - 1951
Further evolution to the point that objects are difficult to distinguish at all.

Despite the great local attention devoted to Yeats' paintings, I found them unappealing messes, in particular those done from the late 1920s onward. But then, my ancestry is Irish at the very margin, so perhaps that's why I don't "get" his art.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Galbraith's Pampered Women

William Galbraith Crawford (1894-1978) was a cartoonist / illustrator who left many examples of his work, but little trace of his personal life if Google search results are any indication.

Walt Reed in his book "The Illustrator in America" states that Crawford (who signed his work "Galbraith") was Born in Salt Lake City and attended Brigham Young University for two years before going on to the Art Students League and other art schools. Much of his career was devoted to the "Side Glances" single-panel newspaper cartoon that he took over from George Clark in 1939.

I am more partial to some cartoons he did for The New Yorker magazine in the 1930s that featured glamorous young ladies who were often being kept by rich, older men. My reason is that Galbraith did a really nice job of drawing them.

Below are some examples. The first one is a World War 2 vintage "Side Glances" panel. The others are crude scans I made from my copy of "The New Yorker 25th Anniversary Album" from 1950. Even though the images are more than 70 years old, I assume that Condé Nast holds the copyright, and therefore is given credit here.


From "Side Glances"
I could not find a caption for this cartoon. I include it to show Galbraith's post-New Yorker style.

Caption: "Darling, I'm sorry I called you a tramp."
For some reason (probably having to do with the image as it appeared in the book as opposed to the magazine) we have a waffle background pattern. The best that I, not a scanning jock, could manage.

Caption: "I haven't taken any interest in politics since Jimmy Walker retired."
James J. ("Jimmy") Walker was New York City's bon-vivant mayor 1926-32 who had to resign due to scandal.

Caption: "I never told her about the depression. She would have worried."

Caption: "And if Roosevelt is not reelected, perhaps even a villa in Newport, my dearest sweet."

Caption: "Now if Jimmy boy doesn't try to steal this next scene, Yvonne will buy him a great big ice-cream cone."
I think this is the best-drawn of the lot. The poses and details strike me as being spot-on.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Glasgow, Scotland experienced rapid growth in the 19th century due to its emergence as an industrial center. A major industry there was (and to a lesser extent today is) shipbuilding along the River Clyde. The Clyde also served as a shipping point for other goods produced in Glasgow. But that too has declined, sections of the river's banks becoming stretches of underused warehouses and other structures related to commerce. The result of this decline is the extensive urban renewal I witnessed in August.

As is usual elsewhere, this renewal has been in the form of stripping an area nearly bare of previous structures and replacing them with dull open spaces dotted with Modernist structures that are visually and scale-relatedly unwelcoming to human beings. They are either simple Modernist boxes or "dramatic" shapes that are presumably intended to be large-scale sculptures.

Here are some early morning photos I took while tracking down the location of the car rental firm I needed to get to the next day. From end-to-end, the distance from the first to the last structures shown is probably around half a mile (less than 1 kilometer).


BBC Scotland building

Science Centre and IMAX building, plus a tower

How the BBC and Science Centre relate

Opposite direction: bridges and Scottish TV building

The Clyde Auditorium: locals call it "Armadillo"

The new stadium under construction near the Auditorium

I suppose all this is an improvement over decaying warehouses or whatever used to sit next to the Clyde, but I find it depressing. The real Glasgow lies a short distance north of the river and to me it's an enjoyable place to visit. If you ever travel to Scotland, give it a try.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gerald Festus Kelly, Traditional Portrait Artist

The photo above is of Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879-1972) painting Edith Teresa Hulton, wife of the 8th Lord Berwick, with the (circa 1923) finished painting shown below it. As you might see, Kelly was a skilled realist and, as his Wikipedia (entry) indicates, had a successful career. Unlike most artists of his time, he had a strong, elite, formal education, attending Eton and Cambridge before heading to Paris to study art.

Despite his social connections, skills and success, Kelly seems little known today. After I finished scooping up examples of his work for this post, I noticed that the earliest one was painted when he was about 40. No doubt earlier works can be located, but it makes me wonder what he was doing artistically before 1919; Wikipedia offers no clue.

Kelly's career overlapped and then extended beyond those of Philip de Laszlo (1869-1937), John Lavery (1856-1941), and William Orpen (1878-1931) who stepped into the British portrait scene after John Singer Sargent phased out that aspect of his career. This placed him at a time when Modernism was rapidly gaining ascendancy in the intellectual class, and traditionalist painters such as Kelly were dismissed as dull-witted copyists of nature. Snap conclusion: born at a fairly good time to have a decent commercial career but a bad time in terms of artistic reputation-building.

Examples of Kelly's work are shown below. Not shown are some not-safe-for-work nudes. To view those, you'll have to Google on his name and switch into "Images."


Jane (his wife, Lilian Ryan) - 1919
An unfinished portrait. There's another one farther down as further fodder for readers interested in technique.

Lady in Blue ("Jane")

Consuelo (VII) - 1919
The Roman numeral indicates that this was one of a series of paintings.

Countess of Lisburne - 1926

Sah Ohn Nyun (V) - 1932
Again, one of a series.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother - 1938
Wikipedia indicates that Kelly was a favorite of the Royals. This painting of Queen Elizabeth was made shortly after her husband, George VI, became King.

Ralph Vaughan Williams - 1958-61
The composer in his later years; Kelly also painted him earlier.

Montague Rhodes James - c.1936
I include this to show how Kelly worked up at least some of his portraits. Like the "Jane" above, he was of the do-the-face-first school rather than following the practice of continually working over the entire canvas surface to retain "balance."


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Monday, September 17, 2012

John Clymer's Countryside Covers

Up until shortly before 1920, the population of the United States was more than half what the Census Bureau defines as "rural." By that, the Bureau meant either living outside any kind of town or else living in a town or built-up area of less than 2,500 population. The rural share of population continued to decline after that point, but its nostalgic echo remained in the popular mind.

The Saturday Evening Post was the dominant general-interest, mass circulation magazine in the United States during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, and its editors did their best to select cover illustrations that appealed to as many current and potential readers as possible. The most famous Post cover artist is Norman Rockwell, but he obviously couldn't be burdened with producing an illustration every week; his production at best was around one cover illustration per month. Thankfully for the Post, there were plenty of other illustrators willing and largely able to take up the slack.

Some of those illustrators had artistic "personalities" more distinct than others. One of these was John Clymer (1907-1989) whose Wikipedia entry is here.

My mother always enjoyed seeing cover art by Clymer because he was born and raised where she went to college -- Ellensburg, Washington, a small city just on the east side of the Cascade mountain range. Clymer mostly painted outdoor scenes from the Mountain West part of North America, these for advertising, art gallery sales and magazine illustration.

Being a city boy, I was never as taken with Clymer's work as was my mother. And today my opinion is that his work was professionally competent, yet somehow lacking in the spark that sets top-notch artists and illustrators apart from the ordinary. That said, there is no denying that Clymer had a successful career: painting even one Post cover was a large feather in any illustrator's cap.

Below is a chronologically arranged selection of Clymer's cover art for the Post.

The setting for this illustration is easy for me to identity. The mountain in the background is Mt. Hood in the state of Oregon as seen from the east in the fruit orchard region near the Columbia River, perhaps on the Washington State side.

The two covers above obviously have Mountain West settings, but I'm not sure where. The illustration immediately above shows mountains similar to those Clymer would have seen near Ellensburg, but I can't be sure that they aren't the Tetons or some other cluster of jagged peaks.

This looks like Vermont, New Hampshire or Upstate New York. It is not a Mountain West scene for once.

Orchards again, but the green, rounded hills don't remind me of orchard county in Washington or British Columbia.

Back in the Mountain West. The upper scene could be in any number of places. The lower cover has pretty dramatic mountains, but I can't place them; can any reader help?

The source site indicates that the image is of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Brickwork Moderne Odeon Cinema

In the 1930s the style was sometimes called Moderne, though now the term Art Deco is more likely to be used for the architecture of cinemas built in those days by the Odeon chain in Britain. I think Moderne is actually the better term because the style was comprised more of curved corners and streamline stripes or flutings than the geometry-inspired ornamentation typical of 1920s Deco.

The movie industry was one that skated through the Great Depression in good shape, even prospering. That was probably because people were willing to spend a small amount of money for an evening's entertainment even (especially?) in hard times in lieu of other spending. So theaters were built, and the Odeon organization decided to build theirs in the trendy architectural idiom of the day.

Below are examples of Odeon's 1930s cinemas.



Waltham Forest


Colwyn Bay


Odeon's cinemas in Chester and York differ a bit from the other cinemas shown because they were located in historic cities, places so old that they were Roman Legion bases. The most noticeable architectural concession is the use of brickwork rather than some other material as cladding.

York - August, 2012
Here is the York (former) Odeon as I saw it in August. For more information about the building's recent history including a three-year closing, see here and here