Friday, October 31, 2014

Molti Ritratti: Lady Diana Cooper

Diana Olivia Winifred Maud Cooper, Viscountess Norwich, née Lady Diana Manners (1892-1986) was one of those society beauties who was too attractive to capture with oil or any other kind of paints. Not that a few artists didn't try, and some of their efforts are shown below.

On the other hand, cameras love certain kinds of beauty (and vice-versa, I assume). So the best images of Lady Diana Cooper seem to come via photography, as also can be seen below. The photo at the top of this post is by Emil Otto Hoppé (1878-1972), and is perhaps the iconic image of Diana.

Her Wikipedia entry is here, and views of how she lived can be found here.

Photo Gallery

Also by Hoppé - 1916

Photo showing left profile

By Cecil Beaton

Time magazine cover - 15 February, 1926

Artist Gallery

By James Jebusa Shannon when Diana was young

By James Jebusa Shannon at the time of her marriage to Duff Cooper (1919)

By John Lavery - Lady Diana Cooper with Hazel Lavery and Viscountess de Janze - 1919

By Ambrose McEvoy

Drawing by John Singer Sargent

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shifty School Colors

I can only write with confidence about certain parts of the United States that I'm especially familiar with. But I wouldn't be surprised if the same sort of thing I'm about to discuss isn't fairly common elsewhere.

The subject here is school colors at the college and university level. (For overseas readers, "colleges" in America are post-secondary schools. Setting aside two-year "community colleges," technical schools and such, a college is typically a four-year undergraduate institution of the liberal arts variety that lacks additional schools a university will have such as law, medicine, business, engineering, etc.)

Schools at almost any level here in the States have associated colors. Often when a school is established, its students will vote on a color scheme -- typically a two-color combination. For schools established many years ago such as in the Ivy League, colors might have been set by other means; I don't know details. As for my personal experience, as best I remember, my elementary school had no colors. My junior high was something like violet and white, and the high school had green and gold (actually more like a yellow in practice).

Where it gets interesting enough to blog about is when one begins to notice that school colors don't necessarily remain exactly the same over time or setting.

Let's start with the Ivy League, and focus on Harvard and Penn. Harvard's color is crimson, a bright red that edges slightly in the blue direction. Around Harvard Yard one can actually see some crimson here and there such as in the banner shown above.

But as to what students wear when it comes to school colors, the hue used is more like a maroon. I suspect that's because a strong red such as crimson usually doesn't work well on apparel.

Nowadays, schools can earn tidy amounts of extra money via products licensed to display coats of arms, colors and so forth. As seen above, Penn lays out in detail just what the expected colors are.

Penn's colors are red and blue. The banner pictured here shows a different set of those colors than the official specification indicates. When I was at Penn, I would see banners, pennants and such with the brighter hues shown above as well as the darker, slightly toned down official shades. To put it roughly, the bright Penn colors are associated with athletic settings (though not on team uniforms) and the darker colors are for clothing, uniforms and most other purposes. This is much like Harvard, where bright, rather "pure" colors aren't for everyday wearing, especially by 20th and 21st century American males.

I have a BA and a MA from the University of Washington. Its school colors are purple and gold, voted by the students in 1892 who were inspired by the first stanza of Lord Byron's The Destruction of Sennacherib. The colors shown above were those I experienced when I was there. As this indicates, those are the colors to be used for Web applications.

On the other hand for "branding" purposes, this color palette is now official, and is about what you see on the hoodie above, with the purple a bit lighter. This washed-out purple and gold color set is comparatively recent and is tied, I think, to the marketing of clothing for students and sports fans. I prefer the stronger colors aesthetically, but don't buy UW color clothing because (1) I don't think I look right in purple, and (2) I earned my right to be an Ivy League snob, and so prefer Penn colors.

Down the road at the University of Oregon, the colors are green and gold, like those of my high school in Seattle. Oregon sports teams are called the Ducks, so many years ago Disney artists created a fighting Donald Duck in Oregon colors as a kind of team mascot.

Even an angry Donald Duck is not very terrifying. So as Oregon grew to become a national football power over the last 15 years or so, the Donald was de-emphasized and the colors shifted, at least for athletic and logo clothing purposes. Shown above is what seems to be current. The green has been blackened and the gold turned into a yellow. The gray items (not an official color) represent duck feathers.

Farther down the coast is UCLA. It seems that all University of California branches use forms of blue and gold, but these vary from campus to campus, with UCLA favoring something like a horizon blue, sometimes even a little lighter than on the hoodie seen here.

Yet darker blues are also seen around UCLA, blues suspiciously near those found up north in Berkeley. Apparently that's legit, as this color guide states. The paler blue is favored, but a darker shade is considered okay as a "secondary" version. Both color set variations are wearable, so unlike Harvard and Penn and, to perhaps a lesser degree at Washington and Oregon, the avoidance of strong colors did not seem to be a consideration at UCLA.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Henri-Joseph Harpignies: At the Far Edge of Impressionism

Henri-Joseph Harpignies (1819-1916) lived for nearly a century. In his youth, Academic painting was riding high and, by the time of his death, some artists were painting purely abstract works. Harpignies, however, stuck to a narrow stylistic range -- largely Barbizon, but sometimes with a touch of the Macchiaioli, a group of Italian proto-Impressionists. A biographical note is here.

Harpignies was primarily a landscape painter; Google Images-search of his works turn up only incidental people in the landscapes shown. His style varied from clearly Barbizon-like detailing to somewhat more simplified paintings featuring obvious brush strokes. Some of these latter paintings are pretty small, though I did recently notice one on display at the Seattle Art Museum that was large and featured bolder brushwork.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I get the feeling that he was one of those artists who liked to use geometry as the basis for some of his compositions. I note a couple of instances below, but some of the other images seem to have the same feature.


Le vieux chêne - 1895
This was painted when Harpignies was about 75 years old, yet it looks more Barbizon-like than some of his painting made years before, when Barbizon was more fashionable.

Cliffs Near Crémieu - 1847
An early work.  Solid, though I wonder about the  composition where the foreground zone is about as high as the sky above the butte.  Crazy me, I would have had less sky, because that's my usual choice when composing photos.

River and Hills - 1850s
I don't have dimensions for this painting, though it doesn't strike me a being very large.  Has a Macchiaioli feel to it.

Washing the Laundry - 1875
This is a small painting, about 13x16 inches (32x40cm), so visible brushwork can be expected.

The Village Church
Sorry about the slightly blurred image, but that was all I found of this painting.  Here the sky and remainder each take up about half the vertical distance.

Le pont canal à Briare - 1888
A nice, clean painting with very little fussy detail.  But note that the focal bridge support on the left side of the canal is approximately one-third of the vertical canvas dimension, the sky and foreground at that point each measuring close to another third each.  Were geometrical relationships (slightly disguised or fudged though they might have been) intentional or simply the way he intuitively painted?

The Big Tree

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dale Chihuly's Portable Radios With Plastic Cases, and More

This is actually one of my occasional industrial design posts, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to begin using a link to an artist.

That artist is Dale Chihuly (1941 - ), master of glass installations (Wikipedia entry here). A couple of years ago, a museum devoted to Chihuly was opened in Seattle right next to the well-known Space Needle. Attached to the museum is a restaurant called Collections Café. Its Web site is here, and a Seattle Magazine article about it is here.

That article notes that the name "Collections" refers to the cafe's decor, which is dominated by objects Chihuly collected over the years. The link includes some photos that help give you the flavor of the place.

The photo at the top of this post is from Seattle Met magazine and shows a wall display in the cafe consisting of dozens of pre-transistor portable radios from the 1940s and 50s for the most part. The variety of styles grafted onto fairly similar electronic boards is astonishing.

A little context for that era of small (for the time) plastic-cased radios is offered below.


Philco 40-180 - 1940
Many households of the 1930s had a large radio such as the one shown here.  Such a device was normally located in the living room and served as the focus for evening entertainment for a family.

Philco 84B - 1935
Not all radios were large back then.  That's because the chassis with its vacuum tubes (valves, in Britain) could be pretty much the same size for all AM radios since the electronic functionality was the same.  What usually varied was the size of the cabinet and perhaps the size of the speakers.  The radio shown here is a table-top type that could be placed in a living room, bedroom, home office or somesuch place.

The Philco model illustrated here is the same type as our family radio when I was a wee tyke; it was used until television came along.  I still have that radio.  It looks almost the same as the one above except that the dial has sort of an orange hue.

Philco 38-15T - 1938
By the late 1930s engineers were able to create more compact layouts allowing for even smaller sets.

Philco PT-25 - 1940
Philco cased its radios using wood through most of the 1930s, but added plastic by 1940.

Westinghouse H-127 Little Jewell - 1945-47
An early post- World War 2 portable radio, this from Westinghouse.  I include it because I had such a radio in my bedroom when I was young.  Unlike the old Philco, I no longer have it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Brownie" Mostly Worked in Black & White

I exaggerated when writing the title of this post, but not very much. Arthur William Brown (1881-1966) spent much of his career not making color oil paintings for magazine covers, but instead did interior illustrations that were usually printed in black and white in those days when color printing was expensive.

Currently, there is little biographical information about Brown on the Internet, though you might consider linking here and here. There's more about him in books dealing with illustrators such as Fred Taraba's fairly recent Masters of American Illustration.

It seems that Brownie (as he was known by his illustrator and other friends) was an early adopter of reference photographs. This was influenced by his slow, careful approach to creating what look to be quickly-done illustrations. (They appear quickly-done because he mostly worked in crayon, pencil and washes that seem less substantial than illustrations done using oil paints.)

What interests me is that he was good at capturing facial expressions and character. How much of this was the product of the photos he took and how much was conscious deviations from the photographic images? I am not aware of any surviving reference photos from the 1920s and 30s that can be compared to the finished works they were used for, so perhaps that matter can't be resolved. Given that Brownie was highly skilled, I'll assume he used his photos as the starting point and didn't copy them slavishly.

Brownie was good, successful, and popular socially. Still, I place him a fraction of a notch below the likes of F.R. Gruger and Henry Patrick Raleigh who used similar media in their illustration work.


Brownie with his fancy new 1927 Packard. He made a lot of money in the 1920s, but was badly hit in the 1929 stock market crash.

A publicity photo of Brownie at work in the mid-1940s.

Another publicity shot. Here he and Russell Patterson are sketching Florence Kallender in tony Palm Beach Florida, 1947. Brownie was perfectly capable of sketching, but as was mentioned above, he normally used reference photos.

Greta Garbo, done in 1937.

Note Brownie's skill in depicting facial expressions.

A 1920s story illustration.

Illustration for a 1930 Saturday Evening Post story.

1937 story illustration.

A Post illustration from 1935.

By the 1940s, two-color magazine interior printing was common, so Brownie adjusted.  Some other two-color illustrations are seen above.  The first also is from the early 1940s and the next was done in 1937, as noted.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wilfrid de Glehn: John Singer Sargent Associate

Wilfrid Gabriel de Glehn (1870-1951) was a British painter with German roots (he changed the spelling of his family name from von Glehn during the Great War), who worked with John Singer Sargent and Edwin Austin Abbey (details on this are sketchy, however). He remained friends with Sargent and was depicted by him on a few occasions.

De Glehn's Wikipedia entry is here, but it is brief. Much more information can be found on this site, including some information regarding himself and Sargent (here). More information on de Glehn and his wife Jane is here.

While de Glehn can be considered an impressionist, he made many portraits that were traditional in style. His series on female nudes tended to be more sketchy, but not impressionist.

J.S. Sargent Depicts the de Glehns

Jane de Glehn (in a Corfu garden)

The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy - 1907

Sketchers - 1913
The woman is thought to be Jane, but could be someone else.

Gallery: de Glehn's Works


A website has this dated 1932, but I'd say it would be more like 1912, to judge by the clothing.

Shadows on the Wall, Cannes, France

Lynn Fontanne - 1912
Fontanne was British, but best-known on the American stage, often appearing with her husband, Alfred Lunt.

Sisters - 1923

Mrs Neville Chamberlain - 1924

Clare Collins - 1927

Jane Emmett - 1931
This is the niece of Jane Emmett, de Glehn's wife.

Louise in Stripped Dress

De Glehn painted many nudes.

Val d'Aosta scene
An example of de Glehn's landscape work.