Thursday, December 31, 2015

Marcel Rieder by Lamplight

Marcel Rieder (1862-1942) was an Alsacian who spent most of his life and career in Paris, as this brief Wikipedia mentions.

It also states that he started as a Symbolist, but by 1894 shifted to what I'll call a kind of "soft-symbolism" featuring beautiful young women seen by lamplight, often by tables set for dining. In some cases, the settings are interiors and in others the background is a lake or sea. As for the watery backgrounds, Rieder and his subjects have the good taste to be by lovely Lake Annecy in east-central France near the Alps or on the Mediterranean Côte d'Azur.

Rieder's paintings are pleasant to view. I prefer the outdoor settings because the large areas of blue serve as counterpoint to the smaller lamplit spots.


Choix de bijou sous la lampe

Title unknown - woman watching dinner guest depart?

Jeune femme cousante

Femme lisante

Veillée en bord de mer

Rêverie au bord du lac d'Annecy

Solitude au bord du lac

Détente et rêverie après le repas

Monday, December 28, 2015

Celebrity Artists: Physicist Richard Feynman

My guess is that it is amateur artists who keep most art supply stores in business. And without that demand, there might be fewer makers of paint and equipment and prices of their wares might well be a lot higher. So let us not look down our noses at the unwashed amateur art masses.

I suppose I myself quality as an amateur artist because, while I have a college degree in an art field, I never sold any of my output. Then there are plenty of people without formal training who have sold their work, yet can be considered amateurs because they have other sources of income to deal with most of their living expenses.

A sub-class of this latter group is people who are famous for other aspects of their lives, yet found time to dabble in art. One example is Richard Feynman (1918-1988), holder of the Nobel Prize in Physics, amateur safecracker, percussionist, member of a Rio de Janeiro Samba band, teetotaling (eventually) barfly and friend of Las Vegas show girls, seeker of Tanna-Tuva, member of the atom bomb development team, student of Portuguese, and other intriguing exploits. His Wikipedia entry is here.

Background on his experience in drawing and painting is here. His part-time teacher was Jirayr Zorthian (1911-2004), biography here. An online collection of Feynman's images (which I used to illustrate this post) is here.

Considering that he at first felt that he had no artistic aptitude and that he was occupied by many other activities including his position on the Caltech faculty, I find his work surprisingly good. Of course, if I saw some of his pieces at an art show, I would pay them little or no attention if I was unaware of who did them (and he did sign most of his work with the nom-de-palette "Ofey" in order to create distance from his professional self).


Dabny Zorthian - 1964
The wife of his teacher.

Nude from behind

Portrait painting - 1968

Portrait drawing - 1975
Sketchbook page. Feynman usually handled mouths well, but had trouble with eyes, as this and other examples here indicate.

Face of woman

Portrait of a woman - 1985

Equations and sketches - 1985
Interesting that some doodles are graphs. Despite his claim of lacking drawing ability before he took informal lessons, he had invented Feynman Diagrams, a visual means of simplifying computation of complex, asymptotic effects of photon transfers of energy from electron to electron.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Alfredo Ambrosi, Aeropittura Artist

Alfredo Gauro Ambrosi (1901-1945) -- Wikipedia entry in French here -- was not the most famous or best practitioner of Aeropittura, a late form of Futurism, but I thought it would be worth presenting some of his paintings here.

I posted on Aeropittura here and about Tullio Cruli, perhaps the best of the lot, here.


Colosseo - Colosseum
Aerial view of Rome's Coloseum from the northwest.

Aero-ritratto di Benito Mussolini aviatore - Aero Portrait of Benito Mussolini, Aviator - 1930
Related to the upper painting of the Colosseum, but the city view is extended to around the Piazza Venezia where Mussolini's famous speech-site balcony was located.

Fiesta aerea - Aviation Meet - 1932

Prima crociera atlantica su Rio de Janeiro - First Trans-Atlantic Crossing, Over Rio de Janeiro - 1933
Italo Balbo, head of Italian aviation, led two long-distance formation flights across the Atlantic, the first to Rio in 1930, a later one to the USA in 1933.

Volo su Vienna - Flight over Vienna - 1933
This commemorates the Gabriele D'Annunzio-led 9 August 1918 Flight over Vienna, an exceptionally long-distance operation during the Great War.

Aero-ritratto di Gianni Caproni - 1938
Portrait of airplane designer and builder Giovanni Caproni.

Pronto per l'attaco / Canale di Sicilia, 1942 - Ready to Attack
A World War 2 scene.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Raymond Leech, East Anglian Vettriano

I recently stumbled across images of Raymond Leech (1949 - ) paintings. As this biographical sketch indicates, Leech is based in England's East Anglia and paints coastal scenes, some of which are found at the link.

But other Leech paintings strongly remind me of those by his Scottish contemporary Jack Vettriano (1951 - ) ... Wikipedia entry here.

What we have are steamy (to varying degrees) scenes featuring beautiful, often not fully-clothed women and men usually wearing suspenders (braces, in the UK) and often with hats. I don't know enough about Leech to say if he is following Vettriano's lead or got there first.

As for style, Vettriano paints in a slightly flat, simplified, almost-poster style whereas Leech is more "painterly," where brushstrokes are featured. Below are a few Vettiano examples followed by some of Leech's work.



The Out of Towners

Narcissistic Bathers

The Purple Cat

Games of Power


Couple about to kiss

A Brief Encounter

An especially Vettriano-like painting.

Nightclub scene

Sunday Girl

Dancer (one of a series with same model)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Out of Character: Pierre Bonnard and Odilon Redon

I recently saw the Seattle Art Museum exhibit "Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art" that featured mostly small paintings from a variety of artists active 1860-1900, approximately. In other words, it covered pre-Impressionist modernism as well as Post-Impressionism, with perhaps less than half the works being mainstream Impressionism.

That was fine by me, because I mostly find the pre- and post- more interesting than hardcore Claude Monet type Impressionism. A character failing, I suppose, but that's why I call myself a Contrarian.

What caught my eye were a few works that struck me as being out-of-character for the artists who painted them. That prompted this post along with the new "Out of Character" theme.

The artists in question were Odilon Redon (1840-1916), biography here, and Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Wikipedia entry here. Below are the paintings I noticed in the exhibit along with some examples of their more typical work.


Odilon Redon

Closed Eyes - ca. 1894

Mystical Conversation - ca. 1896
Redon is usually considered a Symbolist.

Village by the Sea in Brittany - ca. 1880

Breton Village - ca. 1890
These crisp Brittany scenes are strikingly different from the smudgy Symbolism associated with Redon. What puzzles me are the dates attributed to these works. Given their similarity of style and setting, I think they were painted around the same time. I'd guess closer to 1880 than 1890.

Pierre Bonnard

Femme avec chien - 1891
The typical Bonnard painting has a busy surface often (though not here) with dabs of color atop bits of near-complementary colors.

Paris, rue de Parme on Bastille Day, 1890
But this Bonnard is extremely clean.  Perhaps it's just a study because I don't see a signature.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rockwell Kent Illustrations

Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was a painter and illustrator whose style varied little over his long career. But it was a spare, modernist-leaning style in synch with the Art Deco and Moderne mood from the mid-1920s through the 1930s when his career was at its peak. Today, like so many other artists of his time, he is largely forgotten by the public at large. Biographical information is here.

Perhaps due to architectural training or maybe inherently, Kent had a strong sense of design of the monumental sort. Even small illustrations such as bookplates (see below) have a lot of visual heft. This style also was in keeping with his politics, glorifying the proletariat and winning him the Lenin Peace Prize in 1967 as testimony for being "useful."

The present post deals with Kent's illustration; I might post about his painting another time.


Bookplate for Katharine Brush - 1920

Revisitation - 1928

Ahab - from Moby-Dick - 1930

"Workers of the World Unite" - 1937

And Women Must Weep - 1937

Faller - 1942

From Decameron - 1949

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Some Artzybasheff Early-1950s Time Covers

Boris Artzybasheff (1899-1965), was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, Russian Empire, and in 1919 left Russia for the United States in the wake of the Communist Revolution. I have no information regarding art training, but he did make illustration his profession, usually as a book illustrator during the first part of his career. Biographical information via the Society of Illustrators can be found here, and an appreciation by Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr. is here.

Artzybasheff began illustrating for Time, Inc. in 1940, making more than 200 magazine cover illustrations over the next quarter century when Time magazine was at its peak as a serious, influential publication. The images below are from the early 1950s when he was at his most productive and inventive.


Time cover - 2 July 1951
The Korean War had been on for a year and the USA was in the process of rearming for the Cold War. At the nerve center of these activities was the Pentagon, subject of this Time cover showing all that red tape.

Time cover - 20 August 1951
Lt. General Vasily Stalin (1921-1962), son of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Vasily began to get into trouble the following year, even before his father died. After that, his career collapsed.

Time cover - 8 December 1952
The Space Age was still in gestation, but Artzybasheff considers the use of unmanned probes for exploration.

Time cover - 2 February 1953
Harold S. Vance, President of Studebaker shown with the sensational new Starliner styled by Raymond Loewy's team.

Time cover - 16 March 1953
Joseph Stalin (1878 - 5 March, 1953). Given the lead time for publications in those days, I suspect that Artzybasheff's illustration had been completed before Stalin's death, perhaps intended for a cover story still in the planning stage. By the way, news that he was ill came out only two or three days before his death. Before that, there was little inkling that Stalin might die, so Time editors had no strong reason to set up an issue dealing with it in advance -- though it's possible that they might have anyway, in newspaper obituary-writing fashion.

Time cover - 8 June 1953
3-D movies were a big, but brief, sensation in 1953. Here Artzybasheff switches from machines and portraits to a cartoon style.

Time cover - 29 June 1953
James H. (Dutch) Kindelberger, Chairman of North American Aviation, builder of the F-86 Sabre shown here battling a Russian MiG-15. Compare to the MiG-15 he pictures for the Vasily Stalin cover, above.