Thursday, March 31, 2016

Celebrity Artists: Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) accomplished a thing or two during his long life. Among those things were some 500 or so paintings. This was a serious hobby that served to help him ride through bouts of depression as well as to relieve stresses from his various day jobs.

Some background can be found here and here.

Churchill never went to art school. Beginning his painting career at age 40, he lacked the spare time to go through academic or any other art school hoops. But he did get a bit of coaching by the likes of Sir John Lavery, Walter Sickert and Sir William Nicholson.

He submitted paintings to exhibitions on a few occasions, using a pseudonym, and had some of his work accepted. These days some of his paintings have been auctioned at more than half a million pounds.

Churchill mostly painted outdoors scenes. He did a few interiors, but I am unaware of still lifes or portraits, so these latter are either few or non-existent. He clearly put a lot of work into a number of his paintings, as noted in the final link above. Apparently his work was respected by a number of contemporary artists. As for me, I find too much of the understandably amateurish in Churchill's paintings. For instance, he includes too much sky in a number of his compositions and his depiction of architecture is too superficial for my taste. Even so, I appreciate that Churchill was a man of such well-rounded accomplishment.

The paintings below are probably copyrighted, and I include the images to so that readers might better understand what is under discussion here.


Churchill at his easel

A Study of Boats - 1933

Scene on the River Meuse

A View from Chartwell - 1938
Chartwell was Churchill's country home in Kent.

A corner of the drawing room, Chartwell - c. 1938

The Tower of Katubia Mosque - 1943
Painted in conjunction with his trip to Morocco for the Casablanca Conference. The scene here is in Marrakesh.

Monday, March 28, 2016

József Rippl-Rónai, Hungarian Modernist, of Sorts

József Rippl-Rónai (1861-1927) or Rippl-Rónai József in Hungarian name-order, was an early proponent of modernism, according to this Wikipedia entry.

He began his career as a pharmacologist, but took up art training in Munich and Paris during his mid-20s. He then returned to Hungary and plied his new trade there.

Rippl-Rónai was a modernist of a tepid variety, not straying far into the realms of distorted proportions and colors, let alone Cubism or abstraction. Interestingly, his portraits of women tended to be in pastel, whereas many of this other works were oil on cardboard or other supports.

Many of his portrayals were of Zorka Bányai, but I have no details regarding her.


Manor-house at Körtvélyes - c. 1907

Geszti kastély - 1912

Lajos & Odon - 1918

Lady with Black Veil - 1896

Woman with Red Hair - 1891

Young Woman - 1916

Zdenka Ticharich - 1921

Zorka - 1918

Zorka ? - 1924

Portrait - 1920s

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hubert Rogers: Sci-Fi Pulps and Much More

Hubert Rogers (1898-1982) was a Canadian illustrator/painter perhaps best known today for cover paintings for Astounding Science Fiction, generally considered the cream of the pulp Sci-Fi crop, thanks to its (1937-1971) editor John W. Campbell.

Regarding Rogers, this source mentions:

"In 1925 he moved to New York City to study with Dean Cornwell at the Art Students League."

"In 1931 the financial hardship of the Great Depression lead him to abandon city life. He drove an Indian motorcycle to Taos, New Mexico, where he worked within a community of artists that were as passionate about modern landscape painting as the Canadian 'Group of Seven.'"

But he returned to New York in 1936 after he got an increasing number of assignments. Rogers moved back to Canada in 1942 where he did illustrations to help the war effort. He moved to Vermont in 1947.

More on Rogers is here, and a source presenting letters to Rogers from leading science-fiction writers Robert Heinlein and L. Sprague de Camp is here.

Rogers was a competent illustrator who has to drop into working for "pulp" (cheap, low-quality paper) magazines to help get through the Great Depression. This is a slightly different career path than that for some slightly younger illustrators who had to start their career in pulps and then tried to claw their way to more respectable and better paying clients.

As can be seen below, Rogers' covers for Astounding were decently done, a cut well above the common 1940-vintage bug-eyed-monster-clutching-scantily-clad-blonde genre found on covers of some other sci-fi mags.


Astounding Science Fiction cover - October 1939
One of Rogers' best-known Astounding covers.

Astounding Science Fiction cover - February 1940
The tank is a futuristic version of the Great War British Mark IV tank.

Astounding Science Fiction cover - August 1940
Streamlined space ship, though its tiny wings don't seem very functional.

Astounding Science Fiction cover - August 1941

Astounding Science Fiction cover - May 1947
Some sources consider this to be Rogers' best Astounding cover.

Preliminary sketch, Astounding Science Fiction cover - May 1947

Canadian World War 2 poster

Canadian World War 2 poster "Men of Valor" - final

Canadian World War 2 poster "Men of Valor" - preliminary

Canadian World War 2 poster "Men of Valor" - image for printer

The 1943 Quebec Conference - image copyright Canadian War Museum
Rogers was fully capable of doing paintings as well as illustrations.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Jeremy Mann: Free and Tight on a Single Painting

Jeremy Mann (b. 1979) is a young (mid-30s) artist whose work disproves the modernist conceit of the 1950s that there was no point to realist or naturalist painting in the age of photography, and that abstraction was the viable Fine Arts alternative.

The link to a Fine Arts Connoisseur magazine piece featuring Mann is here, and a gallery web page regarding Mann is here. They contain snippets of biographical information.

Mann's style is a combination of sketchy, impressionistic backgrounds delivered using a variety of means for attacking a wood panel with paint along with tightly-painted details, especially in his depictions of beautiful women. He is also hugely prolific, as his own web site reveals. Click on the images below to enlarge.


Bay Evening

Raised freeway

Hell's Kitchen

Rooftops in the Snow


The Muse


Untitled (Grace)

The White Vanity

The Forgotten (Version Two - Neglect)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Frederick Varley and Vera Weatherbie

What follows is a greatly simplified, fascinating fragment of Canadian art world history.

It has to do with Frederick (Fred) Horsman Varley (1881-1969), a member of the Group of Seven who I wrote about here (Wikipedia entry here). Unlike most Group of Seven artists, he favored portraiture over landscape painting. And his character was erratic, being prone to stumbling from one personal relationship or financial crisis to another.

He spent 1926-36 in Vancouver, British Columbia teaching and painting. One of his students, Vera Olivia Weatherbie (1909 or 1910 - 1977), became both his lover and muse. There is not much about Weatherbie on the Internet, but here is one link. Varley painted Vera a number of times (see below), and one portrait is now considered iconic in Canadian art.

Weatherbie married photographer and art patron Harold Mortimer-Lamb (1872-1970) on 4 May 1942 when she was in her early 30s and he was about 70. It seems to have been a happy marriage. When she was in her mid-50s she developed dementia or insanity and was lobotomized late 1967 or in 1968. She died choking on a piece of steak on the occasion of her brother's visit from Seattle.

These details were gleaned from the book "Harold Mortimer-Lamb: the art lover" that is reviewed here.

Here are many of Varley's paintings of Vera plus a reference photo.


Portrait of Vera by John Vanderpant

Vera - c. 1928


Dharana (probably Vera) - 1932


Vera - 1934


Vera - 1931
This is the Varley portrait of Vera Weatherbie that I and others call "iconic."

Monday, March 14, 2016

In the Beginning: J.M.W. Turner

Some readers might be tempted to think that when I mention that I'm not fond of paintings by Joseph Mallord William (J.M.W.) Turner (1775-1851), it means that I'm striving too hard to maintain my Art Contrarian credentials.

Not so. Ten or so years ago I was in the Tate Britain, where there are ten rooms containing his works. This gave me plenty of opportunity to see his paintings "up close and personal" as they used to say. And I didn't like most of the later, archetypical Turners that Modernist apologists gush over because of their near-abstract qualities. So there: I really, truly didn't like what I saw.  During later visits to the Tate, I never set foot in those Turner rooms again.

Background information about Turner can be found here.

Turner's painting were not always the wispy things he is famous for. He evolved, as most artists do. Below are examples of his paintings made when he was in his late 20s and early 30s. They indicate his focus on landscapes and marine subjects along with a growing interest on the effects of light and atmosphere.

Included is one painting where people are the focus, and I consider it inferior to the others, some of which I find fairly likable. Also included is a late painting (he was 65) that is somewhat at odds with the atmospheric seascapes he is most noted for.


Dutch Boat in a Gale - 1801

Holy Family - 1803

Bonneville Savoy - 1803

Windsor Castle from the Thames - c.1805

The Shipwreck - 1805

Cliveden on the Thames - 1807

The Battle of Trafalgar, as Seen from the Mizzen Shrouds of the Victory - 1806-08

Venice from the Giudecca - 1840