Thursday, December 29, 2016

Alexandre Cabanel, One of the Last Great Academicians

Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889) was an important member of the French academic art establishment during the second half of the 19th century. Although he placed second in the 1845 Prix de Rome competition, a bureaucratic quirk allowed him funding to study in Rome 1846-1850. In 1855 he was appointed Knight of the Legion of Honor, and he became an Officer in 1863. He opened his own studio in the École des Beaux-Arts that same year. He was a member of the Salon jury in the 1860s. In 1870 he became a Salon vice-president. And in 1875 he became chairman of the Salon's paintings jury. Cabanel's health declined in the late 1880s and he died in January 1889.

His fairly brief Wikipedia entry is here. Perhaps the most interesting information there is a list of his Beaux-Arts pupils. They include Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, Eugène Carrière, Pierre-August Cot, Jules Bastien-Lepage, Henri Gervex, Aristide Maillol, Henri Regnault, Solomon J. Solomon and Adolphe Willette.

As for his art, Cabanel was not a pure pompier school academician, though did produce works of that kind.

Below are examples of Cabanel's paintings in chronological order.


Albaydé - 1848
Painted while studying in Rome.

Death of Moses - Musée Fabre version - 1850
Displayed on his return from Rome.

The Glorification of St. Louis - c.1854

The Birth of Venus - 1863
Probably Cabanel's most famous painting. It can be found in Paris' Musée d'Orsay.

Emperor Napoléon III - 1865

The Druidess - 1868

Christina Nilsson as Pandora - 1873

The Nymph Echo - 1874
Note the loosely painted setting.

Phaedra - 1880
Here everything is hard-edge.

Mary Victoria Leiter, later Lady Curzon - 1887

Olivia Peyton Murray Cutting - 1887
Compare the poses and settings of these ladies painted the same year. Was Cabanel "mailing it in" as his health declined?

Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners - 1887
Perhaps his last "pompier" work.

Monday, December 26, 2016

More June, 1965 New York City Photos

Some readers have been enjoying viewing my old photos of New York City. So why not post more?

The current batch of June, 1965 photos has less quality that some of the previous sets, but I hope the subject matter will be interesting. Click on the images to enlarge.


Airliners at JFK Airport
Shown are Boeing 707s, at least one DC-8, one or perhaps two Convair 880s or 990s, and an older Lockheed Constellation. The Aer Lingus in the foreground had boarding stairs positioned fore and aft. Casually approaching the plane are some passengers about to board. One is unlikely to see this at JFK nowadays.

Women on Sixth Avenue

People, Sixth Avenue

Across 42nd Street from Grand Central Terminal
The bus might not be air conditioned: note the open windows.

Sherman Statue, Grand Army Plaza
Nowadays the ensemble of Victory leading General Sherman and his horse is covered in gold leaf. I prefer the more sombre version shown here.

Commuters on West 42nd Street
The Port Authority bus terminal was (and is) located between 8th and 9th avenues and 40th and 41st streets. So it's likely that some of the people heading towards the left of this photo are on their way to the terminal and then on to New Jersey and home.

West 42nd Street Store fronts
Second-run movie houses and stores selling cheap goods were the rule on 42nd Street west of Times Square in 1965.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Prolific John Collier

John Maler Collier (1850-1934) was a British artist who cranked out a lot of paintings, especially portraits that were what many artists did (and still do) to keep bread on the table beneath the roof over their heads. Collier came from a successful family and married into another one, but still had to earn his keep via portraits. A rather odd (as of this writing) Wikipedia entry about him is here.

Most of his portraits were competently done, but seldom came close to the artistic levels of contemporaries such as John Singer Sargent, Philip de Laszlo or William Orpen. His paintings of other subjects exhibited more technical and conceptual variety. Most seem competently done and some are interesting, though I find it hard to claim any as a true masterpiece.

Below are examples of Colllier's portraiture and more casual works.

Marion Collier, née Huxley, the Artist's Wife
She of the famous Huxley family.

Sir Edward Augustus Inglefield
An example of a typical Collier commissioned portrait.

Rudyard Kipling - 1900
He also painted Kipling in 1891.

Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener - 1910
Collier was not above doing more than one version of a painting.

Priestess of Bacchus - 1885-89

Young Girl Draped in Tiger Skin
The titles are as I found them on the internet, though the subject is the same.

Lady Godiva - 1898
This has a Pre-Raphaelite feeling to it.

Mrs Osborne
Probably done in the 1920s. A nice portrait using an interesting pose.

Reclining Woman
More hard-edge here, but also interesting. Note the Japanese screen in the background contrasting with the French settee.

Sacred and Profane Love - 1919
A modernized takeoff on a well-used subject. The composition is odd, and it's hard to notice the reflection of the officer returning from the war seen in the mirror because it's quite small. However, it does form the apex of a triangle based on the subjects' heads, which help a little.

View Across Lake Como
A rare Collier landscape.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Frick Collection's Vermeers

The comparatively small -- but excellent -- Frick Collection in New York City has nearly ten percent of existing paintings by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), Wikipedia entry here.

Wikipedia also has a list of his works (here) that contains links to images. According to the entry, there are 34 paintings currently considered actual Vermeer works. The Frick Collection has three of these. Other "large" Vermeer collections are: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (4); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (4); National Gallery, Washington, D.C. (3); and Mauritshuis, The Hague (3). So the Frick punches far above its weight in this regard.

I visited the Frick Collection in September, the first time there in many years. Here are its Vermeers.


De Soldaat en het Lachende Meisje (Officer and a Laughing Girl) - 1655-1660, acquired 1911
The Frick web page for this painting is here.

Mistress and Maid - c. 1667, acquired 1919
Frick page for this one is here.

Girl Interrupted at her Music - 1658-59 or 1660-61, acquired 1901
Frick information here.
Even though this is considered a genuine Vermeer, I have trouble believing it. That's because of the treatment of the people is not as polished as in other Vermeer paintings. Yes, the setting is typical with a window at the left and a map as background. And surely the paints and canvas were tested and found to be mid-17th century. If this is indeed by Vermeer, then I wonder if he was experimenting with a slightly different style of painting people, or perhaps the painting is unfinished.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Review, then Towards the End: Hugh Ferriss

Hugh Ferriss (1889–1962) is my favorite architectural delineator. He has plenty of other fans, if the nearly 200,000 results from Googling his name is any indication. A brief Wikipedia entry about him is here.

Ferriss is probably best known for two aspects of his work. The first deals with 1920-1930 renderings of skyscrapers actually built or that were proposed but not built for one reason or another. The other is the set of speculative rendering of a future city collected in his book "Metropolis of Tomorrow" (1929). Many of these images are iconic of their times.

He usually rendered using pencils, charcoal and related shading media. This suited the high-rise architectural themes of the 1920s -- styles known as Art Deco and something that might be called streamlined Gothic.

The 1930s saw the Great Depression with its general lack of new construction aside from government buildings that often featured highly simplified classic themes with a hint of Deco. Post- World War 2 architecture soon conformed to International Style dictates. That is, tall buildings were severely rectangular with glass-and-steel cladding while lacking any form of decoration.

Ferriss' successful 1920s rendering style and mediums were not really appropriate for depicting International Style buildings. They worked best with buildings with more intricate shapes, stone or brick cladding, and ornamentation. Although he was involved in some major projects, the resulting renderings were not nearly as impressive as his earlier works. This was despite an effort to adjust his style to the new circumstances.


Wanamaker's Bridge (New York City) - 1917
Wanamaker's was a major Philadelphia and New York City department store.

American Radiator Building (New York City) - completed 1924
The building still stands on West 40th Street across from Bryant Park.

Fisher Building (Detroit) - 1928
Located on West Grand Boulevard across the street from what then was General Motors' headquarters.

The Majestic Hotel (Chanin Construction Co.) - 1930
A speculative project, probably in New York City.

Future city scene
As was the case for the previous images, Ferriss' style matched the architectural style very well.

Metropolis of Tomorrow - 1928
Again, the buildings are sculpted masses where windows are comparatively small details.

Metropolis of Tomorrow - c.1928
Dramatic night scene. I wish I were at that cocktail party on the terrace at the lower right of the rendering.

United Nations Headquarters - c.1948
A proposed ensemble.

United Nations Headquarters - c.1948
More about the UN Headquarters here. Design began in 1947, a cornerstone was laid in 1949 and the initial grouping was completed by 1952. The tall Secretariat building is steel-and-glass on the longer sides, and all this reflective material is hard to depict using Ferriss' toolkit. Here he did his best to emphasize massing rather than fenestration.

Lever House (New York City) - c.1949
The Lever House, built 1950-52, was an early International Style office building in New York. Sensational when it was new, but now nondescript. It is on the west side of Park Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets. In this rendering, Ferriss selected a night setting that allowed him to capture some of the structural elements without the complication of reflections off the glass.

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts - c.1959
The main Lincoln Center groundbreaking was in 1959, and the original ensemble largely complete by 1966. Shown here is the Metropolitan Opera House. It was completed in 1966. Given that Ferriss died in January 1962, it is likely that this is one of his last renderings.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Renaissance-Influenced Portraits by Gerald Brockhurst

Gerald Leslie Brockhurst (1890-1878) doesn't seem to be well known today, but does seem to have done well as an engraver and portrait artist in his day. His Wikipedia entry and this link sketch his artistic career as well as his messy marital situation.

In 1914 he married Anaïs Folin, but met 16-year-old model Kathleen Woodward in 1928 who eventually became his mistress and, following his 1940 divorce, his second wife. Brockhurst renamed her for his purposes Kathleen Dorette -- the golden girl.

The first link above mentions that he received a traveling scholarship to France and Italy in 1913 and was inspired by Italian Renaissance portraiture. That is why many of his portraits include bits of landscapes in the background. That might also have to do with the smooth, highly finished treatment of the faces of his subjects in such portraits.


The Fan - 1915
This might be his first wife, but not painted in the Italian style mentioned above.

Ireland - 1916
Again, perhaps his wife, now with a landscape background.

His wife again, in a very Renaissance manner that includes her costume. This might have been painted in the late 1920s when "Dorette" was entering the scene -- note that the background appears unfinished, though the painting is signed.

Dorette - 1933
The second link above mentions that this painting created a sensation at a 1933 Royal Academy exhibit.

Dorette - 1930s
During the mid-1930s the fashion was plucked eyebrows replaced by penciled lines. Which is why Dorette's eyebrows differ from painting to painting.

Jeunesse Dorée - 1934
Perhaps the best-known Dorette painting.

Margaret, Duchess of Argyll - c.1931

Portrait of Mrs Lebus

Ophelia - c.1937
Dorette again, this time with natural eyebrows.


By the Hills - 1939

Wallis, Duchess of Windsor - 1939