Thursday, June 28, 2018

Otto Soglow: From The New Masses to The Little King

Otto Soglow (1900-1975) was a successful comic strip cartoonist. His Little King character first appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1930 and became a Hearst Sunday strip in 1934. Thereafter, it ran for more than 40 years until Soglow died.

His Wikipedia entry is here, but it's brief. A much more comprehensive survey of his career can be found here.

Soglow received some of his art training from John Sloan who, among other things, was involved in leftist politics, and helped Soglow get some cartoons published in The Liberator. Soglow also contributed work to The New Masses.

Around the same time he was contributing to The New Masses, Soglow began having cartoons published in The New Yorker, a brand-new magazine intended for sophisticates in that city and elsewhere. Also at this time his style was evolving from the Sloan-Masses-Ashcan style to highly simplified Moderne. His Little King retained that style over its 45-year overall existence.

It was an interesting transformation Soglow made -- from socialist content to taking William Randolph Hearst's shilling and drawing a royal cartoon character.


A New Masses cartoon from 1926. The caption is "Iss diss a system?"

Poster for a 1932 New Masses ball. Its style is now Moderne, like his Little King cartoons.

A color panel. The Little King was always dressed in red. His personality was such that he didn't take kinship seriously and always did playful things.

His new royal portrait.

More playfulness.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Henry Lamb: Painter, Physician

Henry Taylor Lamb (1883-1960) had almost completed his medical training when he chucked it and took up art. As mentioned here, some of his art instruction was at William Orpen and Augustus John's Chelsea School of Art. Lamb became friends with John, but his first wife's liberated ways that paralleled John's made for complicated times before the Lambs separated.

When the Great War started, Lamb hurriedly completed his medical training and became an army medical officer serving in most of the major fronts. Then he returned to art, eventually divorced, and then married the much younger Lady Pansy Pakenham (daughter of an earl) by whom they had three children. World War 2 found him as a war artist, though most of his paintings were portraits and scenes from training areas.

Aside from military subjects, the bulk of Lamb's paintings seem to be portraits, some of persons involved in London's literary scene. However, this source said that his attitudes about the Bloomsbury Set were not positive.

Lamb's painting style seldom reached very far into Modernism, though he did simplify on occasion and once in a while resorted to distortion. I might characterize it as 1930-vintage not-quite-traditional.


Lytton Strachy - 1914
An example of Lamb's use of distortion.

Irish Troops in the Judaean Hills Surprised by a Turkish Bombardment - 1919
Commissioned by the Imperial War Museum.

Withy Beds, Herefordshire
An example of Lamb's landscape painting.

Darsie Japp and Family - 1927

Evelyn Waugh - 1930
The author. I am not sure about the color, as some Internet images differ considerably.

The Artist's Wife - Lady Pansy Pakenham - 1933

Anthony Powell - 1934
The author.

Neville Chamberlain - c. 1939
When Chamberlain was Prime Minister.

The Dispatch Rider - 1941
Painted while a war artist.

The Overhaul - 1941
That's a Westland Lysander observation aircraft.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

William Strang's Painting of People

William Strang (1959-1921) was a Scot who spent his career in London, first as an etcher and later as a painter of portraits, mostly. A useful summary of his career is here.

His paintings were workmanlike, but skilled -- that is, not flashy like Sargent's. Nor were his subjects usualy major aristocrats, so far as I can tell. And he was little influenced by Modernism, though there are hints of that in some of the images below.


Vita Sackville-West - 1918
As her extensive Wikipedia entry mentions, she was indeed aristocratic. But she also had a literary life, as did other Strang portrait subjects. Modernist simplification can be seen in this painting, though Vita's face is accurately portrayed.

John Masefield - 1912
A more definite literary figure, Masefield was appointed Poet Laureate in 1930.

Sir John Fisher
"Jacky" Fisher was First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy. His major innovations included the creation of battleship Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun ship of its kind, along with the less-successful battlecruiser line.

Not everyone Strang painted was famous.

Italian Girl - 1915

The Opera Cloak - 1912
He also painted upper-middle class genre scenes. Some modernist simplification and flattening are found here, though there is no distortion of the subjects' proportions.

The Love Letter - 1912
A hugely popular topic for painters for many years.

Bank Holiday - 1912
These are occasional three-day weekends in the United Kingdom.

Café Bar - 1910
The man at the right resembles Strang as seen in several of his self-portraits.

The Feather Fan - 1910
No sign of modernist influence here.

Thomas Hardy - 1920
Hardy is another important literary subject: biography here. Note the modernist background -- possibly a real painting, but might have been a Strang invention. This is one of his last works.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Alden McWilliams' "Twin Earths" Artwork

The first, and perhaps the most famous, science-fiction comic strip was Buck Rogers which debuted in January 1929. Others of that genre followed, the best-known of these was Flash Gordon which featured the highest quality artwork of the lot, certainly in its earliest years when Alex Raymond wielded his pen and brush.

The only other American sci-fi strip with top-notch artwork that I'm aware of off-hand was Twin Earths (1952-1963), created by publications maestro Oskar Lebeck (1903-1966), who did the writing in the early years and Alden McWilliams (1916-1993), who did the art. I will probably write more about McWilliams in another post, but shall focus on Twin Earths here.

The concept of Twin Earths was that there existed a totally Earth-like planet that shared Earth's orbit but at exactly the opposite side -- 180 degrees away. This meant that, as of 1952 when the strip started, there was no way we on Earth could detect Terra, as it was called. Terrans were a few hundred years ahead of Earth technologically, so could visit here using their flying saucer spacecraft. Another quirk was that their population was 90 percent female. Yet another was that they had lifespans exceeding 150 years, yet preserved youthful appearances over most of that time.

The opening few months of panels can be found here. A Terran female agent reveals her identity to an FBI agent, the male hero of the strip. Then things flow from there.

The Seattle Times newspaper suffered a strike in 1953, and when it ended the paper published special sections displaying all the comics that would have been printed during the time of the strike. I recently made scans of these for Twin Earths, and two of these are displayed below. At this point in the strip's development, the plotting wasn't very interesting. Mostly it was presenting the futuristic marvels of Terra, contrasting them with 1953 Earth. There was a bit of romance-related activity, but no space wars or bug-eyed monsters.

I'll comment further in the captions, but want to stress McWilliams' artwork. Grinding out comics panels day after day can make corner-cutting tempting. Yet McWilliams didn't seem to fall into that mode very often, maintaining a commendably even strain.

Click on the images to enlarge.


I don't think the dialog regarding electromagnetism set readers' hearts to beating faster. But Ah! the artwork. The compositional variety. The poses of the characters, the shifting points of view. And those seriously attractive women. McWilliams could do it all.

This set deals with Terra's contact with a planet from another solar system.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jes Schlaikjer, Forgotten Illustrator

I hadn't known of Jes Wilhelm Schlaikjer (1897–1982) until he was featured in Illustration Magazine a few months ago.

For one thing, he wasn't included in my go-to reference book about illustrators, Walt Reed's The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000. Another reason I hadn't noticed him was that he seldom or never appeared in major magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post or Collier's nor in some other magazines that I sometimes saw when I was young.

His Wikipedia is here. It states that he was "most known for his recruitment and war bonds posters during World War II." The Illustration Magazine article also deals with his pulp magazine cover art and illustrations he made for the American Legion's magazine.

What struck me was how competent Schlaikjer was in depicting people. Most illustrators of his generation were competent at doing that, but he was at least half a notch above the average of the pack.

Sadly, his career ended when in his early 60s he contracted Parkinson's Disease which afflicted him for the rest of his long life.

The images below can be found in the Illustration Magazine article along with many more. You can probably still order that issue (No. 59).


Story illustration - 1924
This is in line with illustration fashions of the time.  Reminds me of Dean Cornwell's early 1920s work, though the Illustration article does not mention any direct connection between the two men.  However, they both had training at Chicago's Art Institute and the Art Students League.

Black Mask magazine cover - February 1929
Pulp magazine cover.

Black Mask magazine cover - April 1932
Another from a few years later, this in a style he mostly used for that magazine.  He signed his pulp work with the blob seen at the bottom of the image.  The Illustration article probably correctly speculates that his was done as a career-protection tactic -- so as not to be type-cast as a pulp illustrator.

American Legion Magazine illustration - 1939
Again Schlaikjer uses a vignette format.  But here his depiction is far more naturalistic.

American Legion Magazine illustration - 1940
I find this very nicely done -- especially the seated officer in the foreground.

World War 2 poster
This features the famous M-1 (Garand) rifle.  I was issued one in basic training and liked it better than the later M-14 I had when stationed in Korea.

World War 2 poster
Schlaikjer was a Great War Signal Corps guy, so probably put extra effort into this poster.

Washington Star newspaper photo of Schlaikjer painting a portrait of Major General Anthony C. McAuliffe - 1950
McAuliffe led the defenders of  Bastogne during the December 1944 Battle of the Bulge and famously told the Germans "Nuts!" when asked to surrender.  Note how well Schlaikjer captured McAuliffe.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Harrogate Travel Posters from the LNER

During the 1920s and 1930s Britain had four major privately owned passenger railway systems that operated on a largely regional basis. That is, each had a core area that it essentially dominated, but also had tendrils that were in areas of others. So there was some direct competition, but that was generally minor aside from, for instance, the London Midland & Scottish Railway and the London and North Eastern Railway (the LNER) both serving Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Besides the relatively minor case of overlapping destinations, the greatest competition seems to have involved attracting tourists and vacationers to places within core service areas. For example, the Great Western Railway would publicize Cornwall while the LNER would be touting Scarborough, leaving potential travelers to mull over which site to select.

To keep advertising fresh from season to season and year to year, railroad companies often used different poster designers over time instead of sticking to one artist doing multiple works for the same destination (though that was done too). This rotation was the policy of LNER.

As an example of this, below are LNER posters for the spa city of Harrogate in Yorkshire, not far west of York.


By Frank Brangwyn.

By Lilian Hocknell.

By Austin Cooper.

By Arthur C. Michael.

By Fred Taylor.

By Joseph Greenup.

By Tom Purvis.

By Frank Newbould.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

In the Beginning: Paul Gauguin

Eugène Henri Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) famously painted Postimpressionist, often Symbolist scenes of Brittany and French Polynesia using exaggerated color schemes. It took him a while to reach his signature style, and this post provides some examples of his work leading up to that point.

Wikipedia provides an lengthy (for them) entry dealing with Gauguin here. Included is information that he began painting about 1873, but didn't do it full-time until starting around 1882-83.

Below are images of some paintings from his earliest artistic days to when his main style emerged.


Clearing - 1873
A dark scene reminding me of Barbizon School art.

Cail Factories at the Quai of Grenelle - 1875
This is sketchier, the colors are brighter yet limited.

The Embroiderer (Mette Gauguin) - 1878
Here we find Impressionist-style brushwork and perhaps coloring (though this is an interior scene, not outdoor countryside).

Geese on the Farm - 1879
Again, quasi-Impressionist.

Pissarro's Garden, Pontoise - 1881
Painted while they were still friends.

Farm in Osney - 1883
Here Gauguin is using somewhat stronger brushwork while maintining interest in color combinations.

Mettte Gauguin in Evening Dress - 1884
This setting is a rarity for Gauguin.

Four Breton Women - 1886
A subject theme while he was in Brittany, though here his style is close-to, but not quite Gauguin.

Martinique Landscape - 1887
Now he has been exposed to tropical colors -- an important factor of his later work.

Then, in 1888, Gauguin painted pictures in a wide variety of styles including the cloisonnist, strongly colored theme he became noted for.

Paintings from 1888

Madeleine Bernard - 1888
A nice portrait of artist Emile Bernard's sister.

Breton Woman and Goose by Water - 1888
An experiment using extremely bold colors.

Cove Opposite Pont-Aven Harbor - 1888
Here he drops back briefly towards Impressionism.

The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) - 1888
This is perhaps Gauguin's earliest famous painting.