Monday, October 29, 2018

Richard Lack: American Classicist and Symbolist

Richard F. Lack (1928-2009) was somehow able to make a living as a professional artist in the second half of the 20th century while painting in an academic style. A good deal of background information about him can be found here and here: both are well worth reading.

Lack at one point classified his type of painting as "Classical Realism," and some Wikipedia information on the subject is here.

If you happen to be in the Pacific Northwest before 15 November, you might be able to visit an exhibit of his work at the Maryhill Museum located about 90 miles up the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

I greatly respect Lack's talent and courage in opposing dominant fads and fashions in painting. On the other hand, his style is a little too "finished" for my taste. Also, I find it hard to like the Symbolic subjects that he began to paint around 1970 and continued to do for much of the rest of his career.

Below are images of some of his paintings along with a few photos I took at Maryhill in September.


My Studio (In the Studio) - 1955
Pictured is a friend of his.

The Italian Hat (Vietorisz Kaitalin - Katherine Lack) - 1955
Lack met this Hungarian-born lass in 1953 and married her two years later.

Reading - 1960 (very slightly cropped)

The Concert - 1961
Lack was an enthusiastic musician and painted a number of scenes dealing with that subject.

Self Portrait - 1962 as seen at Maryhill

Mother and Child (Katherine and Peter Lack) - 1962

Evening Jet Trails - 1963
Again, Katherine.

Medea, head study - 1970 - as seen at Maryhill
Most of lack's studies included in the exhibit (there were many) were even more finished than this one.

Medea and studies as seen at Maryhill
The previous painting is at the far left and a pose sketch is at the right of the final work.

Evening, Lake Superior - 1974
Lack also painted landscapes and still lifes.

Girl in Blue: Homage to Paxton - 1983
Lack studied under R.H. Ives Gammel (1893-1981) who, in turn, studied under William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941).

Revelation of Saint John - 1980
A Symbolist painting on a religious theme.  His Symbolist subjects also were influenced by psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Some of Lack's Symbolist paintings displayed at Maryhill, via Underpaintings (Matthew Innis)

One of Lack's palettes

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Wilhelm Trübner's Flat Brushwork

Wilhelm Trübner (1851-1917) created smoothly-painted scenes early in his career, but by his 30s had drifted to styles with increased emphasis on what are called "formal qualities" of a painting (the parts not related to depiction of a subject). This concept eventually evolved into pure abstraction, whereby all a painting had were such qualities (characteristics) and no subject matter. In Trübner's case, he mostly made paintings where brushwork was strongly evident, many brushstrokes done using wide, flat brushes.

I posted about this kind of brushwork here, and included one of Trübner's paintings.

His Wikipedia entry is here, and from it you might want to go to the German entry, which has more detail.

Below are images of some of Trübner's paintings in this style, most of which are from around the year 1900.


Cronberg in Taunus - 1896
The kind of brushwork I've been mentioning can be seen at the lower left.

Schloß Lichtenberg im Odenwald - 1900
A later landscape painting with even more obvious brushwork.

Erna von Holzhausen on Horseback - 1901
This portrait is dominated by strong brushwork -- especially on the horse.

Self-Portrait with Hat - 1902
Heavy, flat brushstrokes are used selectively here: note the smooth background and largely smoothly painted coat and vest.

Dame mit Schwarzem Halsband - Lady with Black Collar - 1909
A later painting where Trübner was still using that style.

Stehender Rückenakt - Back View of Standing Nude - 1898
This was made before Fauvism and its arbitrary use of color. The use of blue on the figure helps relate it to the background. (I've noted in some other posts that it's not easy to fit nudes into outdoor settings with plenty of foliage ... skin tones and foliage are rough complementary colors. Here Trübner chose to use a nonrealistic color, blue, on both the nude and the folliage.)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Seen at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

The tour bus arrived at the hotel soon enough for me to get my suitcase to my room and then quickly walk across town, arriving at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery about 35 minutes before its 5 p.m. closing. That gave me little time to check out the shop, get oriented to the somewhat confusing layout of the building, and still view some paintings of interest to me.

Below are some highlights from that short visit. Click on images to enlarge.


The Departure of John and Sebastian Cabot from Bristol on Their First Voyage of Discovery, 1497 - by Ernest Board - 1906
I wrote about Board here, noting that this painting has interested my for a long time. It hangs in the entrance area of the museum and is covered by protective material that's reflective, preventing getting a decent photo of it. Seeing it in person was the main motivation for my visit.

The Delhi Durbar of 1903, The Governor's Procession or The State Entry - by Roderick MacKenzie - 1907
Directly opposite is this huge work depicting an aspect of the Empire at its zenith.

Detail of the above, photographed at the museum

Holidays - by Harry Watson - c. 1920

Detail of the above, photographed at the museum

The Mackerel Shawl - by Algernon Talmage - 1910
Its information plaque notes that Talmage mostly painted landscapes. Nevertheless, this is an eye-catching work.

Detail of the above, photographed at the museum

La belle dame sans merci - by Frank Dicksee - 1902

The Briar Rose - No. 3, The Garden Court (Bristol version) - by Edward Burne-Jones - c.1885-90
One of a series of four paintings crafted to fit in a room of the patron's house. It seems that Burne-Jones painted a second version of The Garden Court, as the museum does not have the original.

Above painting, photographed at the museum
The museum has above-average lighting, so my iPhone-based photos capture what I saw well. This painting was restored recently, so its colors are brighter than those in the previous, Web-based image of the Bristol painting.

The Guarded Bower - by Arthur Hughes - c. 1865
Hughes was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Above painting photographed at the museum
It looks much better in its frame than in the previous, Interned-based image.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Did Raymond Perry Rodgers Neilson Copy Richard E. Miller?

There is almost no Internet information regarding the skilled American portrait painter Raymond Perry Rodgers Neilson (1881-1964). The most detail I could find is here.

It seems that Neilson was a 1905 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who resigned from the service in 1908 to study art. He returned to the navy as a Lieutenant (equivalent to army captain rank) when the United States entered the Great War and served as an aide to Vice Admiral William Sims who commanded U.S. naval operations in Europe (the latter point from this source): clearly Neilson had connections. The second link also mentions that he was "Member American Artists Professional League. N.A.; Clubs: Salmagundi, Century. Home and Studio: 131 E. 66th St. New York City 21, New York." That address was not and is not in a shabby neighborhood. But then, he was married to the daughter of a Pittsburgh steel maker.

The first link notes: "Neilson studied with William Merritt Chase and at the Art Students League with George Bridgman and George Bellows. He continued his art education in Paris, studying at the Académie Julian, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Académie Colarossi, and the Academie Grande Chaumière." This surely took place mostly before the war began in 1914 and when many American artists returned home.

Now for speculation about connections with Richard E. Miller (1875-1943). Miller's Wikipedia entry is here. It mentions that Miller spent much of his time from perhaps 1900 to 1914 in France, spending some summers with the colony of American artists in Giverny, nearby where Claude Monet lived. Neilson and Miller might well have met either there or in Paris. In 1917 Miller moved to arty Provincetown at the northern end of Cape Cod, even during the 1920s only a day's journey from New York City where Neilson was based.

Now consider the images below.

This Miller painting is of a young woman holding a necklace. He painted many somewhat similar works both before and after the war. Moreover, he often posed his subjects in the same costumes, as I posted here. Not all Miller paintings seem to be dated, but his one is almost surely from his Provincetown days. Note his signature at the lower left (click to enlarge).

Here is a near-copy by Neilson whose signature it at the lower right.  The model is the same, and the poses are nearly identical. The dresses differ in that Neilson's version has a blue item on her waist (I'm not sure what it's called). The backgrounds are essentially the same, but differ in details such as the positioning of the French door at the left and tabletop items at the right.

Here is a Miller painting featuring what appears to be a different model, but where background items are arranged similarly to those in Neilson's painting. Even the costume and the lighting on the floor are about the same. Ditto the brushwork.

Photo of Miller in his Provincetown studio.

A painting by Neilson in his typical style, also done in the 1920s.

I should add that Neilson painted a few other Impressionist-style paintings of women that can be found by Googling on him and then selecting Images. From the looks of these, they might have been done in Giverny before the war.

What to make of this?

Almost certainly Neilson was experimenting with Miller's style, perhaps because he was, or was about to become a painting instructor and wanted to re-familiarize himself with Impressionist portraiture. Furthermore, he surely knew Miller.

From this, I can think of two alternatives.  The first is that Neilson went to Provincetown and worked on his painting during the time Miller was painting the two images of his shown above.

A second, possibly more likely explanation is that Neilson visited Miller and semi-copied elements from both while Miller provided some coaching. A variation on this is that Neilson saw the paintings together elsewhere while doing his version -- though I consider this possibility unlikely.

Please comment if you have more solid information about this matter.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Edwin Blashfield, American Classical Muralist

Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848-1936), Wikipedia entry here, specialized in mural painting. He was successful at that, winning a number of major commissions: the link has a list of many of these.

Blashfield studied engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a while, then left to pursue art. An inheritance allowed him to go to Paris in 1869 where he studied under Léon Bonnat. He remained in France until 1881.

Although his time in France coincided with the rise of French Impressionism, his style remained traditional, but not strictly Academic. This worked well for him as a muralist, because American government-funded murals in the decades around 1900 tended to have uplifting themes often manifested by symbolic characters.

The examples of Blashfield's work shown below are mostly not murals because those could be huge, often integrated into a building's architecture, and hard to photograph. Instead, I feature easel paintings and drawings. I should add that some of his best-known easel paintings are quite large -- almost mini-murals.


Photo of Blashfield and assistants working on dome mural for Wisconsin's capitol building.

Photo of Wisconsin capitol mural "Resources." The men at its base provide its scale.

The Musician - 1874
From his Paris days.

First Court of Temple of Ramses III, Medinet Aboo - 1887
Blashfield traveled a good deal, and this is an oil sketch made in Egypt.

Portrait of Evangeline Blashfield, the Artist's Wife - 1889

The Festival of Spring - c. 1890

Three Muses

Terpsichore - drawing for Adolph Lewisohn residence - 1894

Dance - hall panel for Adolph Lewisohn - 1899
Probably destroyed when the West 57th Street house was altered or, later, demolished: I wonder what it actually looked like in color.

Angel with the Flaming Sword

The Call of Missouri Trumpet (Missouri Watching the Departure of Her Troops) - 1918
A Great War painting. Trumpeters from historical times are at the left, a doughboy trumpeter in the distance.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe: Danish Vermeer?

Carl Vilhelm Holsøe (1863-1935) was a Danish artist (Wikipedia entry here) who painted a surprising number of similar scenes.

Those scenes were interiors with similar windows and furnishings populated by a young woman. Superficially, this is similar to a number of the known works by the famed Dutch artist Johannes (Jan) Vermeer where there was a window towards the left side of the painting, one or a few human subjects (usually female), and varying room décor.

Holsøe painted other subjects -- often different interiors -- but I thought it would be fun to present a set of his paintings that portray essentially the same sort of thing. Besides paned windows, some on French doors, nearly every painting contains a tall, narrow mirror. Titles are omitted in the Gallery below.


The general setting without a young woman.

Finally, Holsøe provides The Old Switcheroo -- the woman is outside.