Thursday, June 27, 2019

Roger de La Fresnaye, Borderline Cubist

Roger de La Fresnaye (1885-1925) paintings are in the collections of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery in Washington DC, and a number of museums in France.

Yet he is comparatively unknown. His Wikipedia entry in English is brief, as are similar entries in French and Italian. Little more was gleaned from a four-page Google search.

The link above mentions that he had a good deal of training in art, both conventional and modernist. Various sources offer various categorization of his style such as Expressionist, Fauvist, Cubist, Symbolist, etc. To me, asked to select a single type, I'd call him a Cubist during his most prolific period. But his cubism was superficial compared to that of, say, Picasso.

La Fresnaye's career was cut short by the tuberculosis he caught while serving in the Great War. The Wikipedia entry mentions that, postwar, the disease greatly hampered his productivity.


Autoportrait - 1905

Alice lisant - 1907

Alice in a Large Hat - 1912
Two versions of Alice, whoever she might have been, at different points in his career.

Landscape at Ferté-Sous-Jouarre, Final Version - 1911
Cubist-lite construction, Fauvist-lite colors. The subject is a town by the Marne River that has been associated with battles and the military for many years. During the 1939-1940 campaign it was the headquarters of General Georges, who was in charge of operations in northeastern France. I drove through it once on the way to Château-Thierry. Yes, it's hilly there.

View of Florence - 1911
Here La Fresnaye seems to be experimenting with square-brush technique.

Artillerie - 1911
Pre- Great War painting. His father was an army officer. Available sources do not indicate whether La Fresnaye was conscripted or was commissioned when he was about age 20 and then was in the reserves until the war -- one or the other was likely. In any case, he was familiar with the army and painted some military subjects.

Cruirassier - 1912
Another military subject, a cavalryman.

Jeanne d'Arc - 1912

Baigneurs - 1912
Perhaps his best-known work.

Study for Couple with Greyhound - c.1913
Note the squaring. La Fresnaye clearly constructed some of his paintings carefully.

La Conquête de l'air (The Conquest of the Air) - 1913
A painting of the artist and his brother with a balloon shown in the upper left part of the canvas.

The Romanian - 1921
Postwar, La Fresnaye's style because more conventional in line with what other modernist were doing.

Georges Guynemer who died in 1917 was one of France's most famous Great War aces.

Entrance to the La Fresnaye Villa in Grasse - 1923-24
Although La Fesnaye was from northern France, this property is near Nice.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Charles H. Hubbell: Aviation Art from Late 1940s

Charles H. Hubbell (1898-1971) was an illustrator specializing in depicting aircraft. He is probably best known for his calendar illustrations for Thompson Products, a series that lasted for around 30 years.

Biographical information on Hubbell is sparse on the Internet. Sketchy sources are here and here.

As I've probably mentioned elsewhere, possibly years ago on the 2Blowhards blog and probably here on Art Contrarian, professional aviation art tends to be torn between two approaches. One approach is to meticulously depict an aircraft, perhaps even to the point of showing rivets on the metal (if there were any on the actual airplane). This tends to please a certain breed of airplane fan who expect the illustration to show everything. The other approach tends toward somewhat painterly, somewhat impressionistic views of aircraft. Here planes are depicted correctly in terms of their dimensions and the perspective from which they are viewed. But details are more selectively chosen, usually with one area in tighter focus in the way humans actually see things. Hubbell leaned towards the latter approach, though his skill level fell short of later aviation artists such as R.G. Smith, who I mentioned here.

Below are examples of Hubbell's work. Most or all are from those calendars, and most were probably painted 1946-1949.  The first five Great War images from the 1947 calendar are those I viewed on my bedroom wall when I was young, my dad having obtained one of those calendars.


This shows some American Army DH-4 reconnaissance bombers under attack.

Balloon busting by a Royal Flying Corps S.E.5. This was far more dangerous than it looks because observation balloons were normally heavily defended by anti-aircraft guns.

Canadian ace Billy Bishop is shown downing what looks to be an Albatross.

America's top ace Eddie Rickenbacker in action.

The final seconds of Manfred von Richtofen's life. Whether the Red Baron was shot down by a fighter or by ground fire can never be resolved, so Hubbell includes both possibilities in this illustration.

Army Air Corps P-26 "Peashooters," active in the early/mid 1930s. Theories vary, but I am convinced that unofficial nickname was due to the long, peashooter-like gunsight.

Print showing early U.S. Army P-38 fighters with markings current from around mid-1942 to mid-1943.

A 1950 image showing the XF7U-1 Cutlass Navy fighter. The prototype Cutlass was an exciting-looking aircraft (though here Hubbell makes it slightly more graceful than it was), but went through a long, troubled development.

Another 1950 illustration, this of the F-86 Sabre that was entering service about that time.  The Sabre's fuselage is subtly shaped and not easy to depict. Hubbell's version is not realistic, perhaps because he might not have had enough useful reference photos.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Anselm Feuerbach, Classicist and More

Anselm Feuerbach (1829-1880) died aged 50 after a life where he never lived in any one place for more than a few years. His career began around the time that some artists in Paris and the first Italian Macchiaioli began the first stirrings of proto-Modernism. Perhaps aware of this, even though his major works were Classical, Feuerbach's lesser or more casual paintings would be loosely done. This source has him "working in a Romantic style of Classicism."

Wikipedia's English link is here, containing a fair amount of biographical detail. The German site is comparable, though the French and Italian sites are sketchy..

Feuerbach still seems to be well-regarded in Germany where his paintings can be found in major museums. Seattle's Frye Art Museum has a few examples of his work, and the "Old Woman Seated" painting shown below is at the Norton Simon in Pasadena, California.


Die Römer der Verfallzeit (Romans of the Decadence) - c. 1850
This early study is in the Frye collection, thought I don't recall having seen it displayed.

Hafis vor der Schenke (Hafiz in His Cups) - 1852
Wikipedia calls this "his first masterpiece." It was painted in Paris.

Self-Portrait - 1852
Feuerbach painted several self-portraits around that time, this being the most dramatic.

Old Woman Seated - 1853
A nice study, not at all Classical.

Nanna (Anna Risi) - 1861
She was his model in Italy for several years. His painting Ruhende Nymphe (Peaceful Nymph), a nude work that's not office-safe looks like it might be her, but is listed as a 1870 work -- probably after their relationship.

Henrirtte Feuerbach (his step-mother) - 1867
She was a strong supporter of Feuerbach.

Gastmahl des Plato (Plato's Symposium) - 1869
A major painting. The German title might also be translated as "Plato's Banquet" (Austrain dialect).

Medea with the Urn - 1873

Titanensturz (Fall of the Titans) - c. 1875
The first biographical link above, in reference to this ceiling painting, states: "In 1873 Feuerbach became a professor at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and painted for the academy building Fall of the Titans, generally regarded as his weakest work. Ill and discouraged by the harsh criticism of this work, Feuerbach left Vienna in 1876 and returned to Italy, where he died."

Monday, June 17, 2019

Aircraft Illustrator Jo Kotula

Jo Kotula (1910-1998) specialized in illustrating aircraft over a long, successful career. As best I can tell from a Google search, he seems to have done little in the way of aviation art in the form of standalone paintings, unlike the typical professional aviation artist. Kotula's work was mostly in the form of cover art for magazines along with boxtop illustrations for model airplane kits. He also did advertising and editorial art.

Almost nothing about him turned up in that search. The most detailed biographical information is here (scroll down). Another dab is included in an image below.


One of the earliest examples I found: December 1933. Note the signature in block letters with his full name. Before long "Josef" became "Jo" and he shifted to cursive script. Shown here is a U.S. Navy dirigible and a Curtiss F9C-2 parasite fighter carried by the airship.

The signature evolves to what seems to be "Jo" while the letters are caps and lower case in this April 1936 cover. The Hawker Hurricane fighter existed only as a prototype at that point, so the combat scene here is pure conjecture.

By 1939 Kotula hit the magazine Big Time in the form of this Saturday Evening Post cover. The aircraft is fictitious, but seems to be inspired by the Douglas DC-4E experimental transport that first flew in 1938.

A cropped portion of what probably was art commissioned by the Brewster firm that built the F2A Buffalo fighter shown here on the aircraft carrier Saratoga. Kotula interprets the Buffalo as being noticeably more svelte than the tubby little beast actually was.

Poster for the U.S. Army Air Forces, probably from 1944.

Model Airplane News cover featuring a 1934-vintage Boeing P-26 fighter. Kotula has distorted the perspective slightly as to include more of the tail.

Model kit box illustration from the 1950s.

Lockheed F-94C Starfire interceptors. This has the appearance of conventional aviation art, though it might have been painted for another purpose. The aircraft strike as as being a trifle more sleek than there actually were.

Again, I'm not sure if tis was cover art or aviation art.  The plane is a 1930s Curtiss XF8C dive bomber prototype.

Advertising art from 1958.

An interesting example of an illustration in raw form. The jet transport seems to be conjectural.

Contents page fragment from the April, 1942 Popular Science Magazine with some background on Kotula.

Clip from the November, 1942 Popular Science.  During World War 2 several articles and advertisements appeared featuring prospective postwar family airplanes. I shudder to think of the aerial traffic and collisions that would have occurred if these fantasies had become commonplace.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Hermann Dudley Murphy of Boston

Hermann Dudley Murphy (1867-1945) was one of those early 20th century Boston School painters that escaped my attention until recently.

Landscape - c. 1903

In February I was viewing the American art part of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California and came across the painting shown above by Murphy. Unfortunately, my photo and an image found on the Internet fail to show the rather free and nice brushwork in the foreground area. I was impressed enough to collect some more images of his work for this post.

Biographical information seems scarce on the Web. Some information can be found here (click where it offers more information). A much better source is this one that even includes the details that Murphy was six feet six inches tall and taught drawing at Harvard.

Murphy's earlier work was influenced by Whistler, but he also could produce competent "finished" portraits. He also made landscape and cityscape paintings before eventually doing many paintings of flowers in the later part of his career, perhaps due to the influence of this second wife.

For better or worse, Murphy strikes me as having no distinct style, and this might in part be why he seems less known that a number of his Boston contemporaries.


Dutch Nocturne - 1900
Very Whistler-like in its moodiness, its title, and the symbol-signature at the lower right.

Portrait of Henry Ossawa Tanner - 1891-96
An earlier work, a portrait of the painter Tanner.

Mrs. Sarah Skinner - 1905
A traditional kind of portrait. See the second link above mentioning some juicy (in a 1905 Boston Brahmin sense) background on the sitter.

Rio del Paradiso, Venice - 1908
The title seems to be Murphy's invention: I do not know what part of Venice this depicts.

The Beaver Hat - 1920
This is the most "Boston School" painting by Murphy that I found find.

In Taxco - c.1930
A later townscape, but that date is my guess.

Unlike my late wife, I'm not "into" flowers. But if you are, there are plenty of Murphy's flower paintings to be found on the Internet.