Thursday, August 29, 2019

Amédée Ozenfant's Intellectualized Art

Amédée Ozenfant (1886-1966) seems to be best-known for creating the Purism movement of the early 1920s. His Wikipedia entry is here.

I was made aware of Ozenfant many years ago during my year-long college art history class. And I have heard little about him since. I suppose that's my fault. Maybe my reading about art isn't as widely cast as it should be.

Regardless of whether or not Ozenfant's fame and influence has persisted to the present, I think it is worthwhile considering his approach to art. And that approach, not surprisingly, was a product of his times -- the first two decades of the 20th century when "ism" art movements appeared every couple of years. Some of those movements, including Purism, were based on theories having to do with what art should be in pretty narrow senses.

This post's title uses my term "Intellectualized Art," which I think is a reasonable description. For what it might be worth, I do not think that art is simply any old thing someone calls art -- that's so broad a definition that it's worthless. The other extreme of manifesto-based art is too exclusionary.

In any case, Ozenfant tended to follow the Purist ideal of focusing on unadorned shapes over much of his career. There were some exceptions, however, as can be seen below. Also of interest is that most of the canvasses had nearly the same 4x5 proportion.


Bouquet - 1909
A pre-Purist painting.

Nature morte - 1920-21
Ozenfant painted many still lifes of this sort.

Glasses and Bottles - 1922-26

Verres et bouteilles en bleu - 1926

Baigneuses au promontoire - 1931
Then for a while he depicted distorted human figures having surface detailing -- quite unlike his basic Purist images.

Pacifique III - 1945
He was dealing with the human figure as late as this.

Black Mountain - 1945
That same year Ozenfant was still toying with Purist concepts.

Three Yachts - 1959
Now he has returned to a form of Purism.

Shadow - 1966
One of his last paintings, also Purist in spirit.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Michelotti's Grossly Exaggerated Presentation Drawings

Giovanni Michelotti (1921-1980) was one of the leading Italian automobile stylists of his day. But he is perhaps less well-known than others because his career was largely that of a free-lancer -- designing bodies that were built by established carrozzeria, both famous and less-so. The name of the coach building firm would be associated with the design, not Michelotti. His production car designs for Standard-Triumph also did not have his name or a carrozzeria crest attached to them.

His Wikipedia entry lists many of his designs.

This post deals with his presentation drawings, an important part of the marketing effort by a freelancer and even a carrozzeria. The idea was to show clients what a proposed design might look like. Other such tools might have included detailed side/front/rear drawings or even small scale models. But a comparatively quickly-done drawing or two might be good enough for the potential client to ask for more work on the design theme presented.

What I find interesting is that many of Michelotti's drawings, especially those form the early 1950s, were so highly distorted/exaggerated that they did a poor job of showing what a completed car would actually look like.


Bill Mitchell sketch of a possible 1938 Buick - c. 1936
Exaggerated concept drawings were common practice before Michelotti began his career. Bill Mitchell soon became head of Cadillac styling and eventually was General Motors' Design Vice-President.

Michelotti drawing of the Cunningham C3 - 1952-53
Michelotti was providing the Vignale firm many designs such as this one at that time. The actual car's shape was much shorter and taller, but the general layout and details such as the grille are indicated here.

Fiat 1400 proposals for Balbo Carrozzeria - 1950
More examples of exaggerated perspective.

Fiat 1400 proposals for Viotti Carrozzeria - 1952
And another with the same distortion scheme as for the Cunningham shown above.  The front wheel is much too large.

Maserati proposal for Ghia-Aigle carrozzeria - 1956
A distorted-perspective rendering from five years later.

Daimler proposal for Ghia-Aigle - 1955
Another distorted view of a proposed design.

Another Daimler proposal for Ghia-Aigle - 1955
Made about the same time for the same brand and coachbuilder, this side view of a four-door sedan shows that Michelotti did work out buildable designs. But which came first? -- the perspective sketch or the measured drawing?

Triumph proposals - c. 1962
Side views of proposed designs indicating practical considerations such as the seating layout.

Triumph perspective sketch - c. 1962
Another stretched-perspective drawing. This is of essentially the lower design seen in the previous image. Note the Citroën DS-19 type light mounted on the C-pillar. It is shown clearly in the side view and some sort of light is crudely indicated in the perspective. The matter is debatable, but I wonder if in this case a side-view with a pillar-mounted light was done before the perspective drawing. Otherwise, it's a detail that could safely be omitted from a preliminary sketch from this low viewpoint.

Rendering of Triumph GT6 - mid-1960s
By the mid-60s Michelotti was making more accurate perspective drawing of his design proposals.

Cross-posted at Car Style Critic

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Small, Very Nice Saint-Gaudens Sculpture

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) was one of America's best sculptors -- regardless of era. His Wikipedia entry is here.

The Seattle Art Museum is woefully lacking in art of any kind from the 1800s and early 1900s. But it does have one small work by Saint-Gaudens. Its title is "Amor Caritas" (Love, Charity) -- bronze, lost wax cast.  It form can be classed as "high relief" where the subject is significantly rounded, yet still attached to its background.

For your viewing pleasure are a few photos I took of it recently.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Saul Tepper Vignette Illustrations

Saul Tepper (1899-1987) is one of my favorite illustrators who worked in thick oil paints during the 1920s and early '30s. A number of illustrators used that style -- two of the best known being Dean Cornwell and Mead Schaffer, both of whom I've written about here.

I wrote about Tepper here and also mentioned him in other posts: use the search item on the right side to find them.

One way to classify illustrations has to do with whether or not they completely fill a square or rectangular framed space. Those that do not are call "vignettes." They include the subject people or objects often with a bit of environmental detailing. But there is much blank "white space" that sometimes would be filed with text when published.

Tepper made a number of vignette style illustrations. Some can be found in the link above. Others are presented below.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

Ray Prohaska's Multiple Styles

Ray Prohaska (1901-1981), was born Gracia Josef Prohaska near present-day Kotor in Montenegro. At that time, the city was called Càttaro and was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Prohaska family moved to the USA when Ray was eight years old.

This Leif Peng site has his Today's Inspiration blog posts dealing with Prohaska, and probably is best for dealing with his professional career. Prohaska's son Tony has this site which focuses more on Ray's origins. Some of the same information can be found on the Society of Illustrators site.

For what it might be worth, it seems that Prohaska was interested in fishing about as much as he was in art and illustration.

His career was successful. I credit this to his strong abilities that included the capacity to change his style to suit illustration market fashions. One item in the first link above is a statement that art directors would sometimes tell illustrators what style to use. For some reason, this hadn't occurred to me, even thought seems perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, given Prohaska's chameleon stylistic capability, perhaps that was more his experience than a general case. Most of the time, I think, artists with known styles were selected because art directors wanted an illustration in that particular style.

The downside for Prohaska, in terms of illustration history, is that his lack of a distinct style makes him less noted or memorable than the likes of Normal Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and Jon Whitcomb.


Aerial view of a harbor - c. 1930
I don't know where this view of various modes of harbor transportation was used.

Camel cigarettes ad - 1933
Watercolor was displacing oil paint as the fashionable illustration medium by the early 1930s.

Good Housekeeping editorial art - 1940
This was true at the end of the decade. Here Prohaska did considerable modeling of surfaces, unlike the later style in the previous image.

B.F.Goodrich tires ad - 1943
Now for five illustrations made in 1943 or thereabouts. During World War 2 rubber was diverted to the war effort, so here Goodrich is publicizing an alternative.

Saturday Evening Post cover - 14 August 1943
A Post cover slot was catching the illustration gold ring. This image demonstrates that Prohaska had hit the Big Time.

Whitman's Chocolates ad - 1943
Whitman's was a major brand in those days and advertised heavily. The battleship in the background appears to be of the New Mexico class or possibly a Pennsylvania.

Goodyear Aircraft ad - 1944
Goodyear built blimps and aircraft (the latter of other firm's designs) during the war.

World War 2 poster
A "Loose Talk can Lose Lives" themed poster.

Editorial art - 1950
Here Prohaska combines conventional illustration (the lady) with items featuring drawing.

Beer industry promotion ad - 1952
Conventional 1950s illustration with no sense of distinctive style.

Parents Magazine editorial art - December 1950
From shortly before, Prohaska is in a light form of David Stone Martin scratchy-pen mode.

Good Housekeeping editorial art - November 1959
Back to more thinly-painted conventional illustration.

Hicks Island
Prohaska did Fine Art and portraiture. This abstraction is a pretty good example of its type.

Monday, August 12, 2019

In the beginning: Giovanni Boldini

Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931) made a large number of flash-and-dash style society portraits, mostly of women, beginning in the 1890s. Those works are what most of us think of, if we are aware of him. As is usually the case, it took a while before he evolved that style -- the better part of three decades, actually. This post presents some of his earlier paintings, showing some of the variety of styles he used before age 40.

Boldini's Wikipedia entry is here, and includes a large number of images of his work. Like in the Gallery below, they are arranged in approximate chronological order.


Cléo de Mérode - 1907
An example of Boldini's mature style. For background on Cléo, click here.

Comotto, the Lawyer - 1865
Painted when Boldini was about 23 years old. Very conventional.

Florence Chambres - 1860s
Another conventional portrait, its date is unknown.

Diego Martelli - 1865
Martelli was a fellow artist. I saw this sketchy portrait at the Pitti Palace in Florence several years ago.

The Art Lover - c. 1866
A more conventional work from about the same time. Boldini was quite capable of making traditional paintings, unlike many later modernists.

Lascaraky Sisters - 1869
Here he shifts to a more thickly painted style where everything seems heavy.

Teasing the Parrot - 1872-74
A few years later he lightens thing up somewhat.

The Hammock - 1872-74
From about the same time. His brushwork is becoming much more evident.

Noonday Promenade, Versailles - 1876
During the late 19th century there was a mini-fad for 18th century court scenes such as this. I wonder if Boldini painted this and a few similarly-themed works to cash in on that fashion.

Conversation at the Café - 1877-78
Here Boldini brings in Spanish-influenced blacks, something he used in a number of later works. The feeling of this painting is coming close to his mature style.

Lady with a Parasol - 1876
This seems to be a sketch or study.  I include it to show that he was experimenting with square-brush technique, an approach later used more consistently by the likes of Leo Putz.

Lady in a Red Jacket - 1878
I'm not positive the date is correct (one has to be cautious of what finds on the internet without corroboration). If it was painted in 1878, this sketchy work comes close to Boldini's classic style.